dissonance

Of Dissonance and Hashkafah

Hashkafah is a great Hebrew word without an exact English equivalent. Your hashkafah is your worldview. The term is often used when referring to one’s personal worldview as regards to religion and halachah (Jewish law). It’s the lens through which you view things. It’s how you understand a system. It’s your paradigm of thought. It dictates the way you think about things, and therefore impacts the conclusions you will reach. It’s your ideology and the reason behind your ideology.

-Boaz Michael
“Hashkafah,” p.7
from the Director’s Letter for Issue 119/Spring 2015 of
Messiah Journal

I learned something new today. I learned that my blog is all about discussing my hashkafah, “the lens through which I view things” including my “paradigm of thought” and my “ideology and the reason behind my ideology.”

I’ve said this before but it bears repeating. I’m not writing because I think I’m smarter than other people and that I am delivering my learned pronouncements from some virtual ivory tower. I’m writing to explain what I’ve been learning and how it affects the development of my hashkafah.

Actually, Boaz said so much more in his letter that I found quite useful, which is why I’m sharing this with you. Here’s another useful idea:

A person’s hashkafah (worldview or paradigm) is like the DNA that determines both appearances and actions as a fully formed body. If one’s outward appearance is inconsistent with his hashkafah, it will lead to cognitive dissonance and a crisis of faith.

-ibid (emph. mine)

And that’s what I’ve been experiencing, both in my previous attempt to integrate into a local church and, ironically enough, in my encounters with Messianic Judaism.

For instance, for Shauvot 2012, I attended First Fruits of Zion’s Shavuot Conference at Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Wisconsin and I had a blast. I made connections with new people and deepened relationships with old friends.

But the following year, I had started going to church and as a result, I was encountering some of that “cognitive dissonance” Boaz talks about. At the Shavuot conference in 2013, I was confused and conflicted as to who I was and what I was supposed to be doing. I eventually settled in, but not before behaving in such a way that damaged a number of friendships.

The dissonance worked both ways, and not only made it unlikely for me to be invited to attend future Messianic conferences, but ultimately ended up with me leaving church as well.

How do you resolve the dissonance between being attracted to a Messianic Jewish study and practice paradigm and yet not being Jewish?

jackson's bookThis is the reason I’ve been reviewing Pastor Chris Jackson’s book Loving God When You Don’t Love the Church: Opening the Door to Healing. I’m using my review series as the lens through which to look at whether there’s any likelihood of me returning to fellowship or if I should even try. Since Boaz’s letter speaks to what’s going on behind that concern, I consider examining it here part of that investigation.

Here’s what’s at the core of not only my difficulties with the church but with just about every single religious argument we have in the blogosphere:

Most religious arguments involve bitter clashes over “what we believe” (theology) and “what we do” (praxis). If we do not share the same hashkafah informing our theology and praxis, this type of debate will be pointless and irresolvable.

-ibid

That, in a nutshell, describes the vast majority of the religious arguments that happen in the comments sections of my blog and many other religious blogs, especially in the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots spaces.

Although I doubt Boaz intended to, he described exactly what happened between me and the head Pastor of the church I used to attend:

For example, many Christians operate under the hashkafah which assumes that the authority of the New Testament has replaced the authority of the Old Testament. This paradigm holds it as self-evident that any conditions established in the Old Testament remain operative only if restated in the New Testament. So long as that paradigm remains firmly in place, there is no point in arguing…

-ibid, p.8

It took two years to get to this point, but Pastor and I finally arrived on the shores of “there is no point in arguing.”

Boaz, spent much of his letter describing his perspective on the hashkafah of various related movements such as Christianity, One Law, Missionary and Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism, and then what he calls Messianic Judaism for the Nations, which is First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) perspective.

I won’t go into all of that here (I may in a future blog post), but for the sake of matters of dissonance and fellowship (or lack thereof), I’ll focus on the portions of Boaz’s letter I consider relevant. He restated the hashkafah of Messianic Judaism from his previous letter in issue 117 thus:

The practice of Judaism coupled with the realization that Yeshua of Nazareth is the Messiah, the New Testament is true, and the kingdom is at hand.

Boaz Michael
Boaz Michael

My immediate question was how that’s supposed to work for someone who isn’t Jewish. Boaz answers that question subsequently, but does Boaz’s answer work for me? We’ll see by the by.

I do want to mention something regarding Boaz’s hashkafah for Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism since Derek Leman said something similar recently.

Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism is interested in practicing Judaism and maintaining Jewish identity, because Torah is seen as covenantally binding on all Jews. It has an interest in restoring the faith and practice of first-century believers for Messianic Jews, but not for Gentiles. Under this vision for Messianic Judaism, Gentile believers belong in Gentile Christianity identifying as Christians and Messianic Jews belong in Messianic synagogues identifying as Jews.

-ibid, p.10 (emph. mine)

It’s important to remember that Boaz distinguishes his personal (and FFOZ’s official) hashkafah from this Post-Missionary description, but it’s equally important to realize that there is significant overlap. So what does this mean for the so-called “Messianic Gentile?” What is FFOZ’s hashkafah for Messianic Judaism for the Nations?

