Tag Archives: Stuart Dauermann

Kareth and Messianic Judaism

At the core of the pluralism issue is the debate over whether there’s “More than one way to be a good Jew.” Indeed, there have always been divergent streams of observance – like Chassidic, Sefardic vs. Ashkenazic, and even the Talmudic arguments between the Talmudic academies of Shammai and Hillel.

And yet, historic precedents show that there are limits to pluralism, beyond which a group is schismatic to the point where it is no longer considered Jewish. For example, everyone considers Jews for Jesus as outside of the legitimate Jewish sphere. The disagreement, then, lies in defining exactly what are the acceptable limits of divergence.

-from “Ask the Rabbi”

I’m continuing my email conversation with my Jewish friend as I described in yesterday’s meditation, and this “Ask the Rabbi” column seemed to fit right in. As you just read, there are a whole bunch of divergent streams of Judaism, but how far can you diverge and still be Jewish? According to the Aish Rabbi, being “Jews for Jesus” is going too far.

I should say at this point that “Jews for Jesus” is how most Jews see Messianic Judaism, thus Messianic Judaism isn’t viewed as a “Judaism” at all. One problem is, as a private communication revealed to me just recently, even many staunch Jewish disciples of Messiah aren’t all that observant. For instance, one Messianic Jewish conference (I’m deliberately concealing identifying information for obvious reasons) was scheduled during a major Jewish fast day. At another conference, the conference leaders ate the local hotel (non-Kosher) fare, and the very few Jewish attendees who kept kosher were forced to have catered kosher meals brought in or to drive some distance to a kosher eating establishment. And driving on Shabbat for the Jewish conference organizers and attendees wasn’t considered a big deal at all.

Why do I say all this?

Historically, any Jewish group which denied the basic principles of Jewish tradition – Torah and mitzvah-observance – ultimately ceased to be part of the Jewish people. The Sadducees and the Karites, for instance, refused to accept certain parts of the Oral Law, and soon after broke away completely as part of the Jewish People. The Hellenists, secularists during the Second Temple period, also soon became regarded as no longer “Jewish.” Eventually, these groups vanished completely.

-the Aish Rabbi

One of the big issues that may inhibit halachically, culturally, and religiously observant Jews from recognizing Messianic Judaism as a Judaism is, based on the quote above, the lack of consistent Jewish observance in Messianic Judaism. Except for in a few small corners of the movement (at least from an Orthodox Jewish perspective), Messianic Judaism presents the appearance of being not a Judaism (there are many other issues, such as the deification of Jesus and the supposed worship of a man, but I’m choosing to focus on the matter of community and observance right now).

tallit-prayerIt’s a terrible thing for a Jew to be cut off from his or her people.

For those of you who don’t know, the concept of Kareth or “cutting off” is a consequence of a Jew committing certain offenses, such as having a forbidden sexual relationship or worshiping a deity other than Hashem (known as Avodah Zarah). Messianic author and teacher Derek Leman even wrote an article on the topic a few years back.

Should a Jew in Messianic Judaism feel cut off from larger Judaism? Is that a consequence of being a Messianic Jew? Not according to Rabbi Stuart Dauermann in his article “The Jewish People are Us – Not Them,” which he wrote for the Fall 2013 issue of Messiah Journal (and which I reviewed), however, R. Dauermann admits that this has been a consequence of Messianic Judaism historically due to its associations with Evangelical Christianity. Evangelicals believe that once a Jew becomes a disciple of Messiah through the Messianic movement (or by converting to Christianity), they have more in common with Gentile Christians than non-Messianic Jews.

That’s a terrible burden to lay on any Jew’s shoulders.

But does it really have to be that way? Has it always been that way?

Early Christians were the original “Jews for Jesus.” They accepted the Divine revelation of the Torah, but not the eternal, binding nature of the commandments. Initially, these Jews were reliable in their kashrut, and counted in a minyan. But the turning point came when Paul, realizing that Jews wouldn’t accept the concept of a dead Messiah, opened up membership to non-Jews. At that point, these “Jews” experienced a total severing of Jewish identity.

Now that’s a glaring assumption by the Aish Rabbi. Let’s look at that again:

But the turning point came when Paul, realizing that Jews wouldn’t accept the concept of a dead Messiah, opened up membership to non-Jews. At that point, these “Jews” experienced a total severing of Jewish identity.

Ending MacArthur seriesEvangelical Christianity believes that Paul broke with Jewish identity shortly after he encountered Jesus on the road to Damascus (see Acts 9) and that the extinguishment of Jewish identity in Messiah was by design. The Aish Rabbi says Paul may not have originally intended to break with Judaism and tradition, but when he couldn’t convince other Jews to “worship a dead Messiah,” Paul switched the object of his proselytizing from Jewish to Gentile populations and cut loose anything Jewish from devotion to Jesus.

No wonder so many Jewish people really hate Paul.

As Paul and Barnabas were going out, the people urged them to speak about these things again the next sabbath. When the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who spoke to them and urged them to continue in the grace of God.

Acts 13:42-43 (NRSV)

I invite you to read the larger context which is captured in Acts 13:13-52, but basically, after Paul’s discourse in the synagogue at Pisidian Antioch, on how Jesus was indeed the Messiah, his Jewish audience was extremely eager for him to return next Shabbat to say more. Apparently the issue of a “dead Messiah” wasn’t a problem. The problem was this:

The next sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord. But when the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy; and blaspheming, they contradicted what was spoken by Paul.

Acts 13:44-45 (NRSV)

A certain number of God-fearing Gentiles generally attended this synagogue on a regular basis, so the huge crowds of non-Jews who showed up for the subsequent Shabbat to hear Paul must have been the result of word getting out and large crowds of idol-worshiping pagan Gentiles entering the Jewish community space.

