Conversion: Responding to Tirzah

Shalom all. I hope you had as great a Labor Day weekend as I did. I spent mine at a gigantic Fantasy/Science Fiction Convention called DragonCon. Awesome. There was a lot of over-the-top immorality and pagan/gothic/macabre grossness, but there was also a great deal of imagination and wonder. I went to the Writers’ Track, as I am working on a historical fantasy novel set in ancient Sumeria.

Anyway, all that aside. I wanted to respond to a lengthy comment by Tirzah. She is objecting to and trying to dissuade me from the course I am pursuing in conversion to Messianic Judaism. Let me start by clarifying what I am doing and then respond to some of her arguments. I am not posting her entire comment here as it is too long, but you can read it here.

In a post from July 26, I mentioned that I am in the process of conversion. I am doing this through a Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council. I have not abandoned my faith in Yeshua or anything. Nor do I believe that becoming a convert will in some way make me closer to God or get me brownie points. I hope you think better of me than that. I simply feel it is my calling to join together with Israel. Similarly, I am functioning already as and feel a call to be a rabbi in the Messianic Jewish community. I feel it is inappropriate for a Gentile to be a rabbi.

Tirzah said:

Derek, my whole problem with your stance rests upon one sentence. Let me quote, “I am a Gentile in process of conversion.” I cannot for the life of me understand why you would consider this is even appropriate, much less acceptible. To what would you be converting since Messiah Yeshua is, according to your testimony, already your Savior and Lord? Are you converting to “Judaism?” Let me assure you, as a Jewish woman married to a Conservative Jew; Rabbinc Judaism of today is by it’s very nature contrary to honest faith in Yeshua. Surely NONE of us are attempting to gain any acceptance in that realm?

In this statement there is a good question and a decidedly false statement. The good question is “to what are you converting”. The false statement is “Rabbinic Judaism of today is by its very nature contrary to honesty faith in Yeshua.”

Conversion is about joining the family of Israel, not changing religions. I consider biblical precedents such as Caleb the Kenizzite, yes the famous Caleb of the books of Numbers and Joshua. His family was of Edomite descent, from the line of Kenaz. Yet they joined with Israel, apparently in Egypt, and Caleb became part of the tribe of Judah. I also consider the precedent of Nicolaus the Proselyte in Acts 6, one of the seven leaders chosen by the apostles. Recently I suggested Nicolaus as an example of a convert and they objected, “That was before he knew about Yeshua.” My response was, “Yes, but he did not repudiate his conversion, but was known for it in the early congregation.”

Let me add one more precedent: Timothy. He had a Greek father and a Jewish mother. As far as we know, the modern system of attributing Jewish descent through the mother was not yet in practice. Timothy was regarded as a Gentile and was uncircumcised. Paul had Timothy circumcised, which was an act of conversion.

Tirzah, you say that rabbinic Judaism is contrary to faith in Yeshua. Which part of rabbinic Judaism are you talking about? Do you light candles for the Sabbath? That is rabbinic. Do you begin the Sabbath at sundown? That is rabbinic. Do you fast on Yom Kippur? That is rabbinic. If you care enough about this issue, I’d ask you to read my seven-part series, “Should We Follow the Rabbis?” from the June archives. I understand your objection, but I hope to promote a more positive view of the rabbis. It is easy to assume that since most traditional rabbis reject faith in Yeshua that they are therefore evil or worthless. I think there are major theological problems with assuming that there is no good outside the company of the redeemed. When God made man he said good and he placed his image there. When Paul describes unbelieving Israel in Romans 11, he says there is good there.

Tirzah then said:

do you honestly believe that G-d is calling any of His people these days into some sort of confusion between Biblical faith with modern Jewish cultural expression?

I see no confusion between Jewish life and Yeshua-faith, Tirzah. My suspicion is that your experience in Messianic Judaism has been a bad one. You were probably in a place that was not mature or balanced. I hope that you will see a more mature Messianic Judaism and see the good in it. You went on to suggest that the Holy Days of Leviticus are all fulfilled in Yeshua’s work and no longer literally for us to practice. I do hope you will consider Ezekiel 40-48, Zechariah 14, and other prophetic passages which indicate the Feasts of Israel are very much alive and will be fully restored when the temple is rebuilt.

Tirzah said:

If I am a white person, I may adopt African American culture, but I will never fully understand what it means to live within the “skin” of an African American, and no matter how much of the culture I adopt, I will never be able to say with straight face that I am an African American. Why? Simply put…because of blood, experience, and family history. How effective would a caucasion person be in the role of head of the NAACP?

Great example except for one thing: Israel is not an ethnicity but a family. That has always been the case. Caleb is an example I have already cited. I might mention that Jews in every place intermarry and come to look like the host culture. Sephardic Jews look North African and Middle Eastern. Ashkenazi Jews look European. Jewishness has never been strictly limited to ethnic descent.

