Torah, Israel, and the Nations: Part 3

Well, the dialogue is growing. I can tell from the number of readers I am getting that the relationship of Torah to non-Jews is a subject of interest. So much fuzzy thinking has been propagated on this topic, I don’t blame people for being confused.

When people have a pet doctrine, a common mode for defending that doctrine is to cite only a few verses, the ones in favor of the theory. People repeat certain affirmations like mantras. On this topic, Acts 15:21 gets thrown around a lot as a defense for a Torah-revival amongst non-Jews. I hear lines like, “We are grafted in,” or “we must be imitators of Yeshua,” or “one law for the native and the stranger,” and so on.

Well, knowing what God is teaching is not as simple as throwing out a few affirmations. In many areas, and Torah is especially tricky, the truth is more complex than sound bites.

Getting past assumptions is important to hear God’s voice. “God wouldn’t have different standards for different groups of people,” is just that, an assumption.

After shedding false assumptions, the next crucial step is hearing all sides of God’s truth on a matter. Citing a verse here or there is problematic for that reason. I could do as Christendom has for centuries and quote lines of Paul out of context and make a very convincing case that Torah is obsolete. Let’s not follow that example in defending Torah. Let’s honestly hear what God has to say.

Today’s installment may be the most important in this series. It concerns the Stranger, a.k.a. the Sojourner or Ger.
………………………………………………………………………………..

Exodus 12 is an important chapter for understanding Torah and its relationship to non-Jews. This is the Exodus-from-Egypt chapter. This is the one in which a mixed multitude fled Egypt with Israel.

The mixed multitude, mentioned in Exodus 12:38, is an important topic in and of itself. I have heard many in the Torah-revival movement cite this text as a basis for urging full Torah observance on non-Jews. The argument goes something like this: (1) non-Jews were with Israel at the Exodus, (2) they were with Israel at Sinai, (3) they received the commands along with Israel, (4) thus, Q.E.D., non-Jews are recipients of the Torah along with Jews.

There is a reluctance in the Torah-revival movement to acknowledge a certain truth. It is the truth that best explains what happened to the mixed multitude. I have heard it called THE SEMI-PERMEABLE BOUNDARY OF ISRAEL. That is, Israel is not strictly a genetic family. You can join the family from the outside. The unfortunate word used for this today is CONVERSION. This is unfortunate because it gives the wrong impression that conversion is about changing religions. It is not. It is about a non-Jew becoming a Jew. It is about joining Israel.

This is what Caleb the Kenizzite (an Edomite tribe) did. This is what the mixed multitude did.

How can I say that the mixed multitude joined Israel?
1. Their number are included with Israel in Exodus 12.
2. Later, in the tribal censuses, the numbers match, yet all the people are accounted for and members of Israelite tribes.
3. How did those mixed multitude people get lost in the tribes of Israel? They were considered as native-born and assimilated into the tribes.

There were no non-Jews at Sinai (note: I am using the term Jew in its modern sense for all Jacob’s line–no need to write me as though I am ignorant of the history of the word).

Now we come to the issue of the Sojourner (a.k.a. the Stranger). The Torah recognizes two kinds of non-Jews that Israel will deal with: the Foreigner and the Sojourner (Ger). The foreigner is simply a non-Jew. The Sojourner is a non-Jew who lives with Israel.

As will become apparent in the ensuing discussion, there were two kinds of Sojourner. I think this distinction lies behind the rabbinical categories of the Ger Toshav and the Ger Tzaddik, the Sojourner at the Gate and the Righteous Sojourner.

One kind of Sojourner lived as a citizen of the land. He observed the Sabbath laws and holy days. He worshipped Israel’s God. He did not get circumcised or fully participate. In fact, some holy things were off limits to him. Yet he was a non-Jew living with Jews and partially keeping Torah.

Does this sound familiar? This is the position, I believe, of many non-Jews who are in the MJ movement. They are non-Jews worshipping alongside Israel without becoming Israel. They may not keep dietary law at home. They do not wear a tallis. Yet they fully participate with the community.