The Jewish PaulSo like I said, the “dead Messiah,” at least in this case, didn’t seem to be the problem, nor, as we know from many of Paul’s other letters as well as the record in Luke’s Acts, did Paul totally abandon his people or Jewish practice in order to invent a new, Law-free, religion exclusively for the Gentiles. As the Aish Rabbi himself stated, the early Jewish disciples ”accepted the Divine revelation of the Torah” and ”these Jews were reliable in their kashrut, and counted in a minyan.” I do not believe that ”these Jews” denied ”the eternal, binding nature of the commandments” nor that Paul taught Jews to neglect the Torah.

Paul said in his defense, “I have in no way committed an offense against the law of the Jews, or against the temple, or against the emperor.”

Acts 25:8 (NRSV)

Paul continued to deny that he had committed any offense against the Torah or against Roman law for the rest of his life and unless we want to believe he was just lying to try to save his skin (didn’t do him very much good if that was his ploy), then we have to consider that the Aish Rabbi, representing the general Jewish view of Paul, and Evangelical Christianity, are both wrong about the Apostle to the Gentiles.

So we have some history that tells us the very first Jews who belonged to the Messianic stream of Judaism called “the Way” continued to be observant Jews and continued to be considered Jewish by the other branches of Judaism in the late Second Temple period.

But why can’t we have that now? Why can’t Messianic Jews be considered Jewish, even within Messianic Judaism? Why should a Jew in Messianic Judaism be considered cut off from his or her people in larger Judaism?

The Aish Rabbi ends his article this way:

I can’t predict what will happen to the various streams within Judaism today, but I do believe that the best bet for a strong Jewish future is to remain loyal to our faith and traditions.

I promise that the Rabbi was not considering Messianic Judaism in this opinion but I believe we should. What that means, is the Jewish people in Messianic Judaism, in order to ensure a strong Jewish future, must too remain loyal to Jewish faith and traditions. That’s why I wrote the blog post The Necessity of Messianic Jewish Community. That’s exactly why Messianic Jewish community is necessary, important, vital, critical.

There’s a lot more I could say about this, but for the sake of length, I’ll back off for now. It will probably be fuel for another blog post fairly soon. I don’t see this issue going away.

synagogue_arkI know it’s odd for me, a non-Jewish person studying within the context of Messianic Judaism, to be so passionate about Jewish identity for Jews in Messiah. I suppose it all comes back to my own (Jewish) family who aren’t Messianic but who I believe really need to be even better at connecting with Jewish community. There’s a huge danger as each generation passes, of Jewish people simply fading away, not assimilating into Christianity necessarily, but just drifting into secular oblivion.

Within Messianic Judaism, many of the leading Jewish teachers and promoters are themselves intermarried, and if the mothers of their children aren’t Jewish, then neither are their offspring.  If, as I stated above, there is a “crisis” of minimal or inconsistent observance of the mitzvot which further weakens the Jewish nature of Messianic Judaism and thus any connection with larger Jewry, will Jews be found within Messianic Judaism in twenty or thirty years?

Being Jewish is a Gift

jewish-t-shirtMy great grandparents were born in New York. At the end of a high school Holocaust memorial assembly, students were asked to file out quietly in the following order: those who had parents who were Holocaust survivors, those who had grandparents who were survivors, and finally those who had great grandparents who were survivors. I remained sitting with three other students in the empty auditorium. We looked at each other across rows of empty seats, and I felt shock ripple through me. I didn’t know that most of my classmates’ grandparents were survivors.

On the stage the American flag rippled in the dim spotlights alongside the Israeli flag, and I thought about the refuge that this country has been for so many Jews. My grandmother used to tell the Santa Claus who offered us candy canes at the mall: “No thank you. We’re Jewish so we celebrate Hanukkah. But happy holidays!” I’ll never forget the way her green eyes lit up with her fiery pride for Judaism. As her granddaughter, I grew up believing that being Jewish was a gift…

-Sara Debbie Gutfreund
“Swastikas in New York”

“…being Jewish was a gift.”

I never really thought of it that way before. Being Jewish is precious. There aren’t that many Jewish people relative to the world-wide population, and usually when something is rare, it’s valuable.

Jewish people are survivors, not just of the Holocaust, but of the world. Look at Jewish history going back thousands of years and you’ll almost always find that someone is trying to kill them. Look at ancient, Biblical history. Israelites co-existed in a world with Canaanites, Hittites, Moabites, and a lot of other “ties.” Are any of those other nations or people groups still around?

No. Only the descendants of the Israelites, the Jewish people.

They even continued to exist when they were evicted from their national homeland nearly two-thousand years ago. Who’d have thought that when the Roman empire crushed ancient Israel under its boot, that homeland would be resurrected again in 1948? Who knew that after over six decades, this tiny nation in the middle east would not only continue, but thrive and be an innovator in technology and other industries? Who knew?

Being Jewish is a gift.

Which brings me to Christianity, Hebrew Roots, and Messianic Judaism, all movements that are loosely connected by a mutual worship of the God of Israel and discipleship under the King of Israel and Messiah.

The vast majority of Jews would disagree with the last part of my statement. I understand that. But there are a very tiny minority of halachically Jewish people who have recognized that the man called “Jesus Christ” in the Church is also Yeshua HaMoshiach, Son of David, Anointed One of Hashem.

Of those Jewish people, probably most of them are assimilated into the traditional Christian church and live mostly or completely like their Gentile counterparts, foregoing most or all of the mitzvot that would otherwise identify them as observant Jews.