The practice of Messianic Judaism by both Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles for the sake of continuity with the New Testament and the coming kingdom.

He further defines this view of Messianic Judaism as “the Judaism of the Messianic Era.” As far as that goes, I agree with him, and I’ve said more than once that when Messiah returns, as such, there will be no such entity as “the Church.” There will only be Messianic Judaism as it applies to Jews and to the people of the nations.

Relative to the rest of the Judaism in our world, Boaz states:

Our hashkafah acknowledges Jewish authority. We do not believe the New Testament stripped the Jewish people of the biblical and God-given authority to transmit, interpret, and apply the Torah. Although the rest of the Jewish world may be enemies regarding the gospel, they are nonetheless beloved for the sake of the fathers (Romans 11:28).

morning prayerIn other words, God did not abandon the Jewish people or Judaism nearly two-thousand years ago all for sake of the Gentile Christian Church. He didn’t change horses in mid-stream, and He didn’t jump from Plan A to Plan B in Acts 2 or anywhere else in the Bible, or for that matter, in post-Biblical times. God is with the disciples of Yeshua (Jesus) and God is also with His people Israel, the Jewish people, all of them, for the sake of His promises in the Torah and the Prophets as well as the aforementioned Romans 11:28.

As far as Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles, Boaz says:

Our hashkafah distinguishes between Jews and Gentiles and their respective obligations to the Torah. Since we accept the authority of the apostles, who also made that distinction clear, we maintain distinction. We advocate the integrity of Jewish identity as defined by Jewish tradition, with all its associated prerogatives, privileges, responsibilities, and obligations. We advocate the integrity of Messianic Gentile identity with its own prerogatives, privileges, responsibilities, and obligations as defined by the New Testament. Although Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles are two distinct groups, they share one religion.

While I wholeheartedly agree with all of that, I still asked myself where the Gentile praxis is defined specifically. It seems to vary from one Messianic group to the next, and my personal response was to give up all (or almost all) practice that could even tangentially be considered Jewish (I will still occasionally use a siddur).

I’m writing this on Saturday afternoon (I’m not much of a Sabbath-keeper anymore). Last night, my family and I had a very pleasant, low-key, and quite yummy Passover seder. I’m still getting full noshing on left-over matzah ball soup, and matzah and hummus.

This morning, my wife (who is Jewish) went to shul at the local Chabad, and I believe she’ll be attending the second seder night there as well (which means she won’t be home until very late). One of the obligations I believe we “Messianic Gentiles” have is encouraging and supporting Jewish Torah observance. To that end, I’m delighted she can partake of Jewish community as a Jew. I wish the same for all Jews, Messianic or otherwise.

Now if only someone would write and publish the definitive guide to Messianic Gentile praxis within the context of “Messianic Judaism for the Nations.”

I would encourage you to see our various works in our Mayim Chayim series: Mezuzah, Tzitzit, Tefillin, etc.

-ibid, p.12

Tent of DavidApparently there is a praxis for Messianic Gentiles, and after a few minutes and a quick Google search, I remembered that in past years, FFOZ had published a series of small booklets about different aspects of Jewish practice as applied to non-Jews. Toby Janicki wrote about Gentiles and Tefillin in this 2007 blog post. However, a quick search of the FFOZ online store front didn’t yield any positive results, so I can’t point you to where to purchase them. I remember possessing at least some of these booklets in the past, but either I loaned them to interested parties who never returned them, or they didn’t survive one of my wife’s “reducing clutter” projects.

Now as I said, so far, I agree with Boaz on most or all of the points he makes in his letter. But in terms of my own situation and especially the last two-and-a-half years of my personal history, here’s the kicker:

I should point out that I do not believe that Gentile believers need to leave their churches and join a Messianic synagogue or Sabbatarian group in order to be part of Messianic Judaism. As I advocate in my book Tent of David, I feel the best place for most Messianic Gentiles, at this point in history, is to remain in their respective churches, supporting the local church’s efforts for the kingdom and becoming an ambassador within that church for this message of restoration. Yes, it may be lonely, one may face theological opposition in the form of subtle anti-Semitism and not-so-subtle replacement theology, but disciples of the suffering servant should expect to suffer a little bit. If we greet only those who greet us and love only those who love us, what reward will we get?

-ibid

Now let’s compare that paragraph to two of Boaz’s previous statements:

Most religious arguments involve bitter clashes over “what we believe” (theology) and “what we do” (praxis). If we do not share the same hashkafah informing our theology and praxis, this type of debate will be pointless and irresolvable.

And…

For example, many Christians operate under the hashkafah which assumes that the authority of the New Testament has replaced the authority of the Old Testament. This paradigm holds it as self-evident that any conditions established in the Old Testament remain operative only if restated in the New Testament. So long as that paradigm remains firmly in place, there is no point in arguing…

I think Boaz’s suggestion works with some Messianic Gentiles in some churches under certain circumstances. I don’t believe it can be universally applied to all Messianic Gentiles in all churches under all circumstances. Of course, that’s not what I think Boaz is suggesting, but still, we must acknowledge that in terms of the “Tent of David” ideal, one size does not fit all.

