Tag Archives: ger toshav

The Ger Toshav Certificate Within Messianic Jewish Community

I found something interesting, or rather, a link to something interesting, on a closed Facebook group for Messianic Gentiles: a Ger Toshav Certificate. It seems to be something a non-Jew would attest to and sign within the confines of a Jewish community in which he/she is participating. It refers to formalizing their relationship as Ger Toshav/Giyoret Toshevet, an “Affiliate of the Tribe.

gerI checked, and on the site’s About Us page, they state their site is housed at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in Wyncote, PA.

I know the Messianic Gentiles group where I found this, often uses the Ger Toshav model to define the relationship we Gentiles have (potentially) with the larger Messianic Jewish community (although there’s no one, clear definition of “Messianic Gentiles,” “Messianic Jews,” or how they’re supposed to deal with each other.

Someone else in the group posted a link to Shechinah.com and a rather lengthy commentary on the Ger Toshav.

I checked this too, and found the site owner is Rabbi Rayzel Raphael who, among other things, was ordained as a Rabbi within Reconstructionist Judaism, is a singer and songwriter, and has an affinity for pastel colors.

The information sources seem pretty liberal regarding Jewish/Gentile relationships, but I’m not sure that will work out well within the Messianic Jewish movement.

One of the apparent goals within some expressions of Messianic Judaism is to define it as primarily to exclusively Jewish, created for and administered by Jews living under Conservative or Orthodox praxis.

Since historically, the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots movements have been associated with Evangelical Christianity, it is seen as important not to give the appearance of Messianic Jews being just “Christians in Kippahs.”

Thus the goals of at least some Messianic Jewish groups, and probably a large number of Messianic Gentiles, are at odds with one another.

How can a Jewish community be said to be primarily or exclusively Jewish if it has a majority membership of Gentiles, and particularly if they are given official status within that community based on public declarations of participation, and perhaps even serving on their administrative board?

On the other hand, many, many Messianic Gentiles desperately seek to belong as equal members of Messianic congregations.

I used to be like that, but those ideas slowly began to unravel and ultimately, for many reasons, not the least of which is being married to a non-Yeshua believing Jewish wife, I ceased my personal association with both Messianic Jewish worship and attending a Christian church.

raphael
Rabbi Rayzel Raphel – Found on her twitter page.

It’s left me somewhat in limbo (you should pardon the expression), but for me, there doesn’t seem to be a viable option for community, barring this blogspot.

My question is, for those non-Jews who do want to belong and be recognized within Messianic Judaism, do these ideas culled from Reconstructionist Judaism make any sort of sense, or are they just wishful thinking?

I know non-Jews can participate widely within the Reform and Reconstructionist movements, but within their own religious branches, these Jews have nothing to prove.

Within Messianic Judaism, it’s quite the different story. Any hint of “Christianity” within their midst, and every other branch of Judaism, as well as secular Jews, would drop MJ Jews like a hot rock (or that’s the perception at least).

What about it? Are non-Jews doing the Messianic Jewish movement any favors by clamoring to be let in? Maybe we should be content to be accepted within whatever religious group that will have us and that we can tolerate, or even find a home in, and call it good.

Renewing the Lone Messianic Gentile

I came across a brief article on Rabbi Daniel Siegel’s blog called “When the Rebbe Asks: Renewing Ger Toshav,” which apparently is the topic of a soon to be published book. Actually, I found it posted on a closed Facebook group for “Messianic Gentiles”. This is the same group that has historically drawn a parallel between the Ger Toshav (“resident alien” in Jewish community) and the Messianic Gentile. I chronicled their perspective in a number of my blog posts including Not a Noahide (which I was subsequently reminded would better have been called “More than a Noahide”).

Although I no longer fret so much over issues of identity or praxis, there was something that caught my attention:

Reb Zalman favoured the renewal of the Ger Toshav as an alternative to a full conversion where it was clear that the person did not really want to become a fully practicing Jew. He wanted to see an alternative which honoured the person’s desire to be part of a local Jewish community at arm’s length.

This was a response to a problem noted in Judaism. When a Jew is married to a non-Jew, there traditionally has been two responses. The non-Jew converts to Judaism or the Jew ignores any Rabbinic direction and most likely falls away from Jewish community and practice.

