alone in a boat

Maybe It’s A Relief Not To Be Jewish

The title of today’s little missive will probably rub at least some people the wrong way, but hear me out.

Living with a Jewish wife, a non-Messianic Jewish wife, one who shares absolutely no common theology with me, is sometimes quite illuminating. Last week, the oldest son of the local Chabad Rabbi and Rabbitzen had his Bar Mitzvah. Apparently, I’m quite ignorant about all this, since I thought it would be on Shabbos.

Not so (although there was another related event on Shabbos). It was on Thursday. There were a ton of Jews from Crown Heights (Brooklyn) who came for the affair. My wife helped cook tons and tons of kosher meals since Boise is hardly the center of a thriving Jewish community, thus Kosher is hard to come by.

Jewish Man PrayingMy wife is very protective of her Judaism and her Jewish community. The occasional “Messianic” (Jew or Gentile, it doesn’t really matter to her) who shows up at Chabad kind of rubs her the wrong way. Fortunately, the Bar Mitzvah was by invitation only, so it was unlikely to attract the casually curious or the Messianic who wanted to dive a tad deeper into actual Jewish life.

By the way, one of the people she’s protecting the local Jewish community from is me. I’m never quite sure if my asking something like, “How did the Bar Mitzvah go” will be perceived as genuine interest or as an intrusion (fortunately the former in this case).

Processing all this over the past several days, and doing a lot of detailed lawn work while the missus was at Shabbos services (all day in this case, there was a lot of “hobnobbing” to do), I realized that maybe it’s a good thing I’m not Jewish.

Really, I can’t stand being stuck in a crowd, particularly made up of (mostly) people I don’t know, for a long period of time. If, for some strange reason, my wife had asked me to attend with her, I’d feel like the proverbial fish out of water. I’ve read some books on the Rebbe and the Chabad, but I’m sure I’d fit in at a Chabad Bar Mitzvah about as much as a Pepperoni and Canadian Bacon pizza.

The missus is about as much of an introvert as I am, so when she finally came home from Shabbos services and the subsequent activities around 5 p.m., she was wiped out. I don’t blame her.

Jewish in JerusalemI don’t blame her for not including me in her Jewish life, either. The more I’ve disconnected myself from any formal association with Messianic Jewish groups, the more I have begun to realize that maybe I never belonged in the first place. Of course, I belong in a church about as much as a nudist in a nunnery, so I’m not saying that traditional Christianity is an option for me either.

I am saying that a Gentile (well, me anyway) attempting to adopt Jewish practices is kind of like putting a cat in a doghouse. One of these things is not like the other.

My wife showed me a photo of the Bar Mitzvah boy. Wow, what a young face. He was also wearing one of those black fedoras and a black jacket, which seemed strange on a kid that age. But then again, I’m not Chabad or even Jewish. Even if I discovered some long-lost family secret that my mother was Jewish, while halachically, that might make me Jewish, at almost 62 years of age, I would still lack a lifetime of Jewish experience.

In other words, I’d still think and feel like a Goy.

I think it’s OK for me and people like me to not pretend to be someone and something we’re not. It’s OK not to engage in what I’ve heard called “Evangelical Jewish Cosplay”.

I don’t think I have a Jewish soul, and I don’t think I’ve got long, lost Jewish ancestors, and I don’t think I’m a descendent of one of the lost tribes or any of that stuff.

I hang onto my current understanding of the Bible because it’s the one that makes the most sense. That’s why I’m about as welcome in a Christian Bible study group as a quart of Vodka at an AA meeting. Sooner or later, I’m going to say something that will be perceived as a threat.

Just showing up in a traditional Jewish venue would be enough to be looked at askance since I’m a Christian (what my wife calls me, not necessarily how I see myself).

Like I said, it’s easier and better to avoid trying to be something you’re not, especially since you’ll (I’ll) stick out like a clown at a funeral. Oh, for a time I can “blend into” a Church setting, but only until I open my mouth.

If religious community is important to you, then I hope you’ve got one where you are accepted for the person you are. I hope you fit in.

For those of you who don’t, welcome. That’s my world. That’s the world of a lot of us who hold to an alternate view of the Bible’s overarching message, particularly the actual meaning of the New Covenant. Some of you have found enough fellow “oddballs” within driving distance that you have formed your own groups. That’s good.

But we’re pretty strange ducks, and sometimes there isn’t a significant number of like-minded oddballs around to get together with.

Besides, within our own little sub-group, there are numerous sub-sub-groups who are just different enough to where we’re not going to get along for one reason or another.

generic white guy

And then, there are those folks who are just plain “out there”.

So, if you have ever gotten that feeling that you don’t fit in, no matter how hard you try, maybe you’re trying too hard to belong in the wrong place. Instead of having that make you feel disenfranchised, maybe you should feel grateful.

Thank you God for making me who I am, even if that sort of person isn’t very common, and even if that person isn’t always easy for others to understand. The downside is you don’t have a small Bible study group to go to every Wednesday night (at least not without starting a theological “knife fight”). The upside is you don’t have to pretend to be someone you’re not. All you have to do is be the person you are.

If God created you (and me), then He understands.

13 thoughts on “Maybe It’s A Relief Not To Be Jewish”

  1. You appear to be at an interesting crossroads – almost as if time has been rewound and you’re trying to find your place as a Yeshua follower in a pre-Bar Kokhba Jewish world. I can certainly relate, but I’m not as embedded in Jewish surroundings as you are… I love your honesty!