Don’t worry. It’s not like I’m pounding on the doors of some Messianic Jewish community demanding to be let in. Far from it. As I’ve said many times before, my current family situation would prohibit such a thing, even if the perfect Messianic shul was just down the street from my house.

As far as church goes, I went in with the idea of being an ambassador and left to avoid being a nudnik (pest), at least any more than I’d already become.

To be fair, Boaz also said:

At the same time, I believe that the Messianic synagogue should function as a daughter of the holy Temple: “A house of prayer for all nations.” What would it look like if Messianic Judaism was to open its doors to the many Gentiles who come flocking to Messianic Judaism seeking leadership, direction, and spiritual guidance? What if Messianic Jews took up our role as the head, and not the tail, and we began to lead and shepherd our Master’s flocks? What might that look like?

alone-desertGiven the goal of maintaining Jewish identity and distinctiveness, all of that is easier said than done. Boaz says “Messianic Judaism is the Judaism of the Messianic Era–practiced today.” Well, sort of. There’s still so much we don’t know about exactly how Messiah will consider Jewish vs. Gentile devotees. It would be nice to believe there’s a way to smooth out all of the rough edges between Jews and Gentiles sharing Jewish community in Messiah, but I can only have faith that this is something Messiah will accomplish when he returns.

What’s the bottom line for me? Like my reviews of Pastor Jackson’s book, while I can see what both of these authors mean, and I can see it working for others, I don’t see a personal application. I’ve said before that I was willing simply to surrender the idea that I must be in community at all. I have limited social needs, so it’s pretty easy for me to be self-contained and to progress forward as an individual. Relative to my faith, it’s what I do at home anyway. It was only the concerns of a friend that had me return to this topic and take another look.

I’ve finished reading Pastor Jackson’s book and I’ll continue my reviews soon.

Final Note: I realize that every time I mention Boaz Michael and First Fruits of Zion, those people who have “issues” with him and his organization tend to make a number of rather “uncomplimentary” remarks in the comments section of my blog. I insist that you stick to the actual issues I’m discussing, that is the hashkafah of Messianic Judaism for the nations as contrasted with Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism and with Christianity as applied to my personal situation. If you can’t comment within the bounds of decorum and avoid committing lashon hara, then consider not commenting at all. Thank you.

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22 thoughts on “Of Dissonance and Hashkafah”

  1. I’ve pointed out to Boaz, from time to time, that his catchy-slogan attempt to define MJ as “the Judaism of the Messianic Era – practiced today” suffers from a critical caveat and lacuna: the Messiah is not ruling from Jerusalem over all peoples, nor has the Temple service been restored. These conditions will, of necessity, affect Jewish praxis in that era. They will, of course, also affect non-Jewish religious and political praxis accordingly. The most that current MJs can do while anticipating those improved conditions is to conform with current authoritative Jewish praxis and rejoice in the foretaste of messianic atonement and personal immersion into the mindset of the kingdom of heaven. Modern non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua should conform to the generalized praxis of good human behavior indicated in Torah, adopting the values of Torah and Rav Yeshua’s insights and emphases thereunto, whereby they also may share in the rejoicing over the available atonement and immersion into the kingdom’s mindset. It is, at present, only in this visionary mindset that anyone may experience a foretaste of the messianic era. This is where the kingdom may be found, for now. It exists internally, and it can be externalized *only* in our behavior and in the attitudes that drive such “noble” behavior.

    Now, if enough people in any community behave thus, even those who do not share their worldview will feel the benefit and the atmosphere of the kingdom of heaven. Such an atmosphere should encourage them to wish to share the worldview also, but that aspect of societal redemption is another story.

    However, if we confine our view to solely the congregational worship context, we will see only a portion of such an atmosphere, at best. Even if we enlarge our view to include a social fellowship context, that view is still limited. Nonetheless, it is a venue in which we may practice and discuss the redemption that we are experiencing, by which to strengthen it and improve our ability to exercise it in more difficult contexts where the hashkafah is different and is unlikely to be supportive of our own outlook. This, for Jews, is “Torah im Derekh-Eretz”: the practice of Torah values and traditional Jewish behaviors in ordinary living circumstances. For non-Jewish messianic disciples (“NJDs”), it is the practice of Torah values and principles via good, even ennobled, human behaviors in ordinary living circumstances.

    If we each believe we are doing what we *should* be doing, per our hashkafah, our individual sense of dissonance will mostly disappear. It may remain primarily in our limitations that keep us from succeeding fully at complying with the goals of our hashkafah. And seeking to overcome our limitations is an essential part of what MJs and NJDs *should* be doing, so even the effort alone may reduce that dissonance. However, I don’t see any specific help with that being provided merely be opening the doors of MJ synagogues to all non-Jewish would-be participants.