An additional problem is noted in terms of the standards for practice that Jewish community holds for the Jewish convert. Often, in the author’s opinion and referencing Reb Zalman, said-observance of the convert is more lax, certainly not up to the standard of the presiding Rabbinic court. One example of this mentioned in the article is:

Some years ago, Reb Zalman challenged what he saw as too much leniency in our conversion process, to the point where he said that if we did not put a tallit kattan on a Jew by choice as he (in this case) emerged from the mikveh, then we had done nothing.

It was suggested that at least some of the converts did not truly desire to follow all of the mitzvot and converted for the sake of their Jewish spouse.

IntermarriageSo is there an alternative?

There is.

Supporting the renewal of the Ger Toshav, a non-Jew who is already married to a Jew, who does not want to follow the mitzvot as a Jew, but who is in full support of their spouse’s involvement in Jewish community and praxis.

How does this apply to the aforementioned comparison between the Ger Toshav and the Messianic Gentile?

Well, in normative Jewish community, a Messianic Gentile would in no way be considered to map to a Ger Toshav. In fact, a union between a Jew and a Messianic Gentile would be viewed as an intermarriage between a Jew and a Christian, something not in any way seen as desirable in Jewish community.

In my own small experience in Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots groups, it is fairly common for Jews and non-Jews to be intermarried. In fact, again in my experience, the sort of Jews attracted to Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots are either secular Jews or Jews who have adopted Christian practice and identity, and yet who also have a desire to reconnect to being a Jew.

The participation for many intermarried couples in Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots then, could be seen as a sort of synthesis between Christian and Jewish values and lifestyle.

Of course, I can’t speak for every intermarried couple involved in those movements, but when I was associated with those communities, that was what I saw.

Turning to my own situation as a non-Jew married to a Jew, in my case, my spouse is affiliated with normative Jewish community, specifically the Chabad and the local combined Reform/Conservative shul. She in no way can be considered as having any sort of association with Yeshua-worshippers or Christians (which is what she considers me).

synagogueSo we come back to the definition of a Ger Toshav as a person who is part of a local Jewish community at arm’s length. Well, that’s not exactly me, since I’m not part of a Jewish community at all. In fact, I’m not currently part of any worship or faith community.

However, as quoted from the Preface of the Ger Toshav book (PDF), am I a member of this “community”?

There, almost the entire Jewish leadership was married to non-Jews whose spouses, in turn, were full contributors to the community’s life and supporters of their spouses’ involvement, yet choosing not to become Jews themselves.

Nope. That would imply that I’m involved in synagogue life with my wife and support her involvement from that platform.

However, combining “at arm’s length” with supporting my spouse’s involvement in Jewish life, I find a definition of myself, and by “arm’s length” I mean I stay away from her Jewish community completely.

This isn’t news to me. It’s just interesting to find this sort of thing recorded in modern Jewish literature.

In Messianic Judaism, you can probably find many non-Jews married to Jews who are part of Jewish community and support their spouse’s full observance of the mitzvot (keeping in mind that depending on which Messianic Jewish community you sample, the level of observance will vary).

As far as my wife’s level of observance, that’s entirely up to her. Frankly, I wish she were more observant, but as she once said to me (and rather pointedly at that), she doesn’t need my permission to be Jewish.

So I keep my nose out of her business in that arena. I also have surrendered anything that even resembles Jewish praxis since she would no doubt see it as “Evangelical Jewish Cosplay”. She even wonders why, outside the home, I still avoid bacon, shrimp, and other trief, which is just about my only remaining concession to my former lifestyle.

generic white guy
Image: Cafepress.com

I’m sure a number of my former associates would be aghast to read those words (or perhaps they wouldn’t), but in some sense they were also the prompt, or part of it anyway.

The missus is my main motivation for the decisions that I’ve made, but I’m also mindful that the Messianic Jewish community in all its forms and associations, continues to struggle with just how to implement Gentile involvement in their Jewish community, keeping in mind that at least in the western nations, most Messianic Jewish communities are made up of mostly non-Jews.

I know the ideal is to create Messianic Jewish community by Jews and for Jews, and I continue to support that ideal, but it is my belief that the dream will not be realized until Messiah returns and draws his people Israel to him.