The other kind of Sojourner is circumcised. This Sojourner takes on himself and his family the entire Torah. This Sojourner joins with Israel. He may be known his whole life as a Sojourner and not as a Jew. Yet his children marry into Israel and become Jews, full members of the tribes of Israel.

There are many non-Jews like this in MJ also. I am one of them. This is a decision that needs to be made through the accountability of a Beit Din (court of judgment). This is not something that can be an individual decision. There must be witnesses of a circumcision. There must be oversight. I am going through the process with a Messianic Beit Din (see ourrabbis.org).

Yet many arrogate this position for themselves, some unwittingly and others with disdain for the idea that Israel is unique in any way. Many, who have not even had a halakhically correct circumcision (I haven’t as yet) consider themselves full recipients of Torah.

I have sympathy for people caught in this position. It is largely the fault of MJ. We should have had conversion and a respectable Rabbinical Council years ago. Many non-Jews in MJ are caught in the void of a system that has been afraid to be Jewish for fear of distancing itself from Christian supporters. Well, we’ve come into our own. It is time for MJ to be Jewish.

Yet I am also pointing the finger at those in the Torah-revival movement, the ones who arrogate Torah-status for themselves and call other Yeshua-followers incomplete if they do not do the same. Exodus 12 is not your friend. Exodus 12 is your enemy. It speaks against you. It is time for you to admit it and throw in the towel. Torah is given to Israel, not the nations. God will not be pleased that: (a) you presumed to take holy things upon yourself and (b) that you made others who were following God according to his will feel inadequate.

I guess now I have to make my point from Exodus 12. If you’re not seeing too much red to read the rest, consider how Exodus 12:43-49 distinguishes Jews and non-Jews in their relation to Torah:

And the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “This is the statute of the Passover: no foreigner shall eat of it, 44 but every slave that is bought for money may eat of it after you have circumcised him. 45 No foreigner or hired servant may eat of it. 46 It shall be eaten in one house; you shall not take any of the flesh outside the house, and you shall not break any of its bones. 47 All the congregation of Israel shall keep it. 48 If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. 49 There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

1. No foreigner may eat of the Passover. Wait a minute, you say, do you mean non-Jews can’t have a Passover Seder? No, that is not what “eat of the Passover” means. The Passover means the sacred meat of a Passover lamb whose blood has been dashed against God’s altar. The meat is holy. It is for Israel alone to eat.

2. Slaves in Israelite households may eat of it if, and only if, they are circumcised (which means they have joined Israel, a.k.a. converted).

3. A Sojourner, meaning a non-Jew living in the land and worshipping Israel’s God, may not eat of the Passover unless they are circumcised. A Sojourner is not a pagan. A Sojourner is not out of God’s will. A Sojourner may choose to remain uncircumcised and not eat the Passover. God accepts non-Jews as non-Jews and does not put them under the full yoke of Torah.

4. When a Sojourner is circumcised he will be regarded as a native of the land, that is, he joins Israel. He is no longer a non-Jew. His children will be counted among the tribes. They will no longer be called Sojourners.

5. No uncircumcised person may eat of the Passover. Yet many who had medical circumcision and not covenant circumcision arrogate full Torah-status to themselves in MJ.

6. The one law for the native and the stranger/Sojourner DOES NOT mean EQUIVALENCE. It means the laws of justice and holiness apply equally to Jews and non-Jews in God’s holy land. Yet there are distinctions and some Sojourners will not choose to be circumcised or take on the yoke of Torah.

We need to fix some things in MJ. We need for those in the Torah-revival movement to progress into a Torah-based theology and leave their Ephraimite and Hebrew Roots backgrounds. I doubt my words will have much effect, but maybe there will be a few out there willing to question assumptions and take Torah at face value. If you are in a movement that promotes a false view of Torah, perhaps you can advocate change or you can move to a mature Messianic Jewish congregation that practices ACTUAL JUDAISM. I hope you are blessed to have one in your town.