    Since religion is defined from its origin in the Latin word for a vow, we must distinguish the dedicated religious praxis of non-Jews from that of Jews, hence I must disagree with the above statement that “Messianic Jews and Messianic Gentiles … share one religion.”. They should share a common worldview and a common sense of faithfulness to HaShem and to His “anointed administrator of salvation”, but the religious praxis by which they may demonstrate these must differ. The metaphorical “opening of doors” that enables NJDs to obtain spiritual guidance from MJs is not joint participation in synagogue rituals, but rather is an exchange of knowledge and insight that has been occurring for at least the past four decades. How widely those doors have been open has depended largely on the motivation of NJDs to seek this knowledge, though MJs have been unable to meet the demand adequately for a number of developmental reasons. If the MJ synagogue is going to reflect the Temple accurately, then NJDs must also be constrained to a “court of the gentiles” that limits the degree in which they participate to primarily an observer’s role. Though that may be sufficient for appropriate learning to occur, I know many NJDs who would not feel religiously satisfied under those constraints. They may need to retain for themselves something like the “Wednesday-night prayer meeting” construct developed in some traditional Christian communities. Or they may need their own dedicated home-fellowships in which they may study and worship in ways that are not constrained by Jewish praxis. Whether this can be integrated with existing church community social structures is probably quite variable, and it is likely to face the dissonance issues that James has addressed somewhat extensively in the past few years.

  2. One of the dangers of actual Messianic Jewish synagogues opening their doors wide for Gentiles is that NJDs, as you call us, would likely overwhelm, by sheer numbers, the Jewish community, must as they/we did in the First Century CE Messianic synagogues. You also make a good point that many non-Jews would have a difficult time not wanting to partake in exactly the same praxis as the Messianic Jews present, particularly in reference to the “court of the Gentiles.” I agree that we don’t know how the ekklesia of Messiah will operate, relative to Jews and Gentiles, in the Messianic Era, at least not in the details, so the best we can do is behave out of our values and obey those commandments as they apply to us. Certainly Yeshua’s “two greatest commandments” are a place for anyone to start.

    As far as resolving dissonance, I’m in the middle of reading Rabbi Carl Kinbar’s article published in the same issue of Messiah Journal, and he seems to address some of the same issues. No doubt I’ll write a review once I’ve finished reading what he has written.

  3. @James, I have a couple questions for you. If I may ask, what did you do or say that damaged relationships with, what appears, is a group of people you share a great deal? How can a gentile, or any person for that matter, support the mission of a church when that church does not understand, validate or support their haskafah? Do you believe it is fair or reasonable to diagnose and direct treatment of a person without providing any evidence of even the possibility of success? For example, if I am going to decide to follow a diet in hopes it will improve my health, I would like to see some evidence it has worked for at least some people, and if I am going to be a subject in an experiment, then it is only ethical I should know this. In my own experience, the only way to have a relationship with most religious persons is not to provoke their own cognitive dissonance by pointing out what is obvious, that the emperor has nothing on, or not much, anyway. When a group has convinced itself that their emperor is finely clothed, perhaps all or most of their fellowship is based upon maintaining this fiction.

  4. @PL, don’t you think it is rather overreaching (ok, I really wanted to say arrogant) to claim that one’s theology and practice is that which will be practiced in the Messianic Kingdom, except we are doing it now? If so, it isn’t working too well. This sounds very much in line with various charismatic groups claiming they are, “Joel’s Army,” or, “the Manifest Sons of God,” or, “the Joshua Generation,” or, “on the cutting edge of the prophetic and apostolic.”

  5. It’s a conundrum since there aren’t many Gentiles able to handle the identity issues that arise from being in proximity to Jews doing worship, or life, Jewishly. At the same time, it is only within proximity to Jews that a (believing) gentile can discover our true calling, and weighty purpose, which far exceeds any Noahide model. (For many of us gentile believers that would be tantamount to pretending we were back at the first date phase with our spouse).

    Because of supersessionism and what Mark Nanos calls “zero sum thinking”, as well as the tangled web of confessional statements v historic realities of both Christianity and Judaism, there is a lot to sort out and there have been a number of spiritual casualties.

    I have a difficult time calling for Gentiles to join Jewish space for lots of reasons, especially since most aren’t involved because they want to help in any way, but rather are looking to have their own needs met. It would be nice to give Jews some space to heal and sort things out and restrict the gentile participation to intermarried spouses and the very few other gentiles who are there to be fortifiers. At the same time, provide events to teach interested Christians.

  6. @Chaya — You’re missing the point of Boaz’s definition of MJ. It is not a claim of achievement; it is a statement of a goal or an orientation — even a “vision” to pursue. It is not unlike Jeremiah’s description of a new/renewed covenant which is envisioned within an end-of-days or messianic-era setting, when all Jews will know HaShem and His Torah intimately. With Rav Yeshua’s encouragement, we may pursue the goals of this vision even now, internalizing the principles of Torah, envisioning HaShem as our Father, experiencing the immediacy of a “kingdom-of-heaven” mindset — all of which aid us in improving our behavior and attitudes.