Tirzah said:

In like manner, how effective is a person who has absolutely NO familial connection to the Jewish people at all (and I’m not talking about faith here) in leading a ministry to the unique needs of Messianic Jews?

You are nothing if not ruthlessly correct in asking this. It is why conversion is so important. I cannot defend my sense of calling to you. I cannot prove to you that it is legitimate at all for me, born a non-Jew, to lead a Messianic congregation. I could point out the leadership of people like Caleb and Nicolaus as precedents. More importantly, I could invite you to Atlanta to worship with us one Shabbat and see if you think I am out of my mind to be doing this.

Tirzah said:

Jews and Gentiles who believe in Messiah Yeshua have something much more important in common than any cultural expressions, which either could, or should divide us.

Yes we do, but you are missing the point. Your comment assumes that Jewishness is simply a cultural expression. Jewishness is more than a cultural expression. It is a God-given identity, a covenantal obligation, and a crucial part of God’s plan to redeem this world. I know that evangelical Christian theology rarely deals with the nuances of Jewish identity. I wouldn’t expect you, as a Christian Jew, to understand. Perhaps, though, you could be willing to admit that I might just have an argument. Perhaps you could suspect that I am not so foolish as to worship Jewishness as an end in itself.

Torzah went on to cite 1 Corinthians 7:17-24. Opponents of conversion often cite this passage. Yet they overlook something vital: they are not obeying their own interpretation of 1 Corinthians 7. What do I mean? They do not follow the next section, which says:

I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife.

It seems that Paul’s statement about conversion is not an absolute. Paul was not against marriage (read 1 Cor. 7:28). Neither was he against conversion. There was something going on in Corinth and Paul put a hold on status changes for a while. Quite likely, it was not a time for believers to draw attention to themselves. Please, Tirzah, go back and read 1 Corinthians 7 again and you will see that Paul says the same thing about conversion, slavery, and marriage. It’s not fair to single out conversion because you happen to disagree with it.

Finally, let me say Tirzah, that I hope you and I can be friends in spite of some disagreement. I’m not trying to rain on anyone’s parade. I believe, right or wrong, that I have a calling from God to do what I do. I do hope that you, being married to a religious Jew, can come to appreciate your husband’s tradition. I strongly feel that Yeshua would be at least as comfortable in your husband’s synagogue as in a solid evangelical Christian church. I feel he would be far more comfortable in your husband’s synagogue than in the many word-faith, prosperity, and silly churches that abound in our day. I won’t even mention churches where statues and icons are used in worship in contradiction to God’s express command. Maybe Judaism isn’t the OTHER religion. Maybe Judaism is faith leading up to Yeshua. Maybe Judaism has Yeshua hidden within it, waiting for us to realize and bring all Israel to Messiah. Just maybe.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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22 Responses to Conversion: Responding to Tirzah

  1. Tirzah L says:


    I’m not sure any further comments would persuade you in any direction other than the one you’re taking. I am from Atlanta Derek and I know who you are. We’ve met actually as I attended Beth Hallel for several years…I know Scott..etc. I have been in the Messianic movement for 25 years…still there, not planning on leaving it either inspite of being married to an anti-missionary. Which gives me quite a perspective wouldn’t you say? And no, I haven’t been “hurt” by the movement. I’m a teacher in it…

    Regarding being friends; I am a better friend to you than you might realize Derek, our differences compel me to genuinely care about you as a person, a brother, and about what you are doing.

    There is no false statement in my comments regarding what Rabbinic Judasim is today, which by the way is as far removed from the faith that Yeshua practiced as 1800 years of Rabbinic interpretation can make it. Yeshua would not be “comfortable” in a Synagogue any more than you or I should be. More than likely He would simply be weeping in grief…as do I on occasion when I accompany my husband. Of course, once they knew it was Him in attendance…I can assure you the teeth nashing would commence. You haven’t visited many Synagogues lately have you?

    I can tell you without a doubt that if you think Yeshua would be welcome in a a (non-Messianic) Synagogue, then you have been very misled and have a gross misunderstanding of Rabbinic Judaism. Oy Vey.

    Yeshua, because of WHO he claims to be, would be/and IS in fact considered the a mamzer and a blasphemer He was considered when he was with us during his earthly ministry. You show your ignorance of Judaism by such statements. I’ve grown up around Judaism Derek, it is a faith that is as varied and undogmatic as you can get unless you’re Orthodox…and even then it depends upon which Rabbi you wish to follow…except they ARE dogmatic about ONE thing: ALL Rabbinics…from the Reform to the Chasid agree…One cannot believe in Yeshua and be a good Jew…of course Tovia Singer teaches Jews that believe in Yeshua go to Hell…but I digress.

    It’s the “Man G-d thing” they can’t handle…that and the “Blood thing.” Those two very important issues make it an IMPOSSIBILITY to live compatibly as a Jewish believer and happily attend a Rabbinc Synagogue, and I can say that from experience young man…can you?

