Tag Archives: Hashem

Sukkot Without A Sukkah

Sukkah in the rainSeems strange, right? No sukkah this year. Let me explain.

My parents are aging and their health is none too good. My wife and I haven’t been able to visit them in a while. A window opened up in our schedules, so we took a long weekend and drove down to their place in Southwestern Utah last Friday. We stayed Saturday and drove back home Sunday.

As most of you reading this probably know, Sukkot began at Sundown last Sunday.

Now we got home at about 2:30 p.m., but I was all in from a nine-hour drive so I didn’t haul out our little sukkah kit and put it together as I usually do.

However, yesterday morning, the missus and I were up at the same time along with our son David, and I asked her if she’d like me to assemble the sukkah when I got home from work.

Her answer kind of surprised me.

She said that I built the sukkah each year because I wanted to, not because she wanted me to.

Hmmmm.

I distinctly remember one year her thanking me for remembering to put up the sukkah when she forgot.

We never have meals in it and it’s rather small, maybe fitting two or three people max.

In our marriage, she’s the Jewish spouse and I’m the goy. I suppose I could have built it anyway, but something told me that if she didn’t want to observe the mitzvah as a Jew, who am I to do so (and not being Jewish, I can’t really observe the mitzvah anyway)?

sukkot jerusalem
Sukkot in Jerusalem

I know some of you are going to say there is an application for Gentiles in Sukkot and I agree with you. On the other hand, without the Jewish people, without the Exodus, without the forty years in the desert, there would be no celebration of Sukkot, and none of that has to do with we goyim, even if we are disciples of Rav Yeshua.

So this year, it’s Sukkot, but without a sukkah.

Perhaps it is fitting since I have distanced myself from at least certain elements of Messianic Judaism. But while some Messianic Jews feel it’s important to separate Gentiles from Jewish praxis, they still can’t insist we distance ourselves from Hashem (and I’m not suggesting they are).

On the other hand, Judaism in general believes that the goyim can have a place in the world to come under certain circumstances (although the Noahide Laws don’t quite map to the life of a “Judaically aware” non-Jewish disciple of Yeshua), so while a Jewish celebration such as Sukkot might not be appropriate for us (again, some of you will argue against this), entering the presence of Hashem through the merit of Rav Yeshua is allowed for us.

So for me, at least for this year, the sukkah will have to exist in my imagination and in the future when we will all enter Hashem’s House of Prayer, which is a shelter for all people, Israel and the nations alike.

One Perspective on Messianic Judaism

Long-time commentator ProclaimLiberty (PL), in response to Chaya, another of my enduring readers, has framed a detailed outline of his perspective on the Messianic Jewish viewpoint on God, Messiah, and the Bible. After a bit of editing on his part, he’s asked me to post it here, and I agreed. From here to the end is what PL has crafted. The comments section is open. Since I didn’t author what you’re about to read, please direct any specific questions to PL. Thank you.

—————————————————

@Chaya — You wrote:
“@James, @PL and others, I would like to know what you view as the, “MJ viewpoint,” because, according to my understanding, there are many viewpoints and the situation continues to evolve/change.”

I would answer that I see two possible ways of trying to envision what is “the MJ viewpoint”. One would be some sort of aggregate summary of whatever those who claim to represent MJ seem to be expressing. Since there seem to be a great many conflicting expressions extant, I suggest that this method is intractable. It lacks a coherent objective model by which to qualify the various subjective views and how well or badly they actually reflect “genuine” MJ. The other method, which I believe to be more accurate and much easier to define, is a theoretical or philosophical construct or model. Hence I would answer that the definition of “the MJ viewpoint” may be stated simply, though its ramifications can be elaborated broadly. I would like to outline it thusly:

Orthodox JewsPoint 1. Messianic Judaism (“MJ”), or Jewish messianism, begins and ends with Jews and Jewish behavior and outlook. It is, however, the nature of HaShem’s choice of the Jewish people that they affect all of humanity because ultimately all humans are one Adamic (or even Noa’hide) family. Nonetheless, Jewish messianists must define themselves within Judaism and the Jewish people; and their lifestyle must reflect the traditions that are definitive of the Jewish people and their (our) four millennia of developing civilization. MJs must not view themselves as factional separatists (“minim”) at odds with other Jews.