    Now, you might protest that the lack of the messianic-era conditions that I cited above presents a significant drawback that pokes a large hole in this “vision” through which one could drive the proverbial truck; but I would still argue that the pursuit of the vision is valid and justified by Rav Yeshua’s message of good news that the kingdom of heaven is immediately accessible. Further, he made it clear that diligent Torah praxis and teaching would produce greatness in that kingdom, which ties it into Jeremiah’s Torah-on-the-heart covenantal vision. These are the aspects that justify a vision for MJ that may be associated with the messianic era and practiced in the present.

    What one cannot do legitimately is focus on all the failures and shortcomings of this or that group which claims an MJ label but has not really pursued this sort of vision. Certainly there exist many “naked emperors”, but that fact does not invalidate the search for a properly-clothed one. I tried to describe how I think such a proverbial wise emperor would appear, that is how I view the proper clothing of righteousness for MJs and for NJDs in the present era as they anticipate the arrival of the future messianic era.

  7. I agree in regard to pursuing clothed emperors 🙂 and the pursuit is worthy even if we find no clothed emperors in this lifetime. MJ has served a purpose, but it also hasn’t produced any clothed emperors lately, nor am I holding my breath for the future. Perhaps the world of messianic music is the only place that attracts those outside the movement. I doubt if anyone who is Jewish would look to Chris Detwiler for guidance.

    This is one reason I can no longer consider myself an MJ. I suppose the best way to define myself would be a Jewish follower of Yeshua, attempting to discover the real Yeshua and his real teaching and praxis to the extent possible in the human condition at this time. To be within the parameters of MJ, one must accept evangelical theology, politics and prejudices, as well as accept as Jews those who say they are Jews but are not, and accept as rabbis those who say they are rabbis but are not. Of course, it is far easier to falsify than to prove true, and much easier to realize what I am not than to figure out what I am, but perhaps that is true for many.

  8. @Chaya: Nothing horrible. I got a tad grumpy a time or two and during the earlier days of the conference in the synagogue, I felt really disconnected from the prayer and Torah services. The whole “feel” of my connections with some of the people had changed. I have to say it wasn’t all bad. I had a pretty cool roommate at the motel and I got to meet and speak with Rabbi Carl Kinbar, who’s a terrific guy. Still, there was something about the way the whole thing went down, at least internally, that said I probably shouldn’t go back. The previous year, I felt well-integrated at the event like I belonged. The next year, I felt like I was a stranger. I don’t know why except the aforementioned dissonance between realigning within the church setting and then finding myself in a Messianic Jewish venue. Who was I and what the heck was I trying to do?

    @Sojourning: For me, the problem was trying to be part of both worlds. Especially in the early months, I was trying hard to find a niche in the church I was attending and I guess I got my thoughts and feelings more involved than I realized. The attempt to toggle back to a more Judaic method of worship and relationship was more difficult than I anticipated. My the time I got my head in the right space, it felt like it was too late. Ultimately though, I found out I didn’t belong in church either.

  9. @SWJ, it does work, with Zech.8:23. Take a good look at that verse. There is recognition that, “God is with you,” as well as, “we will walk/go with you.” It doesn’t say anything about these bringing their stuff with them or attempting to lead. In the early years, MJ non-Jews only consisted of spouses or persons with a serious, sincere Ruth/Rahab calling. And you have a 10:1 ratio. They also don’t say, “We are you,” or, “We have superceded you.”

  10. As I think about this a bit more, it raises a question.

    What religion did God give to Gentiles? None that I know of. Wouldn’t ANY Gentile religion be an ‘innovation?’ Does he really seem to think that Gentiles should have NO religion and that the only acceptable one would be Judaism according to the halacah?

    Next, IF something like this approach existed in Second Temple times, and IF there is no acceptable GENTILE religious practice, and IF it was permitted for Gentiles to study Torah in order to do it and receive a reward, doesn’t this verse fairly argue that Gentiles were EXPECTED to abandon old way, study Torah and become observant? This verse leaps out at me then:

    Acts 15:19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from what has been strangled, and from blood. 21 For from ancient generations Moses has had in every city those who proclaim him, for he is read every Sabbath in the synagogues.”
    __________________

  11. “It is a puzzlement!” In the ‘King and I’, the King of Siam is torn between being strong on his own, or taking allies that might “protect me out of all of which I have?” In the end, it appears that he dies of a broken heart, unable to handle the struggle between old and new ways.

    I haven’t broken my heart over it, and won’t because though a Gentile, YHVH sustains me, but it is a painful existence to seek on purpose. Had I know up front what I was facing when I began, I might not have been so eager to sign on for this journey. I too read the Director’s letter from FFOZ, and sent it on to another married-in whose case is somewhat like James…but in his case, he is determinedly Jewish in his praxis, and his wife is Evangelical, though her family is non-Messianic. It was her experience growing up as a Jew in a Christian world that made her not want to be Jewish, and pains her still as her ‘PK’ husband embraces all that she wants to leave behind.