So where does that lead us?

For those non-Jews out there who adhere to the values and practices of being involved in Messianic Jewish or Hebrew Roots communities and who are not intermarried, not a lot. I’m sure your congregation has standards of behavior and practice for the non-Jews among them, so like any member of a congregation, you adhere to those standards or find someplace else to worship.

For non-Jews married to Jews and part of the previously referenced communities, it is likely you and your spouse share the same values and beliefs, and so there is little or no dissonance between you. Only in Messianic Jewish groups with a Jewish praxis approaching Conservative or Orthodox would there be any noticeable distinction between the observance of the Jewish and non-Jewish spouse (again, this is my opinion, your mileage may vary).

For you non-Jews who have community within a Christian setting and your beliefs are not widely accepted by your peers, you have a tough road to travel. I tried that for two years and ultimately got nowhere, though I learned a lot along the way.

If you are married to a more traditionally Christian partner, then what you experience may be similar to my own marital situation. You may share the vast majority of your lives with each other but there will always be a line neither of you may cross. The most important part of you becomes isolated from your marriage.

risk
Image: mirror.co.uk

It’s a very dicey place to live. I know. I live there.

With neither support at home or community, you depend on the Holy Spirit alone to get to through each day while maintaining a relationship with God. If you’re married to a normative Christian, renouncing a Messianic perspective and taking up the mantle of traditional Christianity becomes the temptation.

For folks like me, it’s renouncing Yeshua entirely. Even if I did that, I doubt the missus would accept my adopting the Ger Toshav identity, so I’d still be alone in belief or disbelief as the case may be.

Assuming Hashem has control of all things, I wonder why He would sanction this perpetual walk along a sheer cliff. Or perhaps like the question, “why do bad things happen to good people,” it’s simply a matter of living in a broken world fallen far from God. These events occur because the King has yet to assume his throne in Jerusalem and take up his reign.

So like the rest of humanity living precariously and dancing madly on the edge of a razor blade, I and those like me just have to keep hanging in there.

Journey of the Ger Toshav: Failed Connection

Broken connectionThe Gemara rejects this suggestion, because it is Rav himself who said that establishing an omen is only prohibited when it is done as we find with Eliezer, the servant of Avraham. When Eliezer went to find a wife for Yitzchak, he announced that the woman who would offer him and his camels water would be the one who would be the wife for Yitzchak.

Tosafos answers that according to one opinion, Eliezer was a Noachide, who was not commanded to avoid this type of conduct. And, according to the view that he was commanded to abide by it, we must say that he actually asked Rivka about her
family before making any decisions.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Relying on omens and signs which portend the future”
Chillun 95

The non-Jewish cook is called a “kefeilah.” Rashi explains that he is a baker, while the Aruch translates this word to refer to a cook. Toras Chaim explains that according to Rashi, the reason we trust the non-Jew is that we present the question to him innocently, in a general conversation, without his realizing that we are going to be relying on his word for halachic purposes. In this case, we do not think that the non-Jew will intentionally lie, as he is not aware that we are listening to his statement for any practical purpose.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Asking a non-Jew to taste the questionable food”
Chullin 97

(Continuing from yesterday’s Part 2 of the series: The Ger Toshav at Worship)

I read these two Dafs last week while pondering the Ger Toshav question and the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and was struck by the contrasting examples of trusted and non-trusted Gentiles from the Jewish perspective. On the one hand, we have the example of Eliezer’s relationship with Abraham. While we cannot say that Abraham was a “Jew” in the modern sense nor an “Israelite” since Jacob was not yet born and had not fathered the 12 patriarchs, he is considered the Father of Judaism and the first ethical monotheist in the line of the Jewish people.

Eliezer, though not a member of Abraham’s family, was a servant who was so trusted, that Abraham sent him back to Haran, the land of Abraham’s ancestors, to find and bring a wife back for Abraham’s son Isaac (see Genesis 24).

On the other hand, as we see in the Daf for Chullin 97, a Jew may trust a Gentile to advise him on an important manner, in this case the taste of a food item that may or may not be forbidden to the Jew, only as long as the non-Jew does not know that he is helping to decide an issue of halachah. The implication is that if the non-Jew knew how important his opinion was to the Jew, he might deliberately lie to him in order to induce him (and other Jews) to eat something forbidden.