An MJ organization in the USA called “Hashivenu” (@ hashivenu.org) expressed this as one of their core principles with the phrase: “The Jewish people are ‘us’, not ‘them’.”. They elaborated it, with a degree of perspective developed from prior Hebrew-Christian experiences, as follows:

Like a boat that had drifted from its moorings, we were not cognizant of what was happening to us until a key event, conversation, or combination of factors jolted us awake to the realization that we were farther from our Jewish moorings than we had realized.

For most of us, experience in evangelical contexts taught us to look at Jews only as people to whom we ought to witness. For us, the subtext of every family gathering became “How can I bring the subject up?” and the objective in our relationships with Jewish family, friends and acquaintances became “How can I witness to them without their closing the door on the Gospel and on me?” As important as these issues are, we realize now how wrong it was for these evangelistic concerns to be the sole axis of measurement of relationship with other Jews, even our own family members. We became church-culture chameleons, adept at blending in, showing that even though we were Jews, “we weren’t like the other Jews”: we were real Christians, too. More often than we were prepared to admit, though, we felt ourselves uneasy strangers in a strange land of potluck suppers, hallelujahs, and obligatory right-wing politics. But we had been taught, “You can’t go back to what you were. This sense of distance from the Jewish people, Jewish ways, and from family is the cost of discipleship, the cross you are called to gladly bear. Rejoice and be exceedingly glad.” One day we discovered that we had become habituated to speaking of the Jewish community in third person. We awoke with a start.

Now we know we can go home again. In fact, we must go home again for, truly, there is no place like home. And home for Jews is Jewish life. No doubt, we will have to remodel that home a bit to properly accommodate Yeshua, our Messiah, but better to remodel our own home than to be a permanent guest at someone else’s address.

We dare to believe that among the many mansions prepared for Yeshua’s people, some have mezuzot on the doors. We dare to believe that by rediscovering and reclaiming our own identity as Jews, we will be better brothers and sisters to Gentiles who love our Messiah. In all aspects of life, we want to live in a Jewish neighborhood socially, culturally, conceptually so that we and our children and our children’s children will not only call Yeshua Lord but also call the Jewish people “our people” and Jewish life “home.”

MessiahPoint 2. MJ is a Jewish messianism that views Rav Yeshua ben-Yosef ben-David as a valid candidate for the position of the ultimate Jewish King Messiah, on the basis of his teachings, his example, his piety, and his resurrection from death. His qualifications are derived from the Tenakh and elaborated in later Jewish literature. The qualifications for Messiah cited by the RamBam focus on only a portion of overall messianic qualifications, which are termed the “ben-David” Messiah who will restore the Jewish kingdom and rule therein as the “conquering king”. His rather “Johnny-come-lately” perspective on the Messiah neglects other messianic qualifications that have been described as a separate messiah-figure termed the “ben-Yosef” Messiah who suffers and dies because of the sins of Israel and on our behalf. Without benefit of a resurrection, it would be rather difficult for a single messiah to fulfill the entire set of qualifications. While it can be argued that Rav Yeshua has not yet fulfilled most of the requirements for the conquering king ben-David Messiah, hence the prophecy and expectation of his return to do so at the proper time, he has fulfilled the purposes of the ben-Yosef suffering servant Messiah admirably well, and he has been suitably positioned via resurrection and ascension to enable such a return and task-completion. Meanwhile a proper understanding of the Torah perspectives he taught enables would-be Jewish disciples to pursue a form of ‘Hasidut that would demonstrate the validity of his messiah-ship.