    The only thing my husband is learning while he is being the good Jew that he is…is that his prayers, his works and his yidishkeit are enough. He is learning to be the two-fold child of hell that his Rabbi wants to make him.

    The problem Derek as that you spend too much time trying to become a part of a family that you already ARE a part of…if you know Yeshua. And in the process, you and too many of like mind are offending the very people who need Yeshua, the scriptures tell us…they are to get the Gospel FIRST. How many Jews are you leading to Yeshua Derek with your “conversion?” Or are you so busy trying to be what you are not, that you have forgotten WHO you ARE? You are ALREADY converted. And you are attempting to “join” a family that doesn’t want you Derek…I know that better than you.

    Modern Rabbinic Judaism HATES Yeshua. The fact that Messianics have adopted certain aspects of Judaism related to practice is moot when it comes to faith. I light candles, say prayers, etc..but those dont’ make me a Jew…or a better Jew. My dear young man, I live among the Jewish people, not simply on the outside looking in. Judaism is a religion yes, but being a Jew is as much about blood as it is about faith and if you do not understand that, then you do not understand Jews at all.


  2. Tirzah:

    Listen to your words and tell me you haven’t been hurt. Your words show me that you have. I don’t blame you. I doubt I could stand in your shoes for ten minutes. I affirm you, Tirzah, though we disagree about a few things. I just wish you saw more than the negative side. I understand, when you are constantly exposed to anti-missionary rhetoric, that you see a lot of the negative side. Fundamentalists are always hurtful to others and anti-missionaries are fundamentalists.

    Your thought process seems to be something like this: once there was Biblical Judaism, Yeshua came, Judaism moved into a completely worthless religion, and Christianity grew as the ideal religion.

    I disagree. First, I think historic Christianity has huge problems. You do know that well over half the Christians in the world use statues and images in their worship, right? I’m talking about Catholic and Orthodox Christians. And, so no one thinks I am slamming Catholics, whom I actually respect greatly, I don’t think the Protestants are doing so much better. Quite a large percentage don’t believe the Bible is literally true. The ones who do choose to emphasize grace in a manner inconsistent with the apostles. Many in the church have made the same argument I am making, not least Bonhoeffer in The Cost of Discipleship.

    So, I don’t think Christianity has gotten anywhere near an A+, but I will agree with you: at least Christianity gets Jesus right. And that makes me a believer right along with Christians.

    Meanwhile, Judaism is far from a dead and worthless religion. You failed to respond to any of my points. Let me make one more and make it very clearly: God is still working through Israel and that means through the rabbis and Judaism. Without Judaism and the rabbis, there would be no Jewish people. Without synagogues like the one your husband attends, you would have no idea you are a Jew. If all the Jews had become Christians in the last 2,000 years, the poor theology of the church would have erased Jewish identity completely.

    Could that be God’s will? The New Testament says no. The apostles taught that Israel is to continue. The prophets taught that in the last days Israel would have a great turning to God. The apostles agree.

    How is your Jewish-Christian vision going to bring this about? It won’t, Tirzah. If all Jews despise Judaism the way you do, then faith in Jesus will mean the end of Jewish identity.


  3. yochanan says:


    good response!

    i applaud your desire to pursue conversion, i am also exploring the process myself through mjrc.

    i wanted to add something that i wrote on my blog on I Corinthians 7, which is used in the majority opinion of the UMJC against conversion:

    In I Corinthians 7, where Paul deals with not “changing status”, which is typified by the phrase “in the state in which you were called” is his instructions to the believers in Corinth that in the light of the soon return of the Messiah, grounded in his apocalyptic worldview, that rather than changing from being a Jew to being a Gentile or from a Gentile becoming a Jew that his readers should just believe in Yeshua and be ready for the soon end of the age and the return of Yeshua.

    What is lost on the above point from the Majority Position is that in the same passage Paul also includes instructions for those unmarried to not marry (7:8-9), those married not to divorce (7:10-11) and slaves to not seek their freedom (7:21-22), if these were the state in which the person became a believer. This brings up the following issues:

    • I was 6 years old and therefore single when I put my trust in Yeshua, should I not get married?

    • Was it wrong for slaves to seek freedom during the Civil War, if they became believers while in slavery?

    • Is divorce always prohibited if the parties became believers during the marriage?

    I will imagine that the above questions would all receive a “no” answer. Then how can we take this passage as a Biblical mandate only for the conversion of non-Jews to Messianic Judaism?

    shalom my friend…

  4. Marc says:

    Hi Derek,

    What’s the Mystery of the Gospel?

    Genitle inclusion is the mystery of the Gospel. More importantly, the inclusion, the grafting in, is the supernatural act of God.