We need to fix the aversion to conversion that lingers in MJ. We have many Sojourners right now who want to join Israel. We need to get caught up with what God is doing.

Most of all, we need to quit thinking that MJ is a movement of non-Jews keeping Torah. MJ is about what God is doing in Israel in these last days. It is not a club for people who think shofars and matzah are cool.

Yes, I know that it is hard to go back to a non-Torah life after you have lived a Torah life. Once you have appreciated such a rich tradition as Messianic Judaism, I know that plain evangelicalism can seem flat (no offense to evangelicals, many of whom might not be drawn to Israel in the way we are).

You, as a non-Jew in the MJ movement, have two choices as I see it:

1. Be a Sojourner in the gates, a God-fearing Gentile, one who worships alongside Israel without joining. We need a blog series someday about what this means practically.

2. Be a Sojourner-Proselyte, one who joins with Israel, through a proper Beit Din. This option is difficult as choices are limited right now. The movement is young and cannot fully staff this venture. But we can hope for someday. In the meantime, you can be in process, learning about Jewish history and life and considering yourself a candidate for conversion.

The best way to be Torah-observant is the believe what Torah says.

About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
This entry was posted in Gentiles, Judaism, Messianic Jewish, Theology, Torah. Bookmark the permalink.

28 Responses to Torah, Israel, and the Nations: Part 3

  1. Pati in WA says:

    Derek –
    I hope you’ll cover what the New Covenant means to the gentile, since Jer 31 explicitly states that the New Covenant is made with the house of Israel and Judah. If gentiles are not part of Israel, by grace through faith, then how to they partake of a covenant only given to Israel? I’m not talking replacement or 2House, but of the faithful remnant (of Jews and gentiles) within Israel. The covenants of promise were given only to Israel, not to the nations.

    It also concerns me that some seem to see the gentile believer in Messiah as on par with the righteous Noachide. Do you agree?

    • I will just chime in with my 2 cents because I often hear that passage in Jeremiah cited but Isaiah is overlooked when it is written:

      He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth.”
      – Isaiah 49:6

  2. A Simple Jew says:

    Derek:

    Many non-Jews in MJ are caught in the void of a system that has been afraid to be Jewish for fear of distancing itself from Christian supporters.<<<<<

    As I have pointed out, this affects the Jews in MJ equally.

    Well, we’ve come into our own. It is time for MJ to be Jewish.<<<<

    From your lips to Hashem. If advancing the participation of non Jews brings this to pass, then all the better.

  3. Juanita says:

    I agree with Pati…and have the same questions. I agree that in Old Testament times the Gentile/Nations was held to Noachide laws…mainly because salvation had not been yet offered and because they were not of G-d’s chosen people. When in Acts 10 the good news was opened up for the Gentile/Nations…I was under the impression based on scripture that when one came to except the salvation (Yeshua) offered he/she then walked out of the wilderness and became part of spiritual Israel…a spiritual seed of Abraham. Not to say though that they suddenly turned into a Jew overnight. I’m also not into replacement theory or two house either. I hope you can shed some greater light on this subject.

  4. Nathan says:

    Rabbi Derek, (I think I will start calling you Rabbi, because you are about to become one officially. And what is important is the trajectory. I think this is also how we need to see MJ… As being what we hope it will become, or already where we believe it will go.)
    I think you just spelled it out well. Thanks.
    Nathan

  5. "A Simple Jew" says:

    Nathan:

    And what is important is the trajectory. I think this is also how we need to see MJ… As being what we hope it will become, or already where we believe it will go<<<<

    Try to launch a rocket and base its trajectory on “where we hope it will become or already where we believe it will go”. When it lands in someones back yard I hope you have a good lawyer.

    My point is that MJ has a trajectory right now which isnt good. It wont change without someone doing some calculations and taking control of its path. I see no signs that this is happening. Shame on those who know where MJ is headed are in a position to change things and are doing nothing about it.