Given the long history of enmity between Jews and Gentiles, I guess I can’t blame the Rabbis for this ruling, but it still stings a little. I would like to think there is a way to bridge the gap between Christians and Jews (Messianic and otherwise), but I can see that a rather long and bloody history is standing in my way. Could this also be the problem between Jews and Gentiles in the Messianic Jewish (MJ) community or more specifically, between the One Law (OL) faction of MJ, which is largely Gentile/Christian directed, and the Bilateral Ecclesiology (BE) faction, which is largely directed by a Jewish leadership? Is it a matter of trust, at least in part?

That could very well be. I’ve previously said that OL’s efforts to establish Gentile equality with Jews relative to being obligated to the 613 commandments is interpreted by BE as an incursion into Jewish identity and an attempt (even unintentionally) to obliterate the identity distinctions between Gentile and Jew, effectively rendering Judaism non-existent.

That could be a trust issue (I say that as an understatement).

Frankly, my investigation isn’t taking an encouraging direction. I recently discovered that it is not possible to be a Noahide and a Christian from a traditionally Jewish point of view. I’ve exchanged private communications with a Jewish gentleman (and since they are private, I won’t publish any identifying details) who is well versed about Noahides and he assures me that for many reasons, including the “polytheistic” nature of Christianity and the Jewish belief that Jesus (or at least Paul) was a “false prophet”, anyone self-identifying as a Christian could not be considered as a “righteous Gentile”.

It seems my investigation is stalled. How can I take and adapt any elements or cues regarding the relationship between Gentiles and Jews in the Messianic world from the Noahide/Jew relationship in traditional Judaism when any status of “righteousness” as a Christian is cancelled by my Christianity? That means, from a traditional Jewish point of view, I am viewed as a pagan, polytheistic, idol worshiper. I was rather hoping for more.

SeparatedIf the BE contingent in MJ is drawing its identity largely from mainstream Judaism, then how much of that sentiment is carried over into Jewish/Gentile relationships? It can’t quite be the same because both Jews and Gentiles in MJ confess Jesus (Yeshua, within this context) as the Jewish Messiah and that salvation comes through the “living Word.” The question of monotheism is still a thorny one, but I won’t address it as part of this series. Since “righteousness” of all members of the Messianic world must come from the Messiah, then its Gentile members cannot be faulted for having the same faith in Jesus as the Jewish members.

Extending that into the world in which I live, those Jewish members of MJ/BE must also, at least at a very basic level, accept my faith since we both recognize Jesus as the Jewish Messiah and we both are brought before the throne of God through the sacrifice of Christ.

But saying that, I’m no closer to an answer to this puzzling set of queries now than I was when I first conceived this series. I’m also at a loss as to how to proceed and must admit that the series, barring any further developments, is closed.

With the days of teshuvah almost elapsed and the approach of Yom Kippur coming rapidly upon us, I can only throw myself before the mercy of God and let Him deal with His creations. How disappointed in us He must be.

I wonder when I’ll learn that the barriers are firmly in place, humanity in its different groups, including Jew and Gentile, are established as we are, and divided we will be until God unites us all again at the end of all things.

It’s not all bad. At least I learned that BS”D is the Aramaic phrase “B’Sayata Di’shamaya,” which means “With the help of Heaven.”

The Ger Toshav at Worship

Yom Kippur prayersHere’s a brief but significant addendum to my first blog post on the Journey of the Ger Toshav. I’ve been surfing the Ask Noah forums which are specifically for Noahides to ask questions regarding their status relative to Judaism. I found the following in the thread Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur as posted by one of the Rabbis moderating the forums:

As a Noahide, here are some guidelines for the Jewish Biblical festivals:

  1. In general, do not specifically intend to be observing any of the Jewish restrictions on activities during the festivals. You can continue your normal types of activities that would be forbidden for Jews (using electricity, driving, writing, etc.)
  2. Do not say a benediction of sanctifying the festival day (i.e. saying “kiddush” at a meal).
  3. Do not actively perform any of the special Jewish festival commandments with the intention that you are observing a Divine commandment (e.g. blowing a ram’s horn on Rosh HaShanah, fasting on Yom Kippur).
  4. In the synagogue, do not get called up to the Torah scroll during the public reading.
  5. A Gentile can’t be counted in the minimum of 10 Jewish men who are needed for a communal prayer-service quorum (a minyan).
  6. You can follow along in the Orthodox Jewish prayer book during the services, but don’t recite those parts that apply exclusively to Jews. Gentiles may bow down to the floor in prayer while the congregation does so during the Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services.
  7. Don’t forget to turn off your cell phone or pager during the synagogue prayer services.
  8. If attending a synagogue service, a Gentile women should dress modestly. And for respect of the congregation, a man should wear a hat or a yarmulke (Jewish skull cap).

It makes perfect sense for a Noahide and a Christian attending a synagogue service to comply with all of these restrictions, but in the Messianic Jewish (MJ) world, it becomes a little confusing. As I mentioned in the previous blog post of this series, how One Law (OL) proponents in MJ and those that support Bilateral Ecclesiology (BE) see this issue is the difference between day and night. BE, of course, would be in complete agreement with the Ask Noah forums perspective, which is the traditional Jewish point of view, and OL would state that Gentile “Messianics” should have every right to participate in the same activities as the Jewish attendees in the synagogue.

Frankly, I can’t see myself as a Christian married to a Jewish wife trying to put on a tallit and expecting an Aliyah, nor would I attempt to join a minyan during the High Holidays or at any other time. In a traditional synagogue, a Gentile performing these behaviors would be considered deeply offensive.

The reason I’m bringing this up is that this series of blogs is an attempt to see if Christians can define their roles in relation to Jews (including Jews in the Messianic community) through how Jews view the status of Noahides. I know that a Noahide would be considered equivalent to the God-fearers in the day of Peter and Paul (see the example of Cornelius in Acts 10) and this group of Gentiles did not have a covenant status with God that allowed them equal access to the Most High. Confessing Jesus as Lord and Messiah and accepting the Messianic covenant does give Gentiles this access, but I still don’t see how it makes a Christian different from a Noahide (can you be a Noahide and a Christian from a traditional Jewish viewpoint?) as far as the eight points I quoted above are concerned.

Obviously, I’m aiming this blog post at the MJ community and all of its factions for a response. So far, my wee investigation does seem to indicate that Christians can learn from the Ger Toshav, at least a little.

Next and possibly last in this series: Failed Connection.

Journey of the Ger Toshav: First Step

JourneyTosafos discusses how to understand how Eliezer, the trusted and faithful servant of Avraham Avinu, conducted himself in a questionable manner by letting an omen determine such a critical matter. The Gemara seems to say that he was in violation of the Torah’s law not to rely upon omens (Vayikra 19:26). Tosafos answers that according to one opinion, Eliezer was a Noachide, who was not commanded to avoid this type of conduct. And, according to the view that he was commanded to abide by it, we must say that he actually asked Rivka about her family before making any decisions.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Relying on omens and signs which portend the future”
Chullin 95

And the 126th prohibition is that we are forbidden from feed­ing meat from the Pesach offering to [any non-Jew, even] a ger toshav.

Translated by Rabbi Berel Bell
Sefer Hamitzvot
“A Gentile Eating of the Paschal Offering”
Negative Commandment 126
Chabad.org

I’ve been trying to understand the relationship between Jews and Gentiles and how we are connected to God (and perhaps even to each other). This has been a recurring theme in my blogs for well over a year and I suspect I’ll never come to a final conclusion, but something in me refuses to let it go.

Between Christianity and Judaism, we like to think we have our roles all figured out. The Jews have Moses and the Christians have Jesus. Everybody else, well…they’re everybody else. The Jews believe that any non-Jew who adheres to the Seven Laws of Noah (see Genesis 9 for the source) is a “righteous Gentile” or Ger Toshav and merits a place in the world to come. This may well be true of the Gentile, regardless of what other traditions or religious practices the Ger Toshav follows. Christianity believes that a person must become a Christian in order to be saved and that there are no other alternatives (John 14:6).

While the Jewish perspective does not discount a Christian being a righteous Gentile (although worship of Jesus as God may rule that out, since it amounts to idol worship and polytheism), a Christian will absolutely not believe that anyone can come to God the Father except by accepting the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Period.