Point 3. MJ derives its view of Rav Yeshua from the writings of his disciples who were commissioned to teach his perspective on how to apply Torah toward Jewish living. These disciples were all Jews (though one may have been a convert, or at least a former Hellenist). Rav Yeshua’s teachings were essentially Pharisaic in character, particularly with regard to their interpretive methodology. From a much later Jewish perspective we would describe him as a ‘Hasidic “admor” and “tzaddik”. However, these “apostolic writings” were adopted and preserved by non-Jews who professed to follow their teachings; and these non-Jews, who called themselves Christians, were excessively influenced by political influences by which they distorted the interpretations of the apostolic testimony to exclude its particularistic Jewish application and perspective, and to denigrate Jews and Judaism — even creating a fictitious Greek-styled demigod, known today in English as “Jesus”, in place of the original Israeli rabbi Yeshua in his natural context. Nonetheless, MJs have identified and continue to research correspondences between the apostolic writings and other Jewish literature in order to re-develop their native Jewish character and improve general understanding of what Rav Yeshua and his apostles actually intended and taught. Their exegesis is not derived from traditional Christian doctrines but from the Jewish text and its context.

Point 4. Because of historical persecutions of Jews by Christians during at least 15 centuries (some would say as much as 18 or 19), Jews in general resist any involvement with Rav Yeshua or the apostolic writings, and mistakenly assume that anyone who does so must be some sort of a Christian or to have joined forces with them against Jews. Regrettably, there are well-known historical examples of just such treachery by Jewish converts to Christianity. Hence MJs who attempt to reclaim and restore the original Jewish character of the apostolic literature about Rav Yeshua frequently are required to assert that they are not Christians, and that neither they nor the writings are anti-Jewish. However, since some modern Christians have learned to eschew the anti-Semitism of past Christian tradition, and even to become ardent supporters of Jews and Israel, MJs do interact positively and cooperatively with them when possible.

Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein
Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein

Point 5. Among the implications in the Jewish apostolic literature is a view of how Jewish redemption can be extended to the rest of non-Jewish humanity, which is the basis on which the non-Jewish religion of Christianity began (before it became directed against Jews and Judaism). Therefore, many non-Jews seeking the authentic roots and origins of faith in Rav Yeshua have turned to MJs for help in their parallel quest to understand the Jewish context of the apostolic writings. However, for MJs such assistance must be prioritized as secondary to MJ re-development and restoration of Jewish praxis and knowledge, without which there is little or nothing meaningful to offer that can support the non-Jewish request for help. Regrettably, this left somewhat of a vacuum during the initial decades of MJ development, which has become filled with a wild mixture of notions that falsely claim an MJ or related label.

The Hashivenu website offers a few additional core values elaborating its statements of MJ principles. Though their formulation is, at this stage, somewhat dated, I would still recommend them as worthwhile reading. I suspect that “the MJ viewpoint” described above is not much different from the views of Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein in 19th-century Hungary, a century prior to the formulation of the MJ paradigm of the 1970s in the USA and just as different from the HC viewpoint as it was from the 19th-century views of the Jewish Christian Feivel (Paul Phillip) Levertoff. Consequently I would not place much credence in the notion that “there are many viewpoints and the situation continues to evolve/change”. I see two basic models, which I would associate with “MJ” (Lichtenstein) and “HC” (Levertoff), respectively, and which have persisted for more than a century. The MJ model re-emerged in the 1970s, but still it has been overshadowed by the HC model, despite the latter’s adoption of terminology more suited to MJ. The strength of HC has been its appeal to Jews who wish to maintain a semblance of Jewish culture and identity within an otherwise foreign Christian religious environment. A weakness of MJ (in terms of popular perspective and appeal) has been its somewhat insular Jewish perspective and its more demanding requirement to conform with Torah-based Jewish culture that differs from the surrounding mainstream environment and which is therefore often denigrated or disdained. Perhaps we should also consider a form of the perspective mentioned in statement #5 above, which may be termed the gentile seekers of “Hebrew Roots” (“HR”). While this is not at all a part of MJ, in some ways it resembles HC, adopts MJ terminology, and associates itself with MJ. That might offer an appearance that the “MJ movement” (so-called) comprises three perspectives and a lot of developmental confusion. However, much of HR suffers from effects derived from the supercessionism developed by earlier versions of Christianity. HR tends not to recognize continuing Jewish distinctiveness and validity, as it focuses on trying to distinguish itself otherwise from traditional Christianity by trying to act in some manner that it perceives to be Jewish in some first-century sense. It suffers from the lack of clear MJ guidance cited above in statement #5, because it is true that MJ is still challenged by the need to develop itself by elaborating an otherwise stable MJ viewpoint into stable, well-defined, and wide-spread praxis.