    1. In the strictest sense Daniel, due to my highly specific circumstances, I don’t think I have a place relative to community. Can’t say I’m embedded in Jewish surroundings, just married to a Jewish wife.

  2. I am going through the same kind of thing as you, James without the spouse part.

    I came across a very kind congregation community recently that meets on Sabbath and celebrates the Biblical feasts. After I started receiving their emails I could pretty much tell I am not going to fit into their community. I will give it more than one Sabbath though in case I am wrong.

    I still have the people I work with that I think are also walking with me (in some sort of way I think
    I can tell we all belong together right now) and for that I am grateful.

    I believe there is a community you and your wife will find to share together some day.

    1. Maybe in the Messianic age, but not before. Even then, she’s a Jew and I’m not. She’s a covenant member and I’m not. Who’s to say where I will end up while she and the Jewish people are in Israel. In spite of all our hopes, I am not counting on much for myself.

  3. James, I really appreciate your transparency and humor. I am so grateful to have found a Messianic community. I’m also very aware of what it takes for someone to walk through our doors. We all arrived beat up and wounded. Many have been asked to leave a congregation because they ask too many questions and don’t believe that the “church” has replaced Israel. We are all “odd socks” together and there is such joy in our love and acceptance of each other. We all have similar journeys and there is grace in our midst as we extend the grace we’ve received to our wounded and hurting brothers and sisters even with our many theological differences. We realize that we are all learning.
    Don’t despair, as you say, your Creator knows you, and really, that is enough.
    Have you ever thought of going to one of the Messiah conferences hosted by the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America? It might be that this would help you to feel more connected to the wider assembly of believers that share your/our faith. Something to think about.

    1. Something to think about, but having pondered it, I’m not sure it would be such a great idea. My wife would never say I couldn’t worship or otherwise associate with whomever I pleased, but I know the two years I went to church (most recently) were hard on her. I made the mistake of going to Easter…uh, Resurrection Day services that first year, and the look on her face as I walked out the door was heartbreaking. She’d never say this, but I suspect she was glad the day I decided to not to go church anymore.

      However, since she considers me (and all Messianics) a Christian, along with all those who go to a church, she probably already thinks she’s “sleeping with the enemy,” at least on occasion.

      And although she’s encouraged me to find a Messianic tour group to go to Israel with, I don’t know how she’d react if I went to another of these conferences.

      Never been to an MJAA conference, but I went to another one for two consecutive years that was hosted by a separate group (people sometimes get sensitive when I name names so I’ll keep this vague). The first year was great. I made a lot of connections and felt I had integrated well with the other folks in attendance and with the hosts. The next year was just the opposite. It was also the first year I had returned to church and between the church experience and attending a Messianic event, I felt disconnected and confused. I just couldn’t get into the swing of things. Although I still associated with some friendly people, others seemed to have distanced themselves from me. Probably the consequences of my being a “big mouth” in the blogosphere (and elsewhere), so I only have myself to blame.

      A bunch of other things later led me to pull away from association with formal Messianic Jewish (or Gentile) groups. Being unaffiliated means that all the opinions I express are strictly my own. The minute I forge an association (at least it’s happened this way in the past), I both get accused of being a “mouthpiece” for said organization (whether I am or not) and whoever/whatever I’m associated with seems to feel I have to agree with them all the time. Hence I have to “blunt” what I say and write about as well as the comments made by others here.

      Right now, I’ve got one face-to-face friend I can talk with about religious issues and I’ve got this blog where I have virtual transactions with others. The “nastygrams” I’ve gotten in the comments section and via email have quieted down for the most part and I’m grateful for that.

      As Popeye has famously said, “I yam what I yam.” That’s going to have to be good enough.

  4. She doesn’t want you to practice Judaism or Christianity? What? Would Buddhism be acceptable? Jeez!

    1. It’s not quite like that, Steve. First of all, she’s never said I couldn’t practice Christianity. But after being married for 34 years, I have a pretty good idea what bothers her, even when she doesn’t talk about it. By definition, at least from her point of view, I can’t practice Judaism because I’m not a Jew. She doesn’t want me involved in the local Jewish community because, it’s rather small, everyone knows everyone else, and because she doesn’t believe a Christian is compatible in a Jewish setting.

      That used to bother me, but I’ve come to peace with it. Just like with any other issue in marriage, you choose when to compromise for the sake of peace in the family.

  5. Hi James,
    I know your situation is unique, so I cannot speak to that. I can, however, share that a gentleman in our Torah study (and part of our congregation) often attends various Orthodox, Conservative, and Reformed synagogues and is very comfortable there.

    The members of these various congregations have come to accept him. They know he is not Jewish, but because he is only there to worship with them, to pray with them, and to learn from them, he is not a threat. He has even been invited to join their minyan for morning prayer.

    I believe it is because of his show of respect, that he is looked on more as a ‘righteous Gentile’ than a Christian.

    Again, your situation is different, but I thought I would add this information to the conversation. There are people who are able to fit in with both Judaism and Christianity (he also attends a Christian church on Sunday morning, and is a member of our Messianic congregation on Shabbat.)

    I would have to categorize him as a peace-maker. Something I’m not sure I could accomplish, but admire in him.

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