    For I do not want you, brothers, to be ignorant of this mystery (lest you be wise in yourselves), that hardness has come upon Israel in part, until the fullness of the Gentiles comes in;
    And thus all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come out of Zion; He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.
    And this is the covenant from Me with them, when I take away their sins.”
    According to the gospel thay are enemies for your sake, but according to the selection they are beloved for the fathers’ sake.
    For the gracious gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. (Rom. 11:25-29)

    Inclusion in Israel is not the result of choosing to follow the Noach-ide laws or to go to synagogue or to convert to a sect of mainstream Judaism. These are all ways certain people have chosen to define other people in relation to themselves. Rather, God makes the covenant, takes away sins, irrevocably calls, and grafts in. In Messiah Yeshua, the status of the Gentile as a full participant in Israel is not predicated upon any tractate of the Talmud or other halach-ic ruling. No, the Gentile’s position was bought with the blood of Messiah himself!

    The true mystery and miracle is that those who were born Gentiles and who were without hope or God in the world, have been raised up and placed as part of the redeemed people of God. This is why Paul admonishes the gentiles to remember where they came from; so that they would not boast in themselves but in Him. What He has done was (and is), in man’s eyes, impossible. But with God, all things are possible.


  5. Derek:

    I am genuinely concerned about several statements you’ve made here:

    “I simply feel it is my calling to join together with Israel. … Conversion is about joining the family of Israel, not changing religions.”

    This is the most worrisome of the statements you’ve made. I don’t know what your view of Romans 11 is, but it is one of the central tenets of my Messianic theology that the Olive Tree is Israel. Therefore, you’re a part of Israel already; the “conversion” happened when you accepted Yeshua as Mashiach u’Adon (Messiah and Lord). You’re already grafted into Israel, and this is what I believe Paul was talking about when he said if you take conversion, Messiah is of no use to you. I’m not ready to say that by so doing you’ve rejected your salvation, but I feel you are, in effect, saying to Yeshua, “Your blood was not sufficient to make me a part of Your People.” This is my general concern with Messianics practicing conversion.

    My next writing project is a position paper AGAINST Messianics practicing conversion and FOR Bar/Bat Mitzvah for anyone — of Jewish or non-Jewish background — who did not grow up in an Torah-observant home. I also am planning therein to take a new look at what we require of Bar/Bat Mitzvah candidates.

    Anyway, based on the above, I also find this statement problematic:

    “Similarly, I am functioning already as and feel a call to be a rabbi in the Messianic Jewish community. I feel it is inappropriate for a Gentile to be a rabbi.”

    You’re grafted into Israel. So your status is fine. Maybe you need training, the sort of training “conversion” would offer, but I would suggest that Bar/Bat Mitzvah for those who grew up non-Observant should include such.

    And here’s the statement I find slightly (but not much) less worrisome as your statement about needing conversion to be a part of Israel:

    “I strongly feel that Yeshua would be at least as comfortable in your husband’s synagogue as in a solid evangelical Christian church.”

    I am sure Yeshua would feel comfortable in her husband’s synagogue (if they didn’t realize who He was; if they did, there might be… trouble…) But I would question the notion that Yeshua would be comfortable in ANY Christian church. The Christian church has become so paganized, I think He’d walk in and start ripping the place apart, like He tipped over the money-changers’ tables.

    I am concerned that the tone of this message has been somewhat harsh-sounding. It has not been my intention. So I will end with a joke:

    Herschel bumps into his old friend Moishe while walking down the street. They embrace, say “L’shanah Tovah,” and naturally ask about each other’s family. Hersh says, “Oy, Moishe, my only son has become one of these Messianics, and I don’t know what to do. What should I do?”

    Moishe says, “Oy, funny you should ask. My only son, too, has become a Messianic, and I don’t know what to do. I was going to ask you! Let’s go ask the rabbi.”

    So they go to the rabbi’s office, and Moishe says, “Rabbi, my only son has become a Messianic, Hersch’s only son has become a Messianic, and we don’t know what to do. What should we do?”

    The rabbi responds, “Oy, funny you should ask. My only son, too, has become a Messianic, and I don’t know what to do. Let’s ask G-d.” So, they go into the sanctuary, put on their tallits, lay on tefillin, and the rabbi beseeches the Most High: “Avinu Malkenu, O Most High G-d, Hersch’s only son has become a Messianic, Moishe’s only son has become a Messianic, my only son has become a Messianic, and we don’t know what to do. We beseech Thee, O Most High, tell us what we should do.”

    The room darkens, the ner tamid flickers, a light pours out of the Ark, and a deep, booming voice is heard, saying, “Oy, funny you should ask…”

  6. Marc:

    You said that Gentile inclusion is the mystery of the gospel. Hmm, sounds like something I’ve heard from my friend Dan Lancaster’s writing.

    I am not interested in debating the Hebrew Roots movement on this issue (goes for you too, Adam). It’s not that I think your movement is irrelevant. It’s that there are much larger groups I am trying to be in dialogue with: Christians and Jews. The Hebrew Roots movement, which you both represent, is a tiny segment that I consider too intolerant on this issue to bother with dialogue. Heck, this is the basis of your entire movement. If you admit you are wrong about this, you’d have to come and join with us!