The “gift” of Judaism is recognized by some Gentile Christians in the Church, prompting them to leave their usual world of pulpits and pews and to join some variation on a Hebrew Roots or Jewish Roots congregation. These groups typically attempt to incorporate some form of modern, Jewish synagogue worship into their Sabbath meetings, spend more time in the Tanakh (Old Testament) than the Apostolic Scriptures, and some even tend to elevate the Torah or the Five Books of Moses, above their former devotion to Christ. They see Judaism as a gift too, tempting some of them to convert.

It’s a confusing world.

churchesAlmost all the Jewish people I know in Messianic Judaism have a previous experience in a traditional Church. Almost all of them are intermarried to a non-Jew. Many of these families live observant Jewish lives, but a few are split, with the Jewish spouse (and perhaps kids) attending a Shabbat service at a Messianic or traditional synagogue and the Christian spouse going to church.

It’s a confusing world.

Does attraction to or involvement in Jewish/Hebrew Roots and/or Messianic Judaism lead to apostasy? Or, for that matter, does such involvement increase the risk of apostasy?

I have no data to draw from. I don’t know if as many, more, or fewer people in the Church (big “C”) leave the faith altogether than people in Jewish/Hebrew Roots and Messianic Judaism. I only have anecdotal information only. Whispers in the dark. Rumors of this family and that who left the worship of Yeshua and converted to Judaism or, if halachically Jewish, returned to an observant Jewish life.

I can say that the temptation is there. I remember my own involvement in Hebrew Roots back in the day. It’s easy to be persuaded that the ritual, the prayer service, the Torah service, donning a tallit, laying tefillin, relating to the Judaism of our ancient faith leads to a closer walk with God. It can generate an enormous pull. Of course, with my wife being Jewish, the thought of conversion was additionally fueled, but that was many years ago. I even toyed with the idea of suggesting to my wife that we make aliyah.

But that seems like another life.

Don’t seek Christianity and don’t seek Judaism. Seek an authentic encounter with God.

That’s one of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received and it cuts to the heart of the problem. Who the heck are we anyway, Jew and Gentile, in the body of Messiah?

There are a lot of writers in the Messianic Jewish space who write about distinctiveness between Jews and Gentiles in the faith, about the obligations to the Torah and how they are applied differently, radically differently to Jewish members and Gentile members. Men like Mark Kinzer, Stuart Dauermann, and David Rudolph write periodically or even regularly about the drive, the need, the absolute requirement for Jews in Messianic Judaism to see all other Jewish people and national Israel as not them, but us.

In other words, Messianic Jews are Jews first and Messianics second. I think that’s what Dr. Dauermann’s statement means. But that statement, while it repairs many an old wound, creates other problems.

How do you balance Jewishness and Judaism against a faith that in any real sense, hasn’t been Jewish (for the most part) in nearly twenty centuries? The very word “Christian” immediately screams “GOY!” in the ears of any Jewish person.

jewish-repentanceBeing Jewish is a gift.

Yeah, I get it. And if a Jewish person comes to faith in Jesus…excuse me, Yeshua, then do they throw away that gift?

I know a few Jewish people in my church. At least one of them has a passing relationship with the larger Jewish community in my little corner of Southwest Idaho, but she’s actually Christian through and through. Did these Jewish Christians throw away that gift?

I know that Kinzer, Dauermann, Rudolph, and other Jewish scholars and writers are choosing to see being Jewish as a gift that being Messianic does not require to be returned to sender. The apostle Paul was Jewish, proud of his heritage as a Pharisee, circumcised on the eighth day, zealous for the Torah. He worked closely with many Gentile disciples, established Gentile congregations among Romans and Greeks in the Diaspora, was aided, shielded, and supported by the Goyishe believers for decades.

If any man had the opportunity to leave Judaism, assimilate into Gentile “Christianity,” and “go native” among the Greeks, it’s Paul.

And he didn’t (I’ll get a lot of pushback from both Christians and Jews on that one).

I’ve gotten just tons and tons of advice since the most recent apostasy scandal hit the Hebrew Roots and Messianic section of the blogosphere. Most of it basically says, “Keep your eyes on Jesus.”

I sometimes wonder where God went, that is, God the Father, the one Jesus could do nothing without, the one who Jesus watched and imitated perfectly, the one Jesus told his disciples to pray to. Jesus said “no one comes to the Father except through me,” but he didn’t say the Father was replaced by the Son. Shouldn’t I be looking at the Son because opening his door, reveals the Father?

Being Jewish is a gift.

jewish-christianAnd there’s a terrible crisis in the Jewish world today. Jews are turning their back on being Jewish and practicing any form of Judaism in droves. Jews in this country are assimilating into Christianity, other religions, or secular atheism at a tremendous rate.

Jewish children are no longer receiving even the most basic Jewish education. They grow up in communities that do not have children knowing that their parents, grandparents, or great-grandparents are Holocaust survivors.

I’m not Jewish so I can only imagine this. If you are passionately, religiously, ethically Jewish and also passionately and religiously a devoted disciple of the Messiah who the Church calls “Christ,” then you must feel powerfully torn in two directions.


…except if devotion to Moshiach was originally Jewish and considered a valid Jewish religious stream in the days right before and then after the destruction of the Second Temple, why can’t it be just as Jewish today? Why do there have to be two opposing directions for a Messianic Jew? Why isn’t it the same direction, another stream of Judaism among many streams of Judaism?

I know…two thousand years of anti-Semitic Christian church history has severely tainted those waters.