A significant consideration in current discussions of “Judaism” is the notion of “continuity”, which is a reflection of a primary reason mentioned in Torah for why HaShem so favored Avraham Avinu (in addition to his extraordinary faith). He, as the primary of three visitors to Avraham, in Gen.18:19, is quoted as “saying”: “For I have known him, so that he will command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; so that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.”. It is well-recognized that various forms of Orthodox Judaism have diligently continued the practice of teaching Jewish children thoroughly to perform both private and communal aspects of Judaism, generation after generation. The modernized halakhah practiced by Conservative Judaism has only been tested for a few generations so far, and there is some question about whether it can successfully maintain itself or whether it will succumb to assimilationist pressures and the effects intermarriageof intermarriage with non-Jews. Reform Judaism has been through a cycle of recognizing that many aspects of Jewish practice that they previously discarded left their children with little by which to distinguish themselves as Jews or with which to identify, which has contributed to their assimilation, their intermarriage with non-Jews, and their loss to the Jewish people. Within the current generation they have re-adopted some of the distinctive forms, within religious contexts rather than lifestyle ones, in order to stem this loss. Even newer forms of so-called Judaism have arisen within the current generation, and these have not been tested for their ability to maintain Jewish continuity. Messianic Judaism has included examples of multi-generational families that have maintained at least as much Jewish identity as the Reform or Conservative movements, even among those whose praxis and theology is more like that of Hebrew-Christians, but the movement still faces assimilationist and intermarriage pressures arising from close association with Christians of one sort or another who still don’t quite grasp or support the Jewish responsibility to remain a distinct people. It has been stated in various places that if the Jewish people does not maintain its communal distinctiveness, thus ceasing to exist as an identifiable people, then Hitler wins a posthumous victory. Some would note that such a victory also belongs to the spirit of Amalek, and to HaShem’s ancient adversary known as HaSatan. Regardless of whether anyone grants credence to such pessimism, I would insist that a proper response is to ensure that no actions taken by any Jew should ever contribute toward such an outcome – and we might extend such a principle to apply it to anyone who seeks HaShem’s favor. Therefore I would like to reiterate from my defining statement #1 above that MJs should conduct themselves as Jews, preserving Jewish tradition in their actions and in their teaching to their children (and to anyone else who may care to listen). Incidentally, we can see from Rav Yeshua’s observation in Mt.5:19 that this is also a recipe for greatness in the kingdom of heaven. May it be so for all MJs, and for the gentiles who affiliate with us (and let us say, “Amen”).

—————————————————

Up to Jerusalem

May He Calm Our Storms

Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do their work in great waters. They have seen the deeds of Hashem, and His wonders in the watery deep. He spoke and raised the stormy wind and lifted its waves. They rise heavenward, they descend to the depths, their soul melts with trouble. They reel, they stagger like a drunkard, and all their wisdom is swallowed up. Then they cried out to Hashem in their distress, and He would take them out from their straits. He would halt the storm to restore calmness, and their waves were stilled. And they rejoiced because they were quiet, and He guided them to their desired boundary. Let them give thanks to Hashem for His kindness, and His wonders to the children of man. Let them exalt Him in the assembly of people, and praise Him in the session of the elders.

Psalm 107:23-32 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

He went down to the boat, and his disciples went down with him. There was a great storm on the sea, to the point where the waves would cover the boat, but he was sleeping. His disciples approached him and woke him, saying, “Save us, our master. We are perishing!” He said to them, “Small ones in faith, why are you afraid?” He got up, reprimanded the winds and the sea, and there was a great silence. The men were amazed and said, “Who is he, then, that even the winds and the sea listen to him?”