    I think of the mad swirl of viewpoints that the Messianic Meeting place should be able to hold for Jew and Gentile, and find that it never can hold them, much less satisfy them now. We have to be content with shaking hands over the internet, or carefully walking around another’s hash’kafah, and ouching a little as we struggle through in the knowledge that if we suffer in seeking Yeshua, at least in that we are just like the Apostles. If we are not actually beaten up physically by the Church or the Synagogue, well that at least shows we have come a little way in almost 2000 years.

    As to current praxis…I really think that is up to the person, and always has been, whether outwardly or inwardly. One can do mitsvot as a Jew or Gentile, and keep the commandments to one’s desire, if we are strong enough to not require other people’s approval. We all of us are strong enough to do without community, even if we don’t like it, because we are doing it. Those that pretend to keep any praxis, but do not actually do, or keep the praxis of their assembly except when with their assembly, in truth are hypocrites, and always have been. So joining into Christianity isn’t an option for me…I am told I am too Jewish, and I am certainly disgusted in much I hear and see in the Christian world’s hash’kafah. Conversion to Judaism doesn’t match my hash’kafah either, and can’t unless a Messianic shul decides to open a retreat in the mountains where I live which, seems unlikely, even if our various hash’kafot was sufficiently accommodating.

    We all look to the future coming of Yeshua to solve our difficulties here, but it is a blessing to be able to at least share the struggle, and get an occasional hand up from the pavement, so to speak. I myself keep looking to the promise that the New Covenant causes Torah to be written on the heart of Believers…all of the Torah. I really can’t see any other reason for the Ruach to gently suggest…not order…just suggest that I might want to start adding the commandments into my life, not because I belong to a synagogue, or have human contact with Jews, but because I will be doing them in future, and I can benefit in the Kingdom by beginning now. After all, doesn’t what we do now affect how we will live in the Kingdom, and what our rights and responsibilities will be? I don’t want to be kept to the outskirts of the crowd for Eternity if by a little effort I can get closer to Yeshua…figuratively, spiritually and actually.

    Yeshua’s desires as to what commandments are to be kept will be kept as it is written on us, but I can’t really see Yeshua advocating to Incorrupt Gentiles that they should relax, and not keep the law, while the Incorrupt Jewish do keep the law, for the partition that is down between Jew and Gentile was a partition in the spiritual world, even as Gentile belongingness in Israel is wholly a matter of being grafted into Yeshua, and into the Kingdom, not the present earth.

  12. R’Schlesinger is an interesting guy and very involved in interfaithfulness. Generally, to become a Noahide would, for a Christian, mean to deny worship of Jesus, which is considered idolatry from their point of view. So, one cannot be both a Christian and a Noahide, although one could be a Noahide from Christian background, which is where the majority are from, and most often evangelicalism. Many Orthodox authorities claim a Noahide may follow halacha as long as they don’t do it perfectly, so as not to imitate Jews or attempt to claim to be Jews. Thus, one group of Noahides was told they could keep Shabbat as long as they turn a light off and on once, or otherwise break the halacha practiced by Jews. The concept of not altering or providing their own interpretations of torah would certainly not be accepting of typical HR making up their own halacha.

  13. Chaya, I know that many Noahides sound on their forums like people that are thoroughly sick of hypocritical Christians…but do they actually view Yeshua as a source for Idol Worship due to Trinitarian philosphies?

  14. Chaya, do you think it is making up halacha to add something about Yeshua to a Passover seder? It is common for Messianic congregations (the kind that are very Jewish and not HR replacement styling) to do this. I haven’t participated in a seder like that (with a Messianic congregation) in some time. But I have decided in my home that I don’t merge the two. Instead, I remember the night Yeshua was betrayed and set up for crucifixion earlier in the week.

  15. @Chaya — I suppose there may be a difference between the current Noahide movement and the basic definition of a Noahide. Technically it should be a matter of praxis rather than belief, though certainly idolatry is to be eschewed. It is not axiomatic that Christian belief must be idolatrous, and therefore inimical to Noahide praxis, despite the fact that certain sects of Christianity did incorporate aspects of idolatry or idolatrous symbols into their praxis. Other Christian sects did eschew such elements. If Christians were truly to embrace the “sons of Abraham” metaphor employed by Rav Shaul in his Galatians letter, then their emulation of Avraham prior to his circumcision (i.e., the beginning of the “Jewish” covenant) would be Noahide in character.

    But I really must challenge your definition of MJ, by which you say you can no longer regard yourself as one. Your assertion that “To be within the parameters of MJ, one must accept evangelical theology, politics and prejudices, …” would certainly deny to me, and to the MJs with whom I interact, any use of the term “Messianic Judaism”. Have you read the definition I posted in James’ blog (“One Perspective on Messianic Judaism”, March 8, 2015) in response to an earlier post of yours? Indeed, your self-definition as “a Jewish follower of Yeshua, attempting to discover the real Yeshua and his real teaching and praxis to the extent possible in the human condition at this time” is a classic expression of the MJ motivation.

    I would suggest that your argument is with Hebrew Christians (HCs) rather than with MJs. I suspect also that if the MJ movement (so-called) were to expunge from its midst the HC elements that have long inhibited the MJ perspective, you would no longer assert your accusation decrying “those who say they are Jews but are not, and … rabbis those who say they are rabbis but are not”. Do you feel this way about Reform Jews and Reform rabbis? They accept patrilineal qualifications for Jewish identity, and their conversions are not deemed halakhically valid; and if one of their converts should become a Reform rabbi …?