For a Messianic Jew, faith is an unavoidable tightrope walk. For non-Jews associated with Messianic Judaism or Hebrew Roots, the draw is there, but it’s different. We weren’t born into the covenant that every Jew who ever existed was born into. We don’t have the same spiritual connection that is infused into our blood, our flesh, our bones, our very DNA. For Jews who turn their back on the covenant of Sinai, I believe there will be an accounting one day.

We from among the nations are not called to that covenant, but we are called to God through the Messiah, through a faith that righteous Abraham demonstrated. Yeshua is the doorway but we must remember that Messiah, not Judaism, not Jewish practice, not Jewish identity, is the key to being reconciled to God. That was Paul’s entire point when he wrote his famous letter to the Galatians.

Being Jewish or not being Jewish doesn’t justify one before God. Faith justifies. However faith and justification doesn’t erase who we are. Men are still men, women are still women, Jews are still Jews, Gentiles are still Gentiles.

Being Jewish is a gift and most of us don’t receive that gift. A few Gentiles become Jewish by choice under the authority of the proper Rabbinic court, but born-Jewish, conversion to Jewish, or born something else, if we turn away from our sins and turn toward God, we must do so as who we are, knowing that our identity doesn’t justify, only faith in God through Messiah does.

prophetic_return1Being Jewish is a gift and I defend those Jews who believe their gift and their identity is being threatened by Christianity, by Gentiles who suffer from identity confusion, or by anything else linked to our religious streams and even how we search for God. I’m not Jewish but I understand that God chose the Jewish people from all of humanity for a special purpose, and as a Christian, I have a unique responsibility to cherish and uphold their purpose and their role, because only through the blessings of the covenants God made with the Jewish people do I have access to God at all.


…but, that purpose and that role isn’t the end of all things. Being Jewish does not grant exclusive rights to enter the presence of God or a place in the world to come. God will do what God will do, but it is only the faith of Abraham that grants anyone righteousness before a righteous God. In that, Messiah is the gift, and he is a gift everyone may receive, to the Jew first and even to the Gentile.

The Jewish People are Us — not Them: Commentary on Dauermann in Messiah Journal 114

stuart_dauermannSecond, I will briefly outline the biblical concept of Achdut Yisra’el — the unity of the Jewish people — and explain theologically why the Jewish people are “us,” not “them.” Third, I will seek to establish the connection between Achdut Yisra’el and Ahavat Yisra’el — love for one’s fellow Jew.

-Stuart Dauermann, PhD
“The Jewish People are Us — not Them,” pg 55
Messiah Journal Issue 114/Fall 2013

I previously said this was one of the Messiah Journal (MJ) articles I wanted to address in more detail and I’ve finally been able to delve into it.

I won’t dissect the entire write up, but there was a section that especially got my attention: A Biblical and Theological Basis for the Jewish People Being “Us,” not “Them”. Critics of Messianic Judaism in general and what Haim Ben Haim called Postmissionary Messianic Judaism (PMJ) in his article (referencing Mark Kinzer’s book, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism: Redefining Christian Engagement with the Jewish People) in particular say, that Messianic Jews put their ethnicity above the Bible, the Messiah, and God. They say that Messianic Judaism places Jewish tradition and commentary above the authority of the inspired Word of God, and that the Bible is less important to them than the Mishnah.

So naturally, I was curious as to how Dr. Dauermann was going to present the Biblical basis for Messianic Jews being part and parcel of the larger Jewish world and of Israel. However, to comprehend this, we have to back up a bit in Dauermann’s article to understand more about where he’s coming from.

On page 57 of his rather ample essay, Dauermann quotes Tsvi Sadan’s paper “Keruv as Guiding Principle for Proclamation of the Good News,” presented at the Borough Park Symposium, East Elmhurst, NY, 8-10 October 2007:

I started to see the world as divided into two groups of people: the good guys — the “believers” — and the bad guys — the “non-believers.” Among the “bad guys” were, of course, the Catholics and … Protestant denominations that did not cater to my newly acquired Evangelical mindset. In this tightly knit scheme I viewed the “non-believing” Jews in the same way I viewed any other infidel, be they Muslims, Presbyterians, or Buddhists.

Dauermann comments on Sadan’s statement, also on page 57:

How tragic and shameful that a Sabra like Tsvi came to view his fellow Israeli Jews as “other,” believing that only a very narrow band of Christians, defined in a sectarian manner, deserved the status of “us.”

I read a terrible irony in Dr. Dauermann’s words because there are so many Gentile Christians in the world (including, strangely enough, those in the Hebrew Roots and Messianic Jewish movements) who look at non-believing Jews not only as “other,” but as “bad guys,” quite the contrary to what God said to Abraham:

And I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse.

Genesis 12:3

The term “am echad” appears four times in the Tanach, providing a cluster of insights foundational to our concept of Achdut Yisra’el.

-Dauermann, pg 57

Unity of the Jewish people. The first time in the Tanakh we see “am echad,” according to Dauermann, was in reference to the people building the Tower of Babel. In Genesis 34:16, we see the term in reference to the people of Shechem having their men circumcised and becoming “one people” with Jacob’s family.

It is crucial to see here that brit milah is not simply a covenant with HaShem. It also makes us am echad with all others in that covenant. We tend to miss this in Scripture, even though it is there. Conditioned by post-Enlightenment presuppositions, we miss the horizontal nature of the covenant that binds us together as one people…

-ibid, pg 58

Dauermann is establishing linkage that should be obvious but isn’t, relative to Yeshua-faith. Jewish people are the only population born into a covenant relationship with God and with each other. Regardless of the circumstances and beliefs of any individual Jewish person, that person can never become “unJewish,” and can never surrender their connection to other Jewish people and to God, even if they sincerely want to. And yet, for nearly two-thousand years, the Christian Church has demanded that Jewish believers in Jesus do just that if they want to join the community of faith. If God were capable of being confused, I could imagine Him being confused by watching Jewish people claim a covenant connection with him through Christ while disengaging themselves from the Mosaic covenant and from almost all there Jewish communities on earth. Paul didn’t have to do that. Why should any other believing Jew?