Matthew 8:23-27 (DHE Gospels)

I wonder if, at any point after Yeshua (Jesus) ended the storm, did the disciples think of the portion of Psalm 107 that I quoted above? When I read that psalm as part of my devotionals last Shabbat, I immediately thought of the passage from Matthew 8. But as I made the connection from earlier to later in the Bible, I wondered if the first century Jewish readers of the Gospel of Matthew, when coming upon the sequence where the Master caused the storm to cease…if they saw the relationship between these events in scripture and connected the acts of Jesus with the acts of Hashem, the God of Israel? Could this linkage have been intentional on Matthew’s part? Did he leave a rather obvious (if you’re a first century Jew) clue as to the Master’s identity and nature here to which we Christians, nearly twenty centuries later, would be oblivious?

If so, then it wouldn’t be the first time.

Last summer, I wrote a review of a sermon given by First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) Founder and President Boaz Michael that he presented some years earlier which he titled “Moses in Matthew”. You can read my review The Jewish Gospel, Part 1 and Part 2 for the details. But it seems to me, perhaps thanks to the Spirit of God (and hopefully not because of my own wishful thinking), that I have made one of those little links in scripture that are so “Jewish” and that further establish the Bible as a single, unified document. I believe this is another example that the Bible is the complete Word of God, a revelation that we can accept as a total and seamless gift, not something to be sliced and diced as Christianity sometimes does, so that the Bible artificially points to an earlier God and a later Jesus, as if the two have almost nothing to do with one another, as if the Old Testament and the New Testament form two separate plans of God in how He will be among His people, and as if God changed His mind on who He decided His people were to be.

God speaks to us from the Bible. The Spirit of God whispers to us as we read. Most of the time, we aren’t even conscious of His presence, but every so often, something “clicks” as it did for me last Shabbos.

May God continue to graciously open our eyes and ears and minds to His Word and reveal the face of Messiah to those of us who call ourselves disciples, and to all to cry out to God for mercy and compassion. May He calm our storms that we too may give thanks and rejoice, and that we might declare the Name of God as great among our assemblies.

Amen.

When the Jewish People are One

Rabbi Mendel TeldonI am not Orthodox.

There. I said it.

Yes, I look like I am. I have a full beard, I am the rabbi of a traditional synagogue and don’t eat anything not kosher. But I am finally comfortable enough with myself and my Judaism to come out and say what has been lying underneath the surface for so many years.

I just can’t classify myself anymore as an Orthodox Jew.

Truth be told, as I look at the membership list of my congregation here in suburban Long Island I feel that none of my community is really Orthodox either.

Please allow me to describe to you my journey on how I reached this conclusion.

-Rabbi Mendel Teldon
“I Am Not Orthodox”
Opinion piece written for
The Jewish Week

And so begins the (you should pardon the expression) “unorthodox” commentary of Rabbi Teldon about Jewish identity from his particular perspective. I must admit, when I read this article, the first thing I thought of was Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann’s article in the most recent issue of Messiah Journal called “The Jewish People are Us – not Them” (read my review of the article for more details).

As his story progresses, Rabbi Teldon relates how, during one Erev Shabbat meal in his home, he asked his (Jewish) guests, “Do you consider yourself Conservative, Reform, Orthodox, None of the above or Other?”

The first guest thought for a few moments and said “I’m not sure. My parents were Conservative, we were married by an Orthodox rabbi, but our kids went to a Reform temple for nursery. I didn’t fast on this past Yom Kippur but my daughter’s upcoming Bat mitzvah is going to be done by an Orthodox rabbi.”

The next guy said he is Reform since currently he is not a member at any temple but he takes his family to a Reform temple in Westchester every year for the high holidays. Since his parents are on the board of directors they get a good price on tickets so it is worth the schlep. Also, while he hadn’t studied much lately, he feels that his beliefs are more in tune with the Reform movements ideas of Tikun Olam.

The third scratched his head and said, “My friends ask me this same question when they hear I am a member at an Orthodox congregation. My response is “Other” since I don’t fall into any of those categories.”

Not being Jewish, I have no real basis for evaluating the question much less the answer, except in relationship (perhaps) with Dr. Dauermann’s article. Dauermann also discusses the nature of Jewish identity and the vital necessity of Messianic Jews to relate first and foremost as Jews. That point dovetails quite nicely with what Rabbi Teldon says next:

That is when it suddenly hit me.

I am not Orthodox since there is no such thing as an Orthodox Jew. As there is no such thing as a Reform Jew or Conservative Jew.