What surprises me is that, if the Old Testament record clearly points to Jesus as the Messiah, why does Judaism just “miss it?” Israel was the keeper of the Holy Scriptures and the only nation on Earth to worship the One and Unique God thousands of years before the concept of Christianity came into being. While Moses and the Children of Israel were standing before God at Sinai and accepting Him as their God, the ancestors of every Christian on Earth were worshiping pagan idols of wood and stone, and some were passing their own children through the flames of their false gods in (supposed) exchange for a good harvest.

There’s another wrinkle.

While traditional Christianity and Judaism have a more or less clear idea of who they are and what their roles are in relation to God and the Bible, there is a third group, rather small by comparison, but growing, which is called Messianic Judaism (MJ). Even within this group, there are a number of factions which have different and sometimes contradictory beliefs. I won’t go into a lot of detail, but the two primary groups are (for lack of better terms) One Law (OL) and Bilateral Ecclesiology (BE).

(Please keep in mind that these aren’t particularly formal groups, but in order to understand the concepts and positions, I need to assign some sort of labels to said-positions).

One Law is a movement within MJ that is made up primarily of non-Jewish Christians and Jews who come from a Christian background. This group states that Jesus never did away with the Law and that, when Gentiles are grafted into the root of Israel (Romans 11), they too become obligated to the exact same 613 commandments (as opposed to the 7 Noahide Laws) as the Jewish people. A major caveat in OL, is that this “Jewish” lifestyle is minus any directives from the Talmud, which they see as without authority and merely the opinions of men.

Bilateral Ecclesiology, a term coined in Mark Kinzer’s book Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People, posits that there are clear boundaries between the obligations and responsibilities of Christian Gentiles and Jews, even those Jews who have come to faith in Jesus (“Yeshua” is used as the preferred Hebrew name of Christ by both groups). BE supporters consider that a non-Jew insisting upon being “obligated” to all of the Torah commandments is blurring if not disintegrating the line between Jews and Gentiles and making meaningless what it is to be a Jew. From their perspective. OL effectively makes Messianic Jews and Christians one indistinct “blob”, where you can’t tell where a Jew leaves off and where a Christian begins.

The debate between the two groups can get rather heated on occasion, as you can see in the comments at Judah Himango’s blog, for example (please note that I’m just using this as an example. I like Judah and this is not a criticism of him or his blog). Here’s a sample of one of the comment’s in question (I like the commenter, too and am quoting him just to illustrate the point, not to be critical):

Where Scriptures makes distinction between men and women, priests, etc. There is no mentions whatsoever for Jew and Gentile distinctions as far as keeping Torah is concerned. Even your beloved “scholars at FFOZ only come up with one, only one verse where they have to twist it in order to sustain their agenda, and you drink the kool-aid….

One Law bases its assumption upon the following:

The same law applies to the native-born and to the alien living among you. –Exodus 12:49

You are to have the same law for the alien and the native-born. I am the LORD your God. –Leviticus 24:22

One and the same law applies to everyone who sins unintentionally, whether he is a native-born Israelite or an alien. –Numbers 15:29

Mount SinaiMy opinion is that these scriptures are completely irrelevant to the One Law position since the “aliens” being referred to in these verses are non-Jews who attached themselves to the God of Israel, joined with the Israelites as a people, and eventually were absorbed into that population. They started out as Ger Toshav and their ancestors did not retain their non-Jewish identity but essentially “converted” to Judaism. It would be impossible to apply this set of examples to a group of non-Jewish “Messianic” believers today who want to be as equally obligated to the Torah as the Jewish people but all the while, retaining their Gentile identity and only living a partial Jewish lifestyle (one that disregards Talmudic interpretation of the written Torah).

Groups that hold to a “Bilateral Ecclesiology” framework (I don’t think Kinzer ever intended to make a theology out of BE), while maintaining a rather large Gentile Christian following, are led by a core group of Jewish Rabbis (Rabbi as defined within their own context) who support Messianic Judaism for Jews, including a completely Jewish religious lifestyle (Talmud included). They see the Acts 15 letter as the defining pronouncement by James and the Jerusalem Council, those Jews who held the mantle of authority over the “Messianic” movement after the ascension of Christ. The letter clearly defines limits upon the obligation of the Gentile believers in relation to the Torah of Moses. The letter doesn’t completely illustrate those limits, since Jesus taught outside their scope, but nothing in the teachings of Christ specifically commands that Gentiles become wholly absorbed into the Jewish nation.

