While every Jew is commanded to place a mezuzah on his doorway, the commentaries raise the question of whether a building that is owned in partnership by a Jew and a non-Jew also requires a mezuzah. [Of course, the Jewish partner would have to be the one who fulfills this obligation. Since non-Jews are in no way bound to follow the dictates of the overwhelming majority of the mitzvos of the Torah, no-obligation — financial or otherwise — can be placed on the non-Jewish partner to fulfill this mitzvah.]
Rashba (to Chullin 136a) observes that the answer to this question may be understood from a Gemara in Chullin (135b). The Gemara lists several mitzvos that, when the Torah commands them, it specifies that they must be done with an object that is “yours.” Some of the examples mentioned in the Gemara are obligations of giving terumah (the first portion of the crop) and reishis hageiz (the first shearing) to the Kohen [where the Torah tell us (Devarim 18:4): “The first of your grain, wine, and oil, and the first of the shearing of your flock shall you give to him”]…
…that these mitzvos are commanded only when dealing with an item that is totally yours…A field or animal that is partially owned by someone not obligated in these areas — a non-Jew — is not included in these directives.
-from A Taste of Lomdus
The Shabbos Commentary on Parashas Eikev, p. 60
A Daily Dose of Torah
I’ve had little motivation to write any of these “mediations” lately, but then someone contacted me via email and asked if I knew anything about this person.
If you click the link and read the article “My Long Road Home” authored by Yehudah Ilan (probably not his original name), you’ll discover the story of a person who grew up in a Christian home and after much Bible study, transitioned first into Messianic Judaism, and then shot completely out the other side, finally converting to Orthodox Judaism.
Over the years, I’ve appreciated the educational context Messianic Judaism and various ministries have provided for my elucidation into a better understanding of the Bible than the one I previously possessed. Of late though, many changes have been taking place in my life, and they’ve cast my role within any form of Judaism (and particularly Messianic) into question.
First and foremost, I have a lot of personal “reinventing” to do, although I’ve come to think of my near-future tasks and goals as “rebooting and hacking”. But a singularly important aspect of how I plan to “hack” my life to make necessary changes and (hopefully) improvements, is what to do about my relationship with God.
While Messianic Judaism as a Judaism has afforded me certain intellectual and spiritual advantages over what I’ve experienced within the Church, I’ve come to realize there’s a difference between learning from within a Jewish perspective (as much as I can apprehend such a perspective, my not being Jewish) and actually having any real involvement “within” Judaism.
As I’ve been told time and again, Messianic Judaism is a movement by and for Jewish people who wish to experience and explore their discipleship under Messiah Yeshua as Jews.
I agree with that statement and support it.
But, and I’ve written about this many times, where does that leave Gentiles?
I’ve written about the answer many times, too. There are any number of Messianic congregations that welcome non-Jews as members, either primary or ancillary, and those non-Jews can have fulfilling roles within such a community.
If you, as a non-Jew, are interested or even fascinated with the benefits offered by a Messianic Jewish worship and learning experience, then I encourage you to seek such communities out, either in the physical sense or online. Just be careful about the doctrine and theology, and what sort of practices some of these groups are calling “Jewish”.
But even becoming involved in an authentic Messianic Jewish community, there’s a catch and a danger. There’s the risk of becoming confused and losing your way.
Since Jesus put on tefillin every day, I started putting on tefillin. Jesus did not eat shellfish, so I stopped eating shellfish. Jesus knew Hebrew and Aramaic, so I learned Hebrew and Aramaic. The more that I studied the New Testament from a historical perspective, especially the elements of the life of Jesus, the more Judaism I began to practice and the more Christianity I began to doubt or reject.
We were living in mid-central Minnesota in the boondocks, with no Jews for miles, and I would walk around town wearing a kippah and tzitzit. We built a kosher sukkah in our back lot and lit a Chanukah menorah in the front window.
Learning from Judaism isn’t the same as being required to practice Judaism.
Being devoted to Yeshua as the first fruits of the resurrection and the arbiter of the New Covenant and coming Messianic Kingdom is not the same as being devoted to the practice of Judaism for the sake of the Messiah being Jewish.
Yes, if you’re Jewish, then your devotion to God is expressed through the practice of Judaism.
But if you’re not Jewish, your devotion to God is to be focused on the coming Kingdom of God and whatever place the nations will have in such a Kingdom.
The recent Republican Presidential candidate debates, the various news stories (scandals) about Hillary Clinton, and many other political and social events are rapidly convincing me that this nation and our planet are not doing well, and they’re not going to get better any time soon.
Politics and political correctness are doing nothing to unite American citizens. In fact, they’re doing the opposite. People in this country are becoming more divided and more polarized every day. Whoever is elected the next President in our nation isn’t going to save us. He or she, in all likelihood, will just continue to travel on a path that will further divide us and result in an increase in hostility of American against American. There’s also our recent participation in events that have increased tension and threats of nuclear war in the Middle East.
There is only one Savior, one Messiah, one King. Our hope is in him, not just the hope for the Jewish people, although that’s his primary mission, but also for the world. Through saving Israel, Messiah will save the whole planet. He will rescue the devoted remnant of Jews and Gentiles, returning the Jews to their land, to Israel, and establishing peace and security for the rest of us as well, and for our nations.