These terms are artificial lines dividing Jews into classes and sub-classes ignoring the most important thing about us all. We share one and the same Torah given by the One and same God.

That is, from my point of view, the essence of what Rabbi Dauermann was communicating in his article. Jewish identity is more than just a label, it’s more than just whether or not you were Bar Mitzvahed by an Orthodox Rabbi, attend the High Holy Days in a Reform shul, and have your kids go to Hebrew school at a Conservative synagogue. Jewish identity is transcendent across all of these “labels.”

Of course, the Jewish people sharing affiliation across those different Jewish institutions or religious streams might have a problem with a Messianic Jew attempting to enter their spectrum of Jewish experience (and I just violated Rabbi Dauermann’s “Us, not them” emphasis).

I was also reminded of this:

We are on more solid ground if we attempt to define the term “Messianic Jew” – a Messianic Jew is simply a Jewish person who believes in Yeshua. Messianic Jews have all sorts of theological views, ranging from attending shul weekly and treasuring Yeshua in their hearts as a crypto-faith and living out a more Orthoprax Judaism, to attending a Pentecostal church every week, and simply maintaining an awareness of their Jewish identity.

-Dror
“The shape of the Messianic Jewish movement”
rosh pina project

IntermarriageBut all this introduces a level of complexity into the equation of Jewish identity and Jewish community. When trying to explain these concepts to my Pastor a few weeks ago, he asked me if Messianic Jews had more in common with Judaism or Christianity. He was getting at the idea that in Christ, we are all “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15) and are saved through Jesus on the cross, while most streams of Judaism deny Christ as Messiah and as the Son of God.

I don’t think I can adequately answer such a question without being Jewish. I don’t have a lived Jewish experience and a unique identity as a part of Israel. In Christianity, we are taught to revere Jesus above all else and our culture and identity is defined by our beliefs.

Jewish identity and covenant relationship with God is established at birth (with the exception of those who convert to Judaism, “Jews by choice”) and, as Rabbi Teldon said, are defined by the Torah and by God. Any Gentile can enter or leave Christianity, but a Jew is born a Jew and even if they reject that heritage, they can never leave and become an “unJew”.

Historically, as Rabbi Dauermann brought out in his article, Jews have always been required to make a choice when coming to faith in Yeshua as Messiah. Either surrender all Jewish identity, practice, and culture, or forget about becoming a disciple of Jesus and lose (or never attain) your salvation.

I seriously doubt that any Christian past or present has any idea what they were asking of Jewish people who desired to have a relationship with the Jewish Messiah. How can you ask a Jew to leave his covenant people in order to honor the capstone of Jewish history, the Messiah, Son of David, who is utterly devoted to his covenant people Israel?

Then we come to a recent debate in the blogosphere on Jewish apostasy, and by that, I mean Jews who previously were believers within a Messianic Jewish context, denouncing Jesus and re-entering another Jewish religious community. General Christian and Hebrew Roots consensus says that any Messianic Jew who desires to live a completely Jewish lifestyle in honor of his fathers, in honor of the Torah, and in honor of Messiah significantly risks leaving Yeshua-faith because, somehow, living as a completely observant Jew among completely observant Jews and focusing on Messiah are mutually exclusive experiences.

Rabbi Teldon’s commentary may seem heartwarming when applied to any other Jewish population, but Christians consider having Messianic Jews making transitions across multiple corridors of (non-Messianic) Judaism as a severe threat which will result in those Jews leaving Yeshua-faith for “dead” Jewish worship. Even many Gentiles in the Hebrew Roots movement who believe as non-Jews, they are obligated to “observe” Torah, are at least hesitant about if not actively critical of Jews in Messiah who want to actually live as Jews and among Jews. Go figure.

I wrote a review a few days ago on one of John MacArthur’s presentations at his Strange Fire conference, and at the end of my review, I brought into question who Christians should be focusing upon, God the Father, Jesus the Son, or the Holy Spirit? Christianity, including Hebrew Roots, insists that the only valid focus of Christian faith must be Jesus Christ, but if that’s true, do we simply disregard the God of Genesis, the God of Abraham,  the God of Jacob, and the God of Moses? Even at the end of all things, the Bible specifically mentions only “the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 22:3).