  6. "A Simple Jew" says:

    Nathan:

    And what is important is the trajectory. I think this is also how we need to see MJ… As being what we hope it will become, or already where we believe it will go<<<<

    Try to launch a rocket and base its trajectory on “where we hope it will become or already where we believe it will go”. When it lands in someones back yard I hope you have a good lawyer.

    My point is that MJ has a trajectory right now which isnt good. It wont change without someone doing some calculations and taking control of its path. I see no signs that this is happening. Shame on those who know where MJ is headed are in a position to change things and are doing nothing about it.

  7. Shalom,

    A couple of thoughts from someone who holds Derek in High esteem.

    Our Congregation is moving decidedly forward as a Synagogue. We have a Yeshiva, a mikvah, and are not affiliated (nor located) with any Church organizations (we feel seperation is critical to having a Jewish Identity). We require Rabbi’s to be Jews (birth or conversion) & Yeshiva trained, and allow conversion (8 in process as we speak). We follow the MJRC Halacha where possible, though we tend to identify as the MJ version of a Conservative Synagogue. All this only to paint a picture of where we are coming from.

    When we set-up our conversion process, we consulted both the Orthodox & Conservative procedures. And have adopted the Conservative pretty much as is. This is important because based on the Conversion process a Convert is not a Ger Tzaddik (Rightous Gentile) but is fully a Jew.

    Thus where Derek lists 2 types of Gentiles, 1 a sojourner at the gate, and one a Righteous Gentile (apparently equating these with converts), these are not the only groups that must be considered, at least today. The Rabbi’s in the Talmud forbid calling a convert a Ger, that still holds true today in the Conservative & Orthodox writings I am familiar with.

    This is important as it means we maybe missing a key point on who should be Torah observant, and how Torah observant they should be. I submit to you that there are 5 groups of people in the world: Non-believing Gentiles, believing Gentiles (We refer to these as former Gentiles as they are now part of the Common Wealth of Israel per Rabbi Sha’ul), the Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate), the Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentiles), and the Convert / native born Jew.

    Lets take the easy ones first:
    1. Gentile non-believers – Noachide laws are the only measure they are held to.
    2. Converts / native born Jews – Torah is the measure (note converts take on the entire Torah).
    So far Derek and I would probably agree.

    Now for the harder ones:
    1. Believing Gentiles – Significant parts of Torah, based on the light given. This is based on 1st Yochanan 3, and Yeshua’s own words, “if you love me, you’ll keep my commands”. Some may call this the “Law of Messiah, or Law of Christ”; either way, it maps back heavily to Torah.
    2. Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate) – reside within Israel, and thus are subject to many of the so called “civil” commandments due to being in the land.
    3. Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentiles) – This is the area likely to be in the most disagreement. These are the G-dfearers, following all commands of B’nai Israel except circumcision. These Gentiles would keep kosher, keep Shabbat, go to Synagogue (from exile on), etc.

    Thus while I believe Derek has made an excellent case, I think this Group of G-d Fearers, the Ger Tzaddik, are not being properly taken into account. I don’t concur they are converts; but are following so closely to Israel, they can almost be seen as one group. If this is the case, then this group is important, as our current Messianic Jewish Synagogues (and many non Messianic Synagogues (like Chabad)) have a number of these people to consider. How should they be treated. Should they were Tzitzit? Read from Torah? That I think is food for serious discussion as it is one of the most relevant issues we that are striving to redefine MJ as Jewish must address.

    Also, taking the B’rit Chadasha into account, all believing Gentiles are somehow grafted in, what does this mean in terms of Torah. How much are they required to keep, or allowed to keep.

    I for one am looking forward to Derek writing on how MJ addresses these issues. I sure it will spark lively discussion, but discussion is good.