Further, Paul, in the book of Galatians, goes to great efforts to discourage the Gentile Christians from converting to Judaism, for in converting, the Gentile Christian would then become fully obligated to obey all of the Torah (Galatians 5:3). That would be a crazy statement to make if the Gentile Christians were already fully obligated, as OL suggests. (D. Thomas Lancaster recently wrote The Holy Epistle to the Galatians, in which he illustrates how to understand Paul’s letter as teaching this distinction.)

To recap, traditional Judaism and Christianity both see their roles as very clear within their own groups and in relation to each other. Jews believe the Torah is only for the Jews and Gentiles, including Christians, are not obligated to it and are, in many cases, forbidden to adhere to its instructions. Non-Jews may only come before God when accepting the obligation of the Seven Noahide Laws and becoming Ger Toshav, and there is no need to convert to Judaism. Christians believe that the Law was wholly replaced by the Grace of Christ (for Jews and Gentiles) and that anyone, even a Jew, must convert to Christianity to have right standing before God. The Christian covenant completely replaces the Abrahamic and Mosaic covenants in their eyes.

In other words, Jews aren’t trying to co-opt Christians and Christians aren’t trying to co-opt Jews. They are separate communities with few if any bridges across the gap.

Messianic Judaism muddies the waters of that gap considerably and is still trying to define who they are and who Jews and Gentile Christians are in relation to each other, to the Torah, and to God.

But what about the Ger Toshav? I previously addressed the differences between the Noahide and the Christian in a pair of blog posts: The Sons of Noah and Children of God. Nevertheless, I believe that the clues to how Messianic Jews and Gentile Christians are supposed to relate to each other, to the Torah, and to God may be found in the more traditional understanding by Judaism of the Ger Toshav (and I’m deliberately sacrificing sure footing for the sake to my journey in pursuing the Ger Toshav).

What started this line of thinking for me was Rabbi Bell’s translated statement, “…is that we are forbidden from feeding meat from the Pesach offering to [any non-Jew, even] a ger toshav“. It never occurred to me that a Noahide would have had a special status in relation to Passover and the other festivals in the ancient community of Israel, but that was a logical outcome of the “one law for the native and the alien” statements during the forty years of wandering.

Going to GodIn Messianic Judaism, One Law accuses Bilateral Ecclesiology of denying Gentile Messianics (Christians) access to the same benefits of Torah living as the Jews and, by inference, treating Christians as if they/we were any other Gentile group. BE states that Gentile faith in the Jewish Messiah does make a difference, but that difference is largely in the areas of moral and spiritual behavior and does not include Jewish identity markers (wearing tzitzit, laying tefillin, keeping Kosher, observing the Shabbat). Traditional Judaism, while not recognizing a special status among Christian Gentiles relative to other non-Jews, does believe there is a difference in expectation between the general population of the world and those Gentiles who accept the mantle of Ger Toshav.

(Just to be clear, traditional Judaism sees all factions of Messianic Judaism as Christians; “Jews for Jesus”. Traditional Christianity sees Messianic Judaism as a group of Judaizers who are “under the law”. Like I said, the waters are muddy)

Eliezer was considered a Noahide, a righteous Gentile, a Ger Toshav and the most trusted of the household of Abraham. He was empowered to select a bride for Isaac, the son of the promise, who would father Jacob and continue a line that would lead to the patriarchs, the twelve tribes of Israel, and ultimately, the Messiah himself. Yet Maimonides considered even a Ger Toshav as forbidden from eating of the Passover sacrifice. Who is the Ger Toshav and can we take any understanding away from who he is and who we are in Christ, especially as we attempt to relate to our Messianic Jewish brothers?

What does it all mean and can any conclusions be drawn from this rather confused mess? That’s what I’m going to try to find out in my next blog.

For now, I remain a Christian at the gates of the Temple of God.

Part two of this series is The Ger Toshav at Worship.