I don’t see how it can be reasonable to ask a Jew to stop being Jewish in order to worship the God of Israel and Messiah, Son of David, King of the Jews. What are Jewish families in Messiah supposed to do, shop at the mall on Saturday afternoon and serve shrimp at their daughter’s wedding?

Oh, not everyone thought Rabbi Teldon’s article was heartwarming. Here are a couple of comments from the blog post:

Dear Rabbi Mendel,

Will you daven in a shul that is not Orthodox? Will you sit next to a woman who is also davening, and consider yourself yotse? Will you pray in any shul, regardless of denomination? Do you recognize those with non-Orthodox smicha as rabbis? Do you count women in a minyan? Will you daven, in tefilla b’tzibur, if there are women forming the minyan of ten? Will you share a pulpit with a woman who is a Rabbi in doing a wedding, or leading a service? I imagine that you would say yes to all of the above, since you have publicly claimed you are not an Orthodox Rabbi. If you cannot say yes to all of the above, I encourage you to publish an apology and a detraction of your public statement about being not being an Orthodox Rabbi. If you cannot say yes to all of the above, to claim one is not Orthodox is both disingenuous and inaccurate.

Thank you.

And another comment…

What do you expect? He’s a Lubavitcher. For Lubavitchers, every other Jew from unaffiliated to Satmar is classified as either Lubavitcher or not-yet-Lubavitcher. Everyone is conversion fodder to them. If one regards O/C/R as affiliations, he’s not affiliated with any of the other Orthodox orgnaizations – Lubavitch institutionally does not join with other Jewish institutions.

Except that Orthodoxy, according to R’ Micha Berger, is not a movement, but an attribute a movement can have. OU, Agudah, Lubavitch organizations, they’re all Orthodox because of their adherence to certain ideas. IOW, this is a marketing move. Since R’ Teldon finds that his congregants eschew labels, he’ll eschew labels too. Doesn’t change what he believes.

judaismIn the Messianic Jewish and Hebrew Roots movements, the concept of Jewish identity is fiercely discussed, but it’s obviously a matter of concern among all of the other Judaisms as well.

I think Rabbi Teldon has the right idea. I think that the core of being Jewish must cut through all other distinctions. When the Nazis came for the Jews, it didn’t matter what the synagogue affiliation (if any) of their victims were. Jews were simply herded into cattle cars and taken away as slave labor or to the gas chambers.

While there may be some “bumps in the road” between different Jewish streams regarding who is or isn’t considered Jewish, no other form of Judaism attracts masses of non-Jews like Messianic Judaism. This has been a really BIG “bump in the road” for Jewish Messianics who desire a truly Jewish life and worship experience.

Derek Leman, who like many other congregation leaders in the Messianic movement, oversees a congregation of mostly non-Jews, and yet he also sees the need for “Jewish” Messianic Judaism, as he blogged recently. Naturally, his blog post generated a lot of discussion in the comments section, since many non-Jews associated with the movement and certainly most traditional Christians, are at least confused about why Judaism is such a big deal, to outright offended at the suggestion that Jews converting to Christianity is not God’s real plan for them.

Gentile involvement in Messianic Judaism, although well established historically, results in an interruption of Jewish community that Rabbi Teldon and those at his Shabbos table couldn’t possibly imagine. And yet, without Gentile Christian involvement and support, the vast majority of Messianic Jewish communities would not be able to exist. On top of that, most Jewish people I know in the Messianic movement originally came to faith within a Christian church context. It would seem that continued Christian Gentile involvement or crossover into Messianic Judaism is inevitable, regardless of the other problems this raises.

But God, one by one, calls back each of His Jewish children to stand before Him at Sinai and to recall the Torah of their fathers. God speaks to each Jewish person, reminding them of who He is and who they are in Him.

The apostle Paul probably understood this dilemma best. He was a Jew, a Pharisee, of the tribe of Benjamin, circumcised on the eighth day, zealous for the Torah, the Messiah, the Temple, and Hashem. And yet, he associated with many, many Gentiles. Yes, he always went to the synagogue first whenever he entered a town in the diaspora, and he told of the good news of Moshiach to the Jews first, and also to the Gentiles.