In this section of his argument for the Messianic Jewish people considering larger Judaism as “us,” Dauermann provides a handy bullet point list illustrating “am echad:”

  • A family
  • In covenant with God
  • In covenant with each other
  • Sharing a unique body of laws, and thus strengthened by common obedience
  • Sharing a common language, and thus strengthened by good communication
  • Sharing a homeland where they either live, or from which they are dispersed
  • Empowered by unity, weakened by division

rashiI’d have to say this is “am echad” in its ideal sense. Although the covenant blessings and responsibilities in the first two points exist, not all Jewish people, Messianic or otherwise, acknowledge these relationships. That certainly would affect the third bullet point as well. Not all Jews share Hebrew (or Yiddish) as a common language, but I will admit that when a Jew beings to engage the larger community, language is one of the first things they address. I know I’ve seen The Joys of Yiddish sitting by my wife’s chair in the living room from time to time.

The homeland exists, but many Jewish people are quite comfortable in the diaspora and both they and the Land of Israel itself will remain in exile until Messiah comes and brings all of his people, the Jewish people, back to their home.

And yes, Jewish people everywhere are weakened when lack of unity exists.

Rashi infers that at Sinai, Israel was “ke’ish echad blev echad/like one person with one heart.” By this comment, he bears witness to the centrality of unity as a core value of Jewish community, and furthermore, that this unity arises from our covenantal relationship with HaShem and therefore with each other. The ideal of Jewish life is that all Jews should live “ke’ish echad blev echad.”

-ibid, 58-9

The connection of the Jewish people to each other is tied to the connection the Jewish people have with God. The two relationships are inseparable and, if you are born Jewish, inescapable.

And He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 22:37-40 (NASB)

The Master makes a parallel statement using the same linkage. One does not love God without loving his fellow, which in the case of the Jewish community, is your fellow Jew, “Ahavat Yisra’el.”

Adonai said, “Should I hide from Avraham what I am about to do, inasmuch as Avraham is sure to become a great and strong nation, and all the nations of the earth will be blessed by him? For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of Adonai and to do what is right and just, so that Adonai may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him.” (emph. added)

Genesis 18:17-19 (CJB)

Dauermann inserted this quote into his article to establish another, very vital point to his argument.

Here already, in Genesis, Torah theologizes that this “am echad” will be characterized by obedience to the body of law. Furthermore, in chapter 26, HaShem tells Yitzchak (Isaac) that he will multiply his descendants and give all these lands to those descendants “because Avraham heeded what I said and did what I told him to do: he followed my mitzvot, my regulations and teachings” (Genesis 26:5 CJB). Here again we see, even in a foreshadowing of that other basis of Achdut Yisra’el, the covenant with our people at Sinai.

-Dauermann, pg 59

I know you might be thinking that Dauermann is stretching his point, since the Torah had yet to be given, but he continues:

In parashat Nitzavim (Deuteronomy 29:9-30:20), HaShem confirms the Mosaic (or Sinaitic) Covenant, stating, “But I am not making this covenant and this oath only with you. Rather, I am making it both with him who is standing here with us today before Adonai our God and also with him who is not here with us today.” (Deuteronomy 29:14-15 [13-14], CJB).


Torah at SinaiNot only covenant belonging and covenant relationship, but covenant obedience are the “common currency” among the Jewish people, at least in the idealized expression of God’s intent for Israel.

I’ve said before that it was always God’s intent to carry the covenant forward, not just in the immediate sense of Sinai, but extending into future history, across all of the unborn generations of Jewish people down the timeline, everywhere, including every Jewish person alive today.

Dauermann continues with this thought invoking Jewish tradition which says, “All Israel is responsible for one another” — kol Yisra’el averim zeh bazeh. He goes on to say:

Because we have been brought into covenant with God, we are therefore inescapably in covenant with one another, and as such, we are each and all responsible for one another. For this reason, even if for no others, the Jewish people are “us,” and not — no, never — “them.”


I know what you’re thinking. Well, no I don’t, but I can imagine. I can imagine someone reading this will say that they’ve read stories of terrific conflicts between secular Jews and the Ultra-Orthodox in Israel and elsewhere. Dauermann spends some time going into this, addressing even the worst of these conflicts as “family fights.” Sometimes families fight terribly, even to the point of violence, but they are still family.

But the one thing that can separate Jewish people the most is faith in Jesus:

Tsvi Sadan as well as the Hashivenu leadership group and many others have been conditioned to think of our fellow Jews as strangers, and “them,” as no longer fully our brothers and sisters. Messianic Jews are conditioned to think of other Jews as simply “unsaved Jews” who remain familiar strangers to us unless and until they accept Christ.

-ibid, pg 60

At this point, although the overriding emphasis of Dauermann’s article was on Jewish interrelationships, being Messianic notwithstanding, I started to wonder how all of this would affect the bond between Messianic Jew and believing Gentile, the bond we should also share as disciples of Moshiach and co-participants in the blessings (and there’s always the competing dynamic created between focus on Judaism and Jewish belonging vs. focus on Messiah as the very core of Jewish and Gentile faith).

Dauermann continued in his article discussing how the Jews in the Messianic community needed to return to being “ke-ish echad blev echad” — one person with one heart — with the larger Jewish community. He cited Jeremiah 32:39 in describing how God would give Israel “one heart,” and Ezekiel 36:26 in saying God would put a new spirit within Israel and give them a “heart of flesh.” Even Acts 4:32 speaks of the Jewish believers having “one heart and soul.”