    Anyway, Marc, if you are interested in OTHER viewpoints besides the official one you are familiar with, let me know. I’d be glad to send you some stuff.


  7. Marc says:

    Derek then what is the Mystery of the Gospel?


  8. gary maxted says:


    I find it very interesting that you argue so strongly for conversion, and than state that it is a G-D given identity, for it truly is just that. You are not of Jewish blood at all, and the majority of the Jewish people (both in your congregation and outside of it) not only do not understand your need for this CONVERSION but find it highly offensive. You would know this if you asked them;I have. I also find it interesting that you are going down this road now, full steam ahead, when you not only fully discouraged my wife from doing the same, but made fun of her decision to do so. You told her it was totally unecessary since she believed in Yeshua and had already joined with a Messianic congregation, and had joined herself with Israel not only in word but deed ( many projects she has been involved with over the years). Or maybe this is just for RABBI’S. Wihtout any exception so far all of the (everyday) Jewish people I know in the movement, and I know quite a few think that this idea is totally ridiculous and unecessary. Or is it just for the SPECIAL FEW?

  9. Blog Readers:

    As you probably have guessed, Gary’s comment is personal. I choose to leave it here as perhaps a good illustration of the emotions this issue can bring. I hope you will give me the benefit of the doubt that I am not guilty of making fun of people or of being elitist in my conversion views.


    I will respond personally. It just might be that I have good reasons and you did not ask them. As for people misunderstanding my motives, I’m sure it’s true. I ask for charity to overrule judgment. I hope we can come to a brotherly agreement, my old friend.


  10. Viola Rogers says:

    I think it’s a wonderful idea for Messianic Conversion. There is no scripture anywhere that says that it was wrong if a person wants to convert. This would be personal preference, not an issue of salvation. It would also show who was really serious about a Messianic lifestyle and who wasn’t. There are Christians who attend our synagogue who totally disregard the Kosher laws, who quote scripture from a traditional Christian perspective that is anti-Torah, (i.e.Jesus did away with Torah) among other scriptures. It just makes me so frustrated! The conversion option would also show to the larger Jewish world that we consider Messianic Judaism to be part of the larger community. Just because they won’t except it, doesn’t matter. This needs to be serious and all synagogues need to conform to a standard.
    I hope you can understand what I’m trying to say.


  11. Viola Rogers says:

    Also, one other thing. During the time of the second temple, conversion to Judaism not only taught obeying the Torah, but also complete obedience to the Oral Law, claiming that the Torah and Oral law were both written by Moses and were equal. New converts had to obey both. So when you read in the Gospels about new believers being discouraged from converting to Judaism, it was more about the Torah and Oral law perspective.

  12. Paul Kugelman says:


    With respect to your stance on rabbinic Judaism, you are correct IF its practice is the end in itself. Any act of worship, no matter what it is, including “very spiritual things,” (whatever these may be) is empty if the act itself is the focus. What is more, the acts alone are no means to salvation. However, with a proper focus, rabbinic Judaism is a very beautiful response to G-d in all that one does. I am continually reminded that my life is dedicated to G-d’s service, see Deut. 6:4-9, and to relationships with others. See Lev. 19:18. See also Matt. 22:36-40.

    Nothing in the New Testament releases a Jew from living as a Jew. Nothing in the New Testament requires a Gentile to live as a Jew either. See Acts 15. (Nor does becoming a Believer make one Jewish no matter how much they observe the tradtions – I have yet to see any credible argument for that stance.) However, Yeshua did ratify the rabbis place in the Jewish community. In Matthew 23:1-3, “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you…” Yeshua does go on to warn folks about focusing on the wrong things but He does not impeach their authority in any sense.

    Finally, I will also say that Judaism is not the only valid way to worship G-d. It is the Jewish way – ordained by G-d and ratified by Yeshua. As far as exactly how this is done remains a matter of concern among all branches of Judaism.

    Anyway, I hope this gives you something to consider. Shalom.

  13. Shalom,

    Our Congregation has embraced Messianic Conversion for many of the same reasons Derek has espoused. This is not a matter of being more saved, or more G-dly; it is a matter of identification and heart.

    We make far too much out of Sha’ul’s statements, not realizing that even though he is an Emissary, his decisions were local in nature. If this is not the case, then we have a serious issue between his statements and both Yochanan (John), Ya’akov (James), and the Master Himself. Derek is dead on center, if we read Sha’ul the way many do, we should all be single and have unisex bathrooms.

    Adonai has called out G-d Fearers, Prosyletes, and Jews to be His new creation. All these have a role in the community of Faith.