    Now, from other comments you’ve offered from time to time, I imagine that you’re not convinced that Rav Yeshua’s “real teaching and praxis” were quite so halakhically orthodox as I have asserted just about as often. Personally, I’m less interested in pursuing the metaphorical “clothed emperor” than I am in encouraging the diligent pursuit of what I called “the proper clothing of righteousness for MJs and for NJDs in the present era as they anticipate the arrival of the future messianic era”.

  16. Incidentally, Chaya, I must apologize for my rhetorical “Have you read” question above, because you did respond to it in the comments section and I wouldn’t want to trivialize our exchanges there.

  17. @Steve: Interesting. According to Tractate Sanhedrin 59a, “…hence thou mayest learn that even an idolater who studies Torah is as a High Priest! — That refers to their own seven laws.” So assuming normative Judaism sees Christians as idolators because of how most believers revere Jesus (Yeshua), it would seem we may still study Torah, or rather the Noahide Laws, and in doing so we are “as a High Priest.”

    However, Rashi’s commentary on Tractate Yevamot, 48b states that a (Gentile) Resident Alien may be obligated to observe Shabbat only if he has given up the worship of idols, which apparently would preclude Christians.

    Also, Responsa Egrot Moshe, Rav Moshe Feinstein, Yore Deah volume 2, siman 7 indicates that observing Shabbat, Yom Tov, laying tefillin, wearing tzitzit, and the mitzvot related to sukkah, lulav, shofar, and kosher foods are not incumbent upon non-Jews because we did not receive the Torah.

    Certainly this is a compelling article and I’ll have to give it more consideration when I get the time. However, there doesn’t seem to be a clear cut conclusion (at least to me) as far as a non-Jews duty or responsibility (if any exists) relative to Torah observance from a Talmudic point of view.

    What religion did God give to the Gentiles? In my opinion, a modified form of Judaism which included a limited responsibility for observing certain mitzvot. The subsequent “invention” of Gentile Christianity in the late first and early second centuries and going forward, significantly changed the original interpretation of the Acts 15 legal ruling so that we now have great difficulty understanding God’s original intent based on the Apostolic Scriptures. Probably the closest we can come to recapturing some of the expectations of the Jewish Apostles for the Gentile disciples is by studying the Didache which likely has its origin within a generation of the Apostles and may be the codification of the oral instructions that accompanied the distribution of the Acts 15 Jerusalem letter.

    @Questor: Too “Jewish” for church and not Jewish enough for the synagogue. Once the Messianic “bug” has “bitten,” for better or for worse, it stays with most of us, even though it’s not always particularly comfortable. I really enjoy this way of viewing and studying the Bible. I’m happiest when I’m studying and writing. I’m not always happy with some individuals and institutions but then, human beings are the really “messy” part of any religious tradition.

    @Chaya: I think that especially for intermarried Gentiles, one way to resolve the dissonance between being a Christian married to a Jewish spouse is to reject Yeshua and become a Noahide. That’s sort of like those Gentiles in the Messianic movement who choose to convert to (usually Orthodox) Judaism to resolve the dissonance of being a Gentile in Jewish community space. And there may be a few Jews in Messianic Judaism that, in order to resolve their dissonance between practicing Judaism and devotion to Yeshua, surrender Yeshua-faith and adopt (again, usually Orthodox) Judaism as their identity and community. I think for both Gentiles and Jews existing anywhere in the Messianic world (however you want to define that), staying in Messianic community and maintaining faith in Yeshua is a difficult thing.

    @PL: It would seem, based on your statement and probably on what I wrote above, that there are parallels between being a Gentile believer in Messianic Judaism and being a Noahide, since both roles require devotion to Hashem and a limited responsibility to certain mitzvot. So, at least in our little corner of the blogosphere, we might be able to say that a non-Christian/Messianic Noahide is devoted to Hashem and a Christian/Messianic Gentile can also be a Noahide even this his/her devotion to Yeshua as Messiah. That certainly would go a long way to resolving how to integrate Gentiles into Messianic community, though I can only imagine more than a few non-Jews would balk at the idea.

  18. I need to learn more about Noahides, their history and practices, numbers, but it appears that most currently are former evangelicals or HR who have left their communities and beliefs, are attracted to Judaism but don’t desire to convert or have been discouraged from converting. It seems many have arrived at that place via antimissionaries, who seem to be engaging in a similar practice of early Hebrew Christianity/MJ, although Noahidism isn’t some sort of halfway house designed to prepare one to enter the synagogue as HC was originally designed to prepare the Jewish person to be more comfortable in the church. The Orthodox don’t want the Noahides they have led out of their former faith in the synagogue or to be involved in the Jewish community. I read an article about a Christian military chaplain who became a Noahide, and then acted as a Noahide military chaplain. They appear different of the “God-fearers,” of ancient times that learned in the synagogue while not converting to Judaism, which meant circumcision and joining a despised underclass.