Dauermann built up such a strong interconnection between and within the Jewish community, across all belief systems and lifestyles, that even I started stumbling over the following:

Therefore remember that formerly you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by the so-called “Circumcision,” which is performed in the flesh by human hands—remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall, by abolishing in His flesh the enmity, which is the Law of commandments contained in ordinances, so that in Himself He might make the two into one new man, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by it having put to death the enmity.

Ephesians 2:11-16 (NASB)

The linkage goes both directions. Yes, I believe that Jews in Messiah are still Jews, not just in terms of a string of DNA, but in terms of covenant connectedness to God and to all other Jewish people, but that doesn’t mean the body of Messiah, which contains both Jews and Gentiles, is so much chopped liver. Dauermann’s article doesn’t bring this issue up at all, probably because it is out of the scope of his topic, but ultimately, you can’t establish Jewish “Us-ness” between Messianic and all other Jews without also explaining how the body of Messiah is supposed to work.

That, I suppose, is yet to come.

At this point, although Dauermann is still writing within the “Biblical” section of his article, he seems to depart from it quite a bit, although I can see his point:

Often such a cry for being “biblical and nothing but biblical” is code language for eagerness to reject tradition. But every community has its traditions, even those that imagine themselves to be based on nothing but the Bible. And the traditions of men are not wrong except when they are used to displace or annul the commandments of God. Yeshua himself urged keeping of Jewish traditions when he urged the scribes and Pharisees as a class to remember the centrality of justice, mercy, and faith without neglecting their extra-biblical traditions (tithing mint, dill, and cumin, something never commanded in the Torah) (from Matthew 23:23).

-ibid, pp 61-2

jewish-traditionI know what my Pastor would say, but I have to agree with Dauermann. Even in Fundamentalist Christianity, there are many traditions, including those that say there are no traditions, and those that say Biblical interpretation is based on the Bible alone without an intervening historical and traditional lens being employed.

Still the path will feel “dangerous” for a lot of Christians who have had it drilled into their heads that Jewish traditions, the “traditions of men,” are bad, bad, bad.

The last, or almost the last, Biblical reference Dauermann makes is this:

“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB)

This is Dauermann telling us that even Messiah did not call for an end to the Torah until heaven and earth pass away. I know that many Christians, including my Pastor still can’t accept this, so I’ll point all interested parties to the First Fruits of Zion television program and specifically to the episode The Torah is Not Canceled, rather than try to include all of the article’s supporting points here.

The very last point Dauermann made was this:

If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen.

1 John 4:20 (NASB)

In context, a Jewish believer cannot say he loves God if he hates his fellow (non-believing) Jew. This, of course, takes us back all the way to the Torah again:

…you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the Lord.

Leviticus 19:18 (NASB)

Was Dr. Dauermann successful in establishing that the Jewish community is to be considered as “Us” among Messianic Jews and not “Them” as a founded in the Bible? I’m not sure. I can see the trail of Dauermann’s logic, but it doesn’t lead just through the Bible. There’s a realm you enter that encompasses all things Jewish and Judaism that leaves the existence of tangible things and becomes spiritual and metaphysical. I can’t go very far into that realm because I’m not Jewish, but even I, a Goy, can see the shimmering threads of covenant and community linking one Jew to another. Some Jews may choose to disregard those threads, but they exist anyway, even if only in the will of God rather than the vision of men.

Fundamentalists are uncomfortable with spirituality except on its most surface levels, but where, after all, does God exist? Where, after all, does “the Church” expect to be “raptured?” How can fundamentalist Christianity deny something upon which they depend so much, even if only in a dim, Messianic future.

Being Jewish (I can only imagine) is a lived, experiential existence. Certainly Jews all over the world don’t experience the same Jewish life, but that’s why it will be necessary for Messiah to gather in all the exiles, physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual, of Israel, give them one heart and one spirit, and remind them of who they are. Scripture even says that one of the jobs of the Gentile nations will be to convey and escort the exiled Jews back to Israel.

There’s something in Dr. Dauermann’s article that serves as a reminder for the Messianic Jewish community, to remember who they are, to remember that they are first and foremost Jews. They chose the path of Messiah, but they are still Jews and the path of Messiah is a Jewish path. Messianic Jews are just as much a Jewish people as those who have not (as yet) seen that Yeshua is indeed the Son of David and the firstborn of Israel.

But once a Jewish Messianic comes to this realization, how does he relate to Gentile believers, or does he? This is a question that remains. Maybe it’s important for modern Messianic Jews to re-capture what Paul experienced in his journey within and between Jewish and Gentile worlds. Paul was a zealous Jew, “circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless” (Philippians 3:5-6).

And on his path, whether among his fellow Jews or among the Goyim, the central focus of Paul’s entire life and ministry was not on either tradition or lifestyle, but above all else, on Messiah…on Yeshua.

Once modern Messianic Jews within a Postmissionary Messianic Jewish (PMJ) framework arrive at where Paul was, maybe how Paul managed to also negotiate the world of Gentile believers while fully retaining his identity as a Jew and as Israel will become apparent.

Fidelity: Commentary on Haim and Dauermann in Messiah Journal 114

mj114Some years ago Dr. Mark S. Kinzer coined a term for the new and revolutionary approach that many Jewish followers of Yeshua have adopted in regard to their relationship with Judaism. The term “post missionary Messianic Judaism” (PMJ) initially caused ripples that have grown into waves and that we are bringing about a paradigm shift among Messianic Jews. The PMJ paradigm sets a new trajectory for the community of Jewish followers of Yeshua, establishing its role within Judaism and its partnership with the faithful among the nations. In this article, I will attempt to convey my understanding of PMJ, its crucial role, and its ramifications or the Messianic movement.