    We should ask, if the roll of the grafted-in is to produce jealousy, is that going to be done by eating pork and keeping Christmas? It has not worked for almost 2000 years. What seems to be a more positive stance is for believing Jews & grafted-in believers to live a Messianic Jewish Lifestyle that honors the G-d of Abraham. This approach appears capable of bearing fruit.

    As Derek’s friend, and a fellow Rabbi in MAMA, I totally agree and support His decision. May Adonai Bless him.

    Blessings in Messiah.

    PS – I loved the joke, it was great.

  14. Menachem says:


    Wysochogrod described genuine conversion to Judaism as an event that is so unlikely and so rare that it requires the direct intervention of Hashem. He understood the special nature of what your are contemplating. It is nothing less than acquiring a biological nature and a history which hitherto was not yours. May Hashem aid you in your search.

    I don’t know what to say. I agree with you heartily that one by definition cannot be a “rabbi” ( at least in Judaism and for Jewish people) if one is not a “Jew”. A non Jewish “rabbi” is an oxymoron everywhere in the world but in the narrow world of institutional MJ with its “matchbox ordinations” And I can see that you are obviously affected by Judaism.(Would that the Jews in the movement had your sensibility.) I certainly support you in your search.

    My concern ( as I have expressed elsewhere) is not with you or your personal decision but rather with this process within MJ which the HC has started.

    From the little I know of the HC they seem to be people of substance who would not meddle in an area like this lightly. Unfortunately as can be seen, others who are less discerning than he all too easily trivialize this immense and difficult issue. And what is to prevent them from intiating a “conversion process” in their “congregations”?

    For those of us who care about Jewish continuity this is not a small matter. Until someone in the HC has the political courage to set up some boundries, ( Including a clear statement about who is and who is NOT a “rabbi” and therefore who is and who is not entitled to weigh in on this question and to make and interpret Jewish law) I urge you to think carefully about the precedent you are setting. As they say “once the toothpaste is out of the tube”…

    Frankly I would rather see you go through a standard Jewish conversion if you are intent on joining yourself to the Jewish people. I am against a “MJ” specific conversion process because I think it prone to abuse. In fact I think it opens the door and is begging for abuse of the process. Given the history of our movement and many of its leaders, and the anemic response of others to the abuses that are already extant, I think I have good reason for this concern. If something can be done it tends to be done.

    Be Well and Happy New Year

  15. Tirzah says:

    Shalom all,

    Well I came back in to read and see there have been numerous responses to my post from a few days ago. Derek and I have had some personal correspondance I was going to leave it at that. However, I feel I owe it both to him and to some of you to post a bit more. I will try not to be long winded, but I
    don’t see how this is possible considering the topic. I do apologize Derek. Please bear with me. (-:

    I see the posts are thoughtful and sincere and the tone is loving. This is so important when we dialog. We should always be loving, even when pointed, nu? So, this is good discussion I think. Arguements can often be enlightening if done in the right spirit.

    Indeed I do have very personal feelings about these issues related to my own family situation. My Dad was born in Israel and is Sephardic. My husband is a Conservative Jew, anti-missionary, but once was Messianic like me, for twenty years. We were also in ministry. When he went back he was lovingly accepted “back into the fold” with open arms, to quote his Rabbi. However, he is far from being a fundimentalist. I am actually more observant, for lack of a better term, than he is, A fact he readily admits..and he always looks to me as keeper of Jewish home, like any good husband
    does (smile), to help him with what is Kosher to eat, wear etc…

    It is a misconception by the way, that anti-missionaries are all fundimentalists, and I am not bombarded day in and day out by some fundimentalist blow-hard. My husband loves me and would never do this to me. A divided home is not easy by any stretch and it is sometimes hellish around here. He does tell me that he prays daily for me and our sons to come to our senses and return to the fold. So no, I’m not “hurt” at Judaism…or hold some hateful view toward it beyond what is natural between me and those that consider themselves “enemies” for the sake of the Gospel.

    Actually, I am as fully immersed in the community as possible. At least as much as they will allow seeing those that know me, know I am a Messianic. I see this is as a Divine appointment and I know it is being used for HIS purposes. It opens doors of witness constantly…and in amazing ways. One thing I can tell you, they are not impressed with how “frum” I might live. “It makes it easier on poor Avi, they say..” But they see it as that and nothing more.

    I do have a small Messianic ministry, which is homeschool in nature, nothing of large note. But it is the one thing my husband has asked me not to tell our friends at shul that I do. So I do not share that I am a “homeschool missionary,” for his sake. Rather ironic wouldn’t you say? LOL! The Almighty has such a wonderful sense of humor.

    I hope that some of you will give me a little credit regarding my views because I do appear to be the only poster here who actually does live and worship within an Rabbinic Jewish community. I attend with my husband as often as is comfortable for him and me. All of our close friends here in Charlotte are either Conservative or Reform or members of both. And the Lubvitcher are around us as well, though not at big as in Atlanta. I am the only Messianic that
    was not booted from the Chavurah, led by sweet friends of ours…because I did not come in hiding who I am.