    For those looking for more background on how one Congregation defines and addresses these issues, please see http://messiahyeshua.blogspot.com/

    Blessings

  8. A Simple Jew says:

    Rabbi:

    Our Congregation is moving decidedly forward as a Synagogue. We have a Yeshiva, a mikvah, and are not affiliated (nor located) with any Church organizations (we feel seperation is critical to having a Jewish Identity). We require Rabbi’s to be Jews (birth or conversion) & Yeshiva trained, and allow conversion (8 in process as we speak). We follow the MJRC Halacha where possible, though we tend to identify as the MJ version of a Conservative Synagogue. All this only to paint a picture of where we are coming from.<<<<

    I am impressed with what I read. I would like to know more about your congregation and the Yeshiva. What criteria do you use for defining a Jew by birth?

    a Convert is not a Ger Tzaddik (Rightous Gentile) but is fully a Jew<<<

    Exactly. Which renders a lot of these discussions moot. If someone becomes a Jew they become a Jew. I cant for the life of me understand someone wanting to be observant but not be Jewish.

    Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate) – reside within Israel, and thus are subject to many of the so called “civil” commandments due to being in the land.<<<<

    Do you mean physical residents of the state of Israel?

    3.These Gentiles would keep kosher, keep Shabbat<<<

    What is the ruling of Maimonides for such people? Does he allow them to keep Shabbat?

    current Messianic Jewish Synagogues (and many non Messianic Synagogues (like Chabad)) have a number of these people to consider. How should they be treated. Should they were Tzitzit? Read from Torah? That I think is food for serious discussion as it is one of the most relevant issues we that are striving to redefine MJ as Jewish must address.<<<<

    Tzitit and reading from the Torah appear to me to be different categories. Would you agree? I can’t see how the issue of who gets and Aliyah and who constitutes a valid Minyan can go without clear cut resolution in any congregation or collection of congregations that call themselves Jewish. As far as I am aware the RC has not dealt with these issues. I can see how they are a political hot potato. Too bad for them. Tough luck. Time for a stiff upper lip and all that.

    I for one am looking forward to Derek writing on how MJ addresses these issues. I sure it will spark lively discussion, but discussion is good.<<<<

    I agree with you on all counts. I am gratified to see that there is interest in discussing Jewish issues on this blog.

  9. Shalom,

    Excellent responses, I’ll try and clarify (I do not have Derek’s gift for writing).

    1. Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate) – reside within Israel, and thus are subject to many of the so called “civil” commandments due to being in the land.<<<<

    Do you mean physical residents of the state of Israel? – In the past yes, now this group is seen in MJ who are in the between state. Interested but not sure how far to go in practice.

    2. What is the ruling of Maimonides for such people? Does he allow them to keep Shabbat? I will have to go verify the RamBam on that issue (I wish I had his writings that well in my head, I can also check the Shulkan Aruch (one of my favorite books, everyone in leadership in MJ should get one)and see what references are there). I know in Chabad I have friends who did not convert but are regular Shabbat attendees (for many years). We can glean from historical records that before the destruction of the 2nd Temple, this group would apparently keep Shabbat.

    3. I don’t disagree, I was more looking at specific practices generally reserved for B’nai Isra’el.

    4. Derek is very gifted, and has a heart for a real sect of Judaism that acknowledges Yeshua as Messiah. I believe it will be a spirited debate, but then again, we Jews like to argue. (I’m Jewish by MJRC halacha (father), converting using Conservative Halacha so as to walk consistently with our community.)

    5. One area I do believe we will be forced to decide on is the Nicaean Creed. I for one have already separated myself from it, as well as any doctrine that smacks of 3 g-ds. This is radical and will offend many; but I have serious issues from Ignatius on with many “church fathers”. Frankly, since I’m a Jew, I really see no requirement or desire to follow their rulings. Another area we need to look at is addressing Yeshua’s relationship to G-d from a Jewish prospective. Throwing out 3-4th century Greek ideas in favor of wording consistent with our Rabbi’s (exp: Will-Word-Breath, Shekinah ).

    Hope that helps in some small way. We are all seeking the way, and I find myself agreeing with many of your points. We had our Board Meeting last night. I made the statement we had to decide who we are. I followed up by saying I have no desire to be a Church. Either we are a Synagogue or we should shut the doors and go home. Might not have been the most popular statement, but I believe it is the right statement.