And yet, the Biblical record testifies that as Paul lived and eventually died among the Gentiles, he never compromised who he was as a Jew, nor was he required to make such a heinous compromise by Messiah in order to be an emissary to the Gentiles. If anything, Paul’s Jewish “credentials” underwent the most strenuous scrutiny and the apostle clung to who he was as a Jew with outstanding fidelity (see Acts 21 and subsequent chapters for multiple examples).

It was a difficult road to walk, and it is no wonder that Jews in the Messianic movement today struggle to find a path. If only it could be as Rabbi Teldon relates. If only the binding link between all Jews could be Hashem, and Torah, and the promise of Messiah, who is realized among Messianic Jews. A Messianic Jew living as a Jew among other observant Jews should never violate zealousness for Moshiach at all. It never once dimmed Paul, the Jewish emissary to the Gentile’s vision of the Messiah King.

I know both Christians and Jews will disagree with me in all that I’ve said. But when I read the Bible and factor in the historical, cultural, linguistic, and yes, Rabbinic (proto-Rabbinic) context of Paul’s world, that’s how I see him. I see Paul as a shining example that a Jew who is zealous for Torah does not have to compromise his observance or his Messianic faith in order to honor the King and to worship Hashem.

Messiah is the lynchpin, the capstone that holds all believers together, Jewish and Gentile alike, but there is a dimension possessed by Jews in Messiah that we non-Jewish disciples, by definition, cannot apprehend. God created at Sinai an identity and an experience of what it is to be Jewish in community with other Jews that is unique to the living descendants of Jacob. The Messiah means a great deal to Christians, and we would be hopelessly lost and separated from God without him. But he is even more than all that to the Jewish disciples.

Messiah is the culmination of the prophesies from the Tanakh which all speak of the personal, community, and national redemption of all Jews and of Israel. Messiah is the link that allows the people of the nations to come alongside Israel and share in the prophetic blessings. To demand that a Jew in Messiah stop being Jewish and stop participating in Judaism is to deny Biblical prophesy, deny God’s sovereign plan for Israel and the world, and frankly, when we are dumb enough to make such a silly demand, we Gentiles are shooting ourselves in the foot (remember, the Jews would offer sacrifices to God for the atonement of the nations of the Earth, and the Romans destroyed that atonement in 70 C.E.). Without Jewish Israel and Judaism, what links us to Messiah and to salvation at all?

Capstone archSomeday, Messiah will be the capstone, not only for the (mixed) body of Messiah, but for all Jews everywhere, as they flock to Jerusalem to celebrate the return of the King. We Gentile believers will also celebrate, but it is our job to help conduct the exiles back to their Torah and their Land in accordance to the will of our Master and the will of Hashem.

The party will be first and foremost for the Jewish people, the nation of Israel, the Holy people of God who He gathered to Himself at Sinai. We of the nations who are called by His Name are grafted in by a faith learned from Abraham and through the grace of Messiah and the providence of God.

Rabbi Teldon ended his article with these words:

When we are able to focus on the fact that while we have differences but a family truly remains connected eternally, it will reconfirm what we already knew: Am Yisroel Chai!

There must be a way for this to be accomplished also for Messianic Jews, because they too are part of the family, regardless of other differences. Paul is part of that family, as are James, Peter, John, and for that matter, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Messiah is part of that family, and he leads that family and that nation, for he is, first and foremost, the Jewish King.

How can Gentile believers in the Church not understand that being Jewish is a gift and demand that Jews return that gift to their Father in Heaven in exchange for Gentile Christianity? Someday what Rabbi Teldon describes will become an overwhelming reality in a way we cannot possibly imagine. Someday Messiah will bring all of his people, all of Israel home. And on that day, I and my other non-Jewish brothers and sisters will line the highway leading up to Jerusalem and loudly, jubilantly applaud the return of the lost remnant of Judaism, and cheer in joy and gratitude that the will of God has finally come to pass…

…and  we will bless God that we among the nations were allowed to humbly be a part of it all.