    I can assure you, our friends are often very open with me about their view of what I believe. And sometimes pointed, considering they believe I am an “idolator.” Honestly we have been better treated at the Congregations at Shalom Park than we sometimes were/are in Church, and a few Messianic congregations. But I am looked at with much scruitny. I should post the story of our experience when the boys and I visited a friend’s Church of G-d here last month. It was quite the experience…and all because the Pastor new ahead of time some “Jews” were coming…

    I do understand our people have been preserved by the Almighty. I also believe in the last several centuries that it was in spite of our apostasy from our Messiah some 2000 years ago, rather than because of it. Afterall, the majority of Jews are not associated at all with the religion.

    To really understand Rabbinic Judaism, one must have more than passing knowledge of it. And, it is curious to me when I see folks often comment so expertly on what Judaism either is, or is not who
    have never experienced it in any way other than the occassional friendship, Jewish commentary, or Jewish seminar. It seems to me the most assured voices in this thread about my “mistaken” view of Judaism, are ones that are viewing it from the outside…looking in and with an interesting “admiration.”

    A while back a group of people were standing around in the hall at my husbands shul discussing a certain topic and one of the ladies quoted a scripture, I think from D’varim. The Rabbi looked at her and said, “I can tell you were once a Christian.” She looked surprised and said, “How did you know?” “Because Christians quote the Bible; Jews quote the Talmud.” To that statement they all nodded and chukled..ay..ay…ay.

    Very telling, wouldn’t you say?

    The truth is that Rabbinic Judaism is not “G-d” centered. It is “Jew” centered. All the sermons, the teachings are about how to be more Jewish, how to be a good Jew, how NOT to assimilate, or how to repair the world in some social way, but what you will not find are sermons or teachings on how to either hear from, or know G-d intimately. It is NOT taught in Judaism. That is a Christian/Biblical concept…and one that they are fully aware of and are quick to point out they do not believe. One visiting Rabbi put it like this…”When we talk to G-d, that is prayer. When He talks to us…that’s Schizophrenia!”

    There were many hardy laughs to that statement. But that is the essence of Rabbinic Judaism.

    Rabbinic Judaism also teachs that G-d is basically unknowable in any sort intimate way that believers in Yeshua know can be true. Jews are taught that we know G-d, but collectively, as a group. And any personal knowledge of Him is esoteric. This is what I meant by the statements I made that Rabbinic Judaism is about as far from the faith it once was as it can get. And even the Orthodox, at least those that study kabbalah, hold the knowledge of G-d as something quite “spiritual and attainable through steps and keys only…

    Modern Rabbinic Judaism as a whole also embraces so much that is extra-biblical and that often takes precidence over the clear teaching of Torah as is evidenced by the stance toward the Ordination of gay people even in the Conservative movement. And in many other liberal social ideas held as acceptible.

    This is also evidenced in the celebrations of the Moedim. A good
    Rabbinic spends so much time in the Talmud, the Mishna, the Pirke Avot…the Gemara…Rashi, that he has little time to study the scriptures. With the exception of the weekly Maftir, or Parashat, and then it is the commentaries about such that are meditated upon and studied. My husband opens several commentaries and reads these during his “Torah” study. The Prophets and writing are rarely read..without commentary, with the possible exception of parts
    of the Tehillam.

    Here is the mind of those to whom I live among, love, and count as friends. Our dear friend Elana, who is Yeminte and born in Israel says to me the other day..”Why are Christians so worried me getting my sin forgiven? Why do I need someone to die for my sins? I go to Yom Kippur, I get my sins forgiven, and if there are any not forgiven, then I will die for my own sins. I don’t need anyone to die for MY sins, nu?” Why does she believe this? Because of what the Rabbi’s have told us about Yom Kippur. She is so caught up in the rituals and the commentaries she cannot see the truth. When we left their house that night…I wept silently all the way home for my friend.

    The truth is that If I did not hold to the correct view of Rabbinc Judaism, in the situation that I am in, it would not simply be a “possibility” that I would do as my husband has done…it would be a guarantee. No one is immune from deception, least of all when
    they think they are. And for some that are wading into waters that are taking them further and further away from the TRUE Root…
    this is the dangerous path they are on.


  16. Ben Yachovim left a comment by mistake on the wrong post. I am putting it here to get it in the right place. He had this to say:

    >I feel it is inappropriate for a Gentile to be a rabbi.

    That is a weird sentiment since in Orthodox Judaism converts can become Rabbis. In fact in Orthodox Judaism there are a few famous Rabbi converts. Rabbi Akiva was the son of Converts to Judaism.

    Ben Yachovim

  17. Ben Yachovim:

    Perhaps you didn’t understand, I am in the process of conversion for the very reason you mention.