-Haim Ben Haim
“Postmissionary Messianic Judaism in Practice,” pg 42
Messiah Journal Issue 114/Fall 2013

The Jewish people are “us,” not “them.”

-Dr. Stuart Dauermann
“The Jewish People are Us — not Them,” pg 55
Messiah Journal Issue 114/Fall 2013

Both Haim and Dauermann have written long and densely packed articles on interlocking topics for First Fruits of Zion’s (FFOZ) current issue of their landmark periodical, Messiah Journal. I have to admit that with my busy work, writing, and reading schedule this past week, I’ve only had the opportunity to scan their write ups. I’m looking forward to giving them the attention they deserve and perhaps even composing a more detailed review.

However, I noted that Haim provided something that may be useful in my weekly meetings with My Pastor. Pastor has repeatedly asked what the current function and use of the Torah is in the lives of the Jewish people, particularly Messianic Jews. It is his opinion that the Torah, however it may be defined, has limited to no use in the current age thanks to the classic Christian interpretation of key passages in the letters of Paul.

Not being Jewish and certainly not being a Torah observant Messianic Jew, it’s difficult for me to articulate the lived experience between the Jewish people and the mitzvot. Pastor lived in Israel for fifteen years, so if either one of us should have the experience of observing the relationship between the Torah and the descendants of the children of Israel, it should be him. However, Orthodox Judaism and the myriad complexities of modern Torah observance, have become a major stumbling block. It’s time to make things a little more manageable.

The implementation of PMJ involves all parts of Jewish life. By way of example, we will briefly consider a few of those institutions that comprise the life of a healthy, vibrant Jewish community: Shabbat observance, festivals, kashrut, traditional prayer, the Torah service, gemilut chasidim, tikkun olam, solidarity within modern Israel, the bar/bat mitzvah ceremony, outreach, and Jewish education.

-Haim, ibid pg 48

In a nutshell, this list is a very good place to start in explaining the role of Torah in the life of a Messianic Jew who is facing his faith in Messiah as a Judaism rather than a Christianity.

jewish-christian-intermarriageI won’t attempt to replicate all of the details regarding each of these institutions and elements of Jewish life and community and encourage you to get a hold of a copy of Messiah Journal and pour over these intricacies yourself. Two-thousand years of Gentile Christianity in all of its forms have cemented the idea that the worship of the God of Israel and having faith in the Jewish Messiah King are completely non-Jewish for both Gentiles and the Jewish people, thus any Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah must, by (Christian) definition, renounce all of Judaism and being Jewish (with perhaps some lip service relative to being a “Hebrew Christian”) and emulate the Goyim.

This is not the way it was prior to the destruction of Herod’s Temple and it is my firm belief it will not be that way when Messiah returns. Christians will have much to repent of on the day Moshiach ascends the throne of David in Jerusalem.

To put a different slant on the topic, Dr. Dauermann (pp 55-6) offers seven core values designed to shape a mature Messianic Judaism:

  1. Messianic Judaism is a Judaism and not a cosmetically altered “Jewish-style” version of what is extant in the wider Christian community.
  2. God’s particular relationship with Israel is expressed in the Torah, God’s unique covenant with the Jewish people.
  3. Yeshua is the fullness of Torah.
  4. The Jewish people are “us,” not “them.”
  5. The richness of the rabbinic tradition is a valuable part of our heritage as Jewish people.
  6. Because all people are created in the image of God, how we treat them is a reflection of our respect and love for him. Therefore, true piety cannot exist apart from human decency.
  7. Maturation requires a humble openness to new ideas within the context of firmly held convictions.

Although Dr. Dauermann’s article focuses on the fourth principle in his list, I want to touch briefly on the third element: Yeshua (Jesus) is the fullness of Torah.

When My Pastor hears that Jesus fulfilled the Torah, he understands that to mean once Jesus arrived, the Torah was no longer necessary and thus was rendered inert, at least until such time as Ezekiel’s Temple is rebuilt and the numerous prophecies in the Tanakh require all of Israel to resume the Temple service and most if not all of the other mitzvot.

I’ve tried in different ways (unsuccessfully) to reframe “fulfilled” in this context, but the other night, unable to sleep, inspiration seized me.

You may not be old enough to remember a television commercial for Memorex tape cassettes featuring the wonderful Ella Fitzgerald. The commercial played part of a song recorded by Ms. Fitzgerald and then the artist herself singing the same notes (I’m writing this from decades old memory and only later did I insert the link below to the actual video), apparently shuttering a glass in the process. The idea was to show that the fidelity of the recording was so near the original (Ms. Fitzgerald’s actual voice) that it too could shatter glass. The tagline for the commercial was, Is it live or is it Memorex (link to YouTube video).

If the recording of Ms. Fitzgerald singing is high fidelity, it is still not her. It is as if the recording “points” to her, the perfect original. In singing live, you might say Ms. Fitzgerald “fulfills” the recording, since she is the perfect and absolute embodiment of what was recorded on tape.

ella_fitzgeraldThis doesn’t render the recording useless and inert. After all, how many of us could simply accompany Ms. Fitzgerald around all of the time in the hopes she would burst into song? However, we can carry around a recording of her music so that we can access and enjoy her singing at will.