    There are synagogues (not Orthodox) that accept both MJ’s and MG’s, so perhaps that is an option, but not for those who live in areas that lack a significant Jewish community.

  19. Steven M. Cohen, a research professor at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion and director of the Berman Jewish Policy Archive, and Rabbi Joy Levitt, the executive director of the JCC Manhattan wrote an Op-Ed peace called If You Marry a Jew, You’re One of Us for JTA.org. Obviously, their views are from the more liberal end of Judaism, but they raise some good points about how Gentiles integrate into Jewish community, primarily through intermarriage and simply “acting Jewish”.

    Since we’ve been discussing Noahides, and since some of the non-Jewish spouses of Jews identify as such, I thought it was appropriate to include a link to the aforementioned article for anyone interested in reading it.

  20. There are few within MJ that don’t have financial or social/emotional ties to evangelicalism. I am not saying we should hate evangelicals, but we should not be viewed by evangelicals as a fringe sect, but as heretics of their theology. I am aware there are many within MJ that don’t believe in the Trinity, so I am ok there. I may have shared this before, but here’s the biggie: I don’t believe people are lost, spiritually dead and going to hell and the cure is believing a doctrine or praying a prayer. As a Chabad rabbi told me, I also believe we should encourage people to serve God where they are, and as Rabbi Shlomo Katz said, we should help others to find their spiritual path, which may not be our path.

    As Bill Bullock said, there are things hidden in plain site. This is what happened to me, that my eyes were opened and I just saw things that were right in front of my face, but perhaps I wasn’t looking for them, or was so blinded by my own bias due to indoctrination or I wasn’t ready to see these things. I don’t know. I believe I have mentioned this before, but salvation, from the Hebrew refers to being rescued from captivity, freed from bondage, delivered from one’s enemies, healed from disease and hurt…Evangelicalism infused new meaning into Jewish concepts, in the same way they complain Mormons do with Christian concepts. What a load off of me to no longer believe my Jewish relatives and other “unsaved,” friends were going to hell and it was my responsibility to do something about it.

    Although it isn’t part of the doctrinal statement, nearly every MJ in the US I know continually posts memes from conservative/right wing political concerns, and this is part and parcel of their faith and culture. My take is all politics is pretty much a load of what I flush down the toilet frequently, so I am not one of those hated, dreaded liberals, but hubby is 🙂 and he would certainly not feel comfortable in that environment. MJ’s have joined their evangelical brethren in viewing Catholics, Mormons, JW’s (usually not SDA’s as this is too close to home) negatively.

    I feel like I had been drugged for the last 40 years, and the effects have worn off. But now I would make those still drugged with cognitive dissonance (I was there too, so not bashing) uncomfortable and would be seen as a threat. It is also my East Coast Jewish personality that I feel the need to hash things out and examine inconsistencies and discrepancies in belief and practice that would not be acceptable in pretty much any religious environment. Sometimes I miss that oxytocin effect that caused me to trust people and beliefs without vetting, but it seems hypnosis doesn’t work when you are aware of it.

    In regard to the Jew/rabbi issues: My problem is not with Jews who have different levels of torah observance, belief and identity, but with non-Jews who claim to be Jewish, usually so they can have ministries/businesses where they their products to gentiles with the pitch that their market is getting Jewish knowledge. In regard to rabbis, there are perhaps a handful of MJ rabbis that would have equal knowledge to a traditional rabbi, and even they would not dare call out the frauds, with MJ so small they all need to stick together, at least within their own alphabet group. Most MJ rabbis receive mail order smicha, just like the fake PhD’s so many evangelicals hold. Some have barely Bar Mitzvah level Hebrew, if that, and I can’t find evidence they even have a BA/BS degree. Some are graduates of online, unaccredited programs that in no way compare to the required Yeshiva for Orthodox and Seminary for others. Others are graduates of evangelical seminaries, so at least they have an education and have gone through a vetting process; just not a Jewish one. For gentiles, they provide a great service, but I don’t know of non-MJ Jews or anyone outside of HR that choose to learn from MJ so-called rabbis, while many MJ’s and HR’s learn from traditional Jewish sources. They really don’t have much to offer except repeating the same stuff over and over, validating the beliefs people already have. I am no scholar, but I like to think of myself as an intellectual, and I love depth, creativity, out-of-the-box thinking, brilliant scholars, courageous innovators… One important factor holding MJ’s together and clinging to evangelicals was persecution from the Jewish community. I know of several MJ’s who attend non-Orthodox congregations and are welcomed there, where their beliefs are known. I also know of those who associate with Orthodox congregations or have and keep their MJ private.

    Perhaps it was the divine will that I was in all the places and held all the beliefs I did for that period of time. We live in an imperfect world. As for now, I don’t know what the future hold. 🙂 @James has my email if you want to talk further, and I give him permission to give it to you.

  21. Yes, I think it’s about time to shelve the public discussion here. Should PL request it, I’d be glad to share your email address w/him so you could continue a more personal conversation.

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