  18. Tirzah says:

    “We make far too much out of Sha’ul’s statements, not realizing that even though he is an Emissary, his decisions were local in nature. If this is not the case, then we have a serious issue between his statements and both Yochanan (John), Ya’akov (James), and the Master Himself. Derek is dead on center, if we read Sha’ul the way many do, we should all be single and have unisex bathrooms.”

    I missed reading Cameron’s (Gavri’el) response and this paragraph in particular. I am curious. What exactly do you mean “local in nature.” Also, are you alluding that Paul contradicts John and James, or simply that some “think” that he does?

    It is rather clear in scripture that Paul made no “commands” concerning marriage…and he was clear that he was not stating something as “binding” in his discussions of marriage or local congregational customs. I Cor. 7:36 and 1 Cor. 11:16.

    Does your statement mean you believe Paul was simply suggesting in that we not seek circumcision? Why then did Paul say the opposite on so many occasions if it was a viable option? Paul never says to any (former)Gentile believer, do it if you want. He says don’t do it, and in more than one letter. 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 5:6-11, Gal.6:15; and Ephesians 2:16 all letters written to the “Gentile” brethren reminding them that circumcision of the flesh was not a requirement for anything….either for “salvation” or service/leadership as well. In fact, in Ephesians he tells them….don’t EVEN let the circumsision call you the UN-circumcision anymore….because you ARE circumsied now…maybe NOT in the flesh…but in the spirit.

    Eph 2:11-16

    11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;

    12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:

    13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.

    14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;

    15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;

    16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:

    Maybe Derek does not feel as if he can call himself a Rabbi and lead a Messianic congregation. It seems that’s part of his decision. I have to ask, please show me ANYWHERE in scripture that Paul, Peter, James or any of the “Emissaries” were called “Rabbi” or needed the title? And don’t tell me it’s alluded to…Is isn’t. Paul called himself “Servant.” And that should be sufficient for any man of G-d. What are titles? peshaw….


  19. Menachem says:


    Here are some comments from a poster. She appears to be sincere and attempting to dialogue. However they are clear examples of what is wrong with modern institutional MJ as they reflect beliefs that I often here echoed from “the leadership”. They cause me great concern. She is entitled to her opinion.

    However these same thoughts are regularly spewed thoughts as truth by “Messianic Rabbis” who claim to have “spiritual authority” and even scholarship on their side. These beliefs in turn have an unhealthy influence on impressionable Jewish believers and well meaning Christians who have no knowledge of Judaism.

    For this reason I am concerned about the institutions that are now potentially in a position to admit new peresons to the commonwealth of Israel. Let’s look at these statements:

    BTW I regularly worship in a “rabbinic” setting and find it preferable to anything I experienced in Messianic Judaism.

    I also agree with the posters observation that many antimissionaries are not observant. Most observant Jews dont have the time for such foolishness.

    Modern Rabbinic Judaism HATES Yeshua.<<<<

    Let’s start with this one. Its a slur and totally without any foundation. I hear it and read it often in conversation with MJ “leaders” Let’s be honest. There is no Christian leader out there who would dare to say this publically thank G-d any more.

    Also this.

    The truth is that Rabbinic Judaism is not “G-d” centered. It is “Jew” centered.<<<<<<<<<<<

    Again, this is a very serious and untrue charge. It has not been my experience. In point of fact I have experienced and observed more G-d centeredness in rabbinic Judaism than in MJ. There is clearly an unhealthy emphasis througout MJ and Christianity on a variety of practices which an observant Jew would find not G-d centered.

    All the sermons, the teachings are about how to be more Jewish, how to be a good Jew, how NOT to assimilate, or how to repair the world in some social way, but what you will not find are sermons or teachings on how to either hear from, or know G-d intimately.<<<<<<

    This has not been my experience.

    It is NOT taught in Judaism.<<<<

    Again not true.

    Rabbinic Judaism also teachs that G-d is basically unknowable in any sort intimate way that believers in Yeshua know can be true.<<<<<<<<

    This is the view of Maimonides. It is influential but hardly all of Rabbinic Judaism.

    Modern Rabbinic Judaism as a whole also embraces so much that is extra-biblical and that often takes precidence over the clear teaching of Torah<<<<<<<

    Hmmm. Precisely my observations about much of MJ. Especially the Charismatic “apostolic stream” variety.

    I have to go but my point is that these views represent the “establishment” in MJ. Is this what you want to convert to Derek?


  20. BenYachov(Jim Scott 4th) says:

    >Perhaps you didn’t understand, I am in the process of conversion for the very reason you mention.

    Ah!!!! You are correct I didn’t understand. Now I do.


  21. Dan Benzvi says:


    One thing I can give you, is that you are not afraid to put your ulterior motives up front. You want to become a Messianic Jewish Rabbi and that is your reason for conversion. Everything else is just detail, right? Has nothing to do with the “big issue” of Jew and Gentile.



  22. Pingback: Messianic Jewish Theological Institute institutes Gentile conversions « The Rosh Pina Project

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