Like Ms. Fitzgerald (in a sense), Yeshua is the original, the perfect observer of Torah, the absolute firstborn Son of Israel, the goal all other Jewish believers aim toward in their lives, their righteousness, and their observance of the mitzvot. Like Memorex, no Jewish person is quite like the original, but the goal is to achieve as high a fidelity to that original as possible.

I like to compare our work at First Fruits of Zion and Vine of David to that of carpenters building a home. After all, we are disciples of a carpenter.

Our work can be compared to a building contractor who builds a “Spec” home. A “Spec” home is built on “speculation.” In other words, a builder builds a home with the features he believes will eventually appeal to buyers, but he has no guarantee of a sale. Years ago, on a conference call, my colleague D.T. Lancaster encouraged our staff to take a high view of Messianic Judaism. It is easy to get discouraged with the circus of mayhem and competing religious ideologies that calls itself Messianic Judaism. My colleague said, “When we speak of Messianic Judaism we always speak of the ideal — the way it should be. When we create our resources we create materials for a community that does not yet exist — but the materials will help to bring it into existence.”

-Boaz Michael from the Director’s Letter
“Unless the LORD Builds the House”
Messiah Journal 114, pg 8

When I speak in glowing terms of Messianic Judaism, either online or in person, I am sometimes accused of speaking to a fantasy rather than the lived reality we currently experience. This is not quite true however. I take some solace in Boaz’s words that in my attempting to uplift both the principles and practice of Messianic Judaism for Jewish believers, I am in some manner, summoning the future while living in the present. I am addressing the ideal as it will be when Messiah returns, rather than the imperfection we see in the world today.

But I have to start somewhere.

You’re on the right path. Dividing a mitzvah into small steps makes the goal much more attainable. Taking things slowly also adds the important element of stability to your journey towards living a Torah lifestyle.

But don’t look at it as a compromise. Here’s why:

Suppose an adult wishes to learn a new language. Would he be compromising his mission by beginning with basic simple words? What about a child beginning the study of math. Is he compromising by starting with simple arithmetic?

Of course not. It is quite clear that neither “c‑a‑t spells cat” nor 2 + 2 = 4 is the ultimate goal. But they are necessary steps in the right direction.

Mitzvahs are no different.

Regarding mitzvahs, there’s an additional component: Torah is not all or nothing. Each mitzvah is a full-blown relationship with the One Above. Each time we eat kosher, each time we put on tefillin, each time we observe Shabbat, something extraordinary occurs.

-Rabbi Yisroel Cotlar
“Can I Go Kosher at My Own Pace?”

going_kosherI can only imagine that it may be rather daunting for a Jewish person attempting to improve his or her observance of the mitzvot. If you didn’t grow up in an observant home but you want to live a lifestyle more consistent with the Torah, how do you approach it? If you want to start keeping kosher, do you have to rush out and buy all new pots, pans, and dishes, learn the procedure for kashering your kitchen, and make an immediate and 100% transition between one day and the next?

Rabbi Cotlar’s advice is plain and comforting and it speaks of a Jewish believer’s approach to Messianic Judaism. You have to start somewhere. You don’t have to have perfect or even high fidelity to the original right away.

While Haim, Dauerman, and Boaz (and Rabbi Cotlar) are speaking to a primarily Jewish audience, I want to speak to the Christians (including those in the various branches of the Hebrew Roots movement) who have been critical of Messianic Judaism in general and the PMJ approach in particular. That Jewish people in the Messianic movement aren’t “perfect” in their observance is no grounds for throwing the baby out with the bath water, so to speak.

The Torah isn’t all or nothing (and I know someone is going to erroneously reference James 2:10 which only applies if you are attempting to justify yourself before God by your Torah observance, not if you are observing the mitzvot already “saved by faith”). Children growing up in a Jewish home are not expected to master all of the mitzvot by the time they’re toilet trained. Any learning is a slow, developmental progression.

And yet Christianity criticizes and judges Messianic Judaism for an imperfect Jewish lifestyle and thus deems the Torah obsolete, as if we have the right to make such a decision.

Twenty centuries ago, the Jewish religious stream of “the Way,” at the direction of Messiah and by approval of the Holy Spirit, commanded the Jewish disciples to do something that had never been done before. For the first time in history, Gentiles were allowed entry into a Jewish religious stream without having to convert to Judaism and accept the same Torah obligations as the Jewish disciples. Christianity wasn’t “Christianity,” it was one among many Jewish religious streams operating in Israel and the diaspora.

The Jewish disciples of the Master were Jewish and part of Israel. They related to other Jews as “us” not as “them.” The real challenge was to figure out how to bring the Gentiles, the “them” in the community, into salvation alongside the Jewish members of the body of Messiah. Ultimately, the fabric within the community of “the Way” frayed and unraveled, separating into the Christian “us” and the Jewish “them.” The Gentiles rewrote the rules in their (our) own image, only allowing Jews back into the worship of Messiah if they stopped being Jewish.

And here we are today.


But this is not the ideal, as Boaz points out. This is not where we’ll be tomorrow. Tomorrow, Messiah, Son of David, will take his place on the Throne in Jerusalem. He will redeem his people, the Jewish people. He will redeem his nation, the Jewish nation of Israel. And once again, our positions will be defined as they were before. Gentiles will be allowed to join the Jewish religious stream of the body of Messiah without having to convert to Judaism.

The Body of Messiah is the quintessential Israel, the original, the highest fidelity to the original: Messiah. Prophesy tells us that many Jews and many people from the nations will stream to Jerusalem and to the Mountain of the Lord to learn of Jacob’s ways and to walk his paths. In that day, the ideal being presented by Haim, Dauermann, and Boaz will be reality, and we will worship our fulfillment in the Holy City, and every knee shall bow to the King of the Jews.