But for that to happen, we, the devoted disciples among the nations, must not confuse Judaism with the worship of God. Judaism belongs to the Jewish people, not to the rest of us.
Some few Gentiles are called, for whatever reasons, to convert to Judaism (and who knows, maybe Yehudah Ilan was one of them), but that is not the path the rest of us are supposed to take.
I said there was a danger in a Gentile operating within Messianic Judaism, the danger of losing your balance. It exists, but I don’t want to overstate my point.
Many non-Jews have found a safe and secure place within Messianic Judaism and are firm in their identity as a “Messianic Gentile” (for lack of a better term).
But it’s not for everyone. I’ve determined it’s not for me for a few simple reasons. If my wife were Jewish and Messianic, there would be no dissonance in my particular “orientation” and my family would be united with me in how I understand God, Messiah, the Bible, and everything.
But they’re not. My wife is absolutely not Messianic, and she is definitely Jewish. She sees me as a Christian and, for the most part, we don’t speak of religion. When she talks about Judaism and what Jews believe, I don’t comment for the sake of peace in the family.
I’ve learned from difficult experience that for me to actively practice any form of Christianity or Messianic Judaism publicly and in community is not sustainable in my marriage. That’s not my wife’s fault…it’s the result of nearly twenty centuries of Christian-Jewish enmity, with the Jewish people usually getting the short end of the stick.
From her point of view, me going to Church or any sort of “Messianic” group is “sleeping with the enemy” (so to speak). No, she’s never said that, but we’ve been married for over thirty years. I think I know a few things about her by now.
But the other reason I’m pulling back from Messianic Judaism is that it’s just another system. Christianity is a system containing a lot of little subsystems…denominations and such. Judaism is system also containing subsystems, ways of orienting individual members toward God and community. The former system welcomes everyone as long as you comply with the requirements of the system. The latter system welcomes Jews and occasionally non-Jews (depending on which subsystems are involved), but it’s more closed because it’s serving a people and a nation, not just “believers”.
Messianic Judaism requires the non-Jew, at least at the level of the local community, to comply with the requirements of the system, but by definition, the requirements are heavily biased toward who really belongs in that system: Jews.
In quoting from A Taste of Lomdus above, I was hoping to illustrate the sense of belonging that Jews have within Judaism and relative to the Torah, even if Gentiles are somehow involved. In a joint Jewish-Gentile venture, only the Jews are obligated to what belongs to them: the Torah and the mitzvot.
I didn’t quote the part that said if a Jew and non-Jew lived in the same home, the Jew would still be obligated to put up mezuzah, even when a Jew would not be obligated to put up mezuzah if he/she owned an office building or other business with a non-Jew. I guess that means it is appropriate for my wife and I to have mezuzah on the doorposts of our home, not for my sake certainly, but for hers because she’s Jewish and the mitzvah belongs to her.
Becoming confused about what belongs to Jewish people exclusively and what belongs to the rest of us at least occasionally results in non-Jewish people making mistakes such as this one or even this one. You either decide the only solution to understanding the Bible and responding to God is to convert to Judaism or you can choose to deliberately seize Judaism and apply it to a non-Jewish life.
I can do neither. However, there are still parts of the Bible that show God also accepting people of the nations into the coming Kingdom of Heaven (which isn’t Heaven in the sky but the Messianic Kingdom on Earth). We have a place, not as Jews nor as Gentiles practicing Judaism, but as people of the nations, just the way we are.
That’s all I can look forward to as a flawed and erroneous disciple of the Master, but I have a lot of work to do before I can even claim a toehold in that territory.
I don’t know if I’ll ever get there.
There are some people who sometimes read my blog and who only choose to contact me if I have offended them or, more to the point, if I’ve written something wrong, or something they object to, about their group or organization. I don’t want to harm anyone, but only “pinging” me to object to something isn’t a very good way to maintain a relationship.
Then there are some of you who have been very supportive of me, in spite of my obvious failings as a writer, a disciple, and a human being. Thank you.
There’s a quote attributed to multiple sources including Plato, Philo of Alexandria, Ian MacLaren, and John Watson:
Be Kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
I’d like to think that the appeal of this blog wasn’t that I was perfect (and I know I’m far, far from perfect) or some sort of “Mr Know-It-All.” I think the appeal was because I was and am fighting a hard battle, a battle that others could (and can) relate to, because all of you are fighting a hard battle, too.
In some ways, my task is both amazingly simple and incredibly difficult. The simple part is that all I really need to pay attention to is my relationship with God. That’s as easy as praying. That’s also as easy as reading the Bible and maybe paying a little extra attention to those passages of the Apostolic Scriptures regarding what the Master and Paul (and any others who may have written about it) that discussed what was expected of the non-Jew, both before the return of Messiah and following.
Granted, there’s not a lot of material to work from, but where else do I have to turn?
The hard part is changing on a fundamental level, rebooting the system and hacking my life to become different and more than what it’s been up until now.
I’ve got a couple of “mediations” that are “in the can,” so to speak. I don’t know if I’ll publish them. I don’t want my writing to distract me from what I need to do, but on the other hand, I wrote them weeks ago.
I’ll think about it. There are just two of them, so they may show up by the by.
I may return here someday and resume or maybe even improve upon what I’ve been trying to do in the past…chronicle one life on a path of faith and trust.
I just need to have a better “me” with which to do that.