    I wonder if we should define MJ as our traditional brothers define groups: Orthodox, Conservative, reformed, etc. Maybe that would allow people to see the differences and find the path more clearly.

    We are floating the idea of a Union of Conservative Messianic Jewish Synagogues, that follows Conservative Halacha for the most part. It is still a dream, but if HaShem wills it, it will one day be real. The site is http://www.ucmjs.com. It is still very immature, but we will try and add muscle and tendon as HaShem allows.

    Toda & Blessings

  10. A Simple Jew says:

    Rabbi:

    What is the ruling of Maimonides for such people? Does he allow them to keep Shabbat? I will have to go verify the RamBam on that issue (I wish I had his writings that well in my head, I can also check the Shulkan Aruch<<<<<

    You might want to look in Mishneh Torah. As I recall Rambam was pretty strong about non Jews taking on Torah at all. As I recall there were pretty severe penalties involved. Needless to say, I am glad to report that to my knowledge these are not enforced anywhere in modern Judaism.

    One area I do believe we will be forced to decide on is the Nicaean Creed. I for one have already separated myself from it, as well as any doctrine that smacks of 3 g-ds.<<<<<

    CONGRATULATIONS!! You stepped on the “third rail” of MJ/ Christian relationships!!!

    In all seriousness, someone is going to have to come up with a formulation that doesnt violate the first commandment.

  11. Shalom,

    Agreed, especially on the 1st commandment. In my gut, I think Shekinah is the way to go. With some of my conservative friends I use that for discussion and they find no offense, or blasphemy. The big test is going to be a couple Rabbi’s I know.

    How Mithras worship and Marcion ever got into the faith, we can only wonder.

    Blessings

  12. Gene Shlomovich says:

    Kinda off the topic, but I always wonder about those who comment here and who proclaim their Jewishness (especially with, biblically speaking, very tenuous ties to Jewishness (e.g. one relative sevarale generations ago) without having grown up in a Jewish family. Rabbi Gavri’el Moreno-Bryars, did you grow up in an ethnically Jewish family and were you always a Jew (or did you discover that later)? Just curious about people’s claims to Jewishness, as in many cases it seems very dubious. I see a lot of this in Messianic Judaism. I also see a lot of this in Hispanic community (recently I had a guy who tried to show me that all Hispanic names ending with ‘z” are of Jewish origin). Gavri’el, elsewhere you trace your Jewishness to your Sephardi grandmother (cbhm.org), but here you mention your father instead.

    Gene

  13. A Simple Jew says:

    Gene:

    Just curious about people’s claims to Jewishness, as in many cases it seems very dubious<<<<

    The RC standard currently allows for anyone with a Jewish ancestor who considers themself a Jew to be accepted as Jewish.

  14. Gene Shlomovich says:

    A Simple Jew (Menachem, is that you?) – that’s a very loose standard indeed. So, ANYONE (really) can come along and say… “well, my great-great-great……great…grandmother in Spain 500 years ago was probably a crypto-jew (since my name is “Sanchez”). Therefore, I am full-fledge Jew and can qualify to be a Rabbi in MJ.” Does RC even verify a person’s ancestry somehow? I know that Orthodox rabbis will require conversion for anyone who claims to be Jewish via distant relatives from long ago but who can’t provide documentation of that Jewish ancestry (as they say “just in case), instead of accepting the person’s word for it.

    Oy Vey…

    Gene

  15. Simple Jew and Gene:

    Not true that the MJRC has that low a standard for Jewish identity. I do not speak for the MJRC, but I have friends who have been through conversion who would likely have been considered Jewish in a Reformed synagogue.

    I understand that Simple Jew would like for their standard to be more stringent, but let’s be clear: there is no rubber-stamping of people with lost Jewish heritage going on at the MJRC (ourrabbis.org).

    In one case I know of, the young man’s father is Jewish but he was raised in a secular home. The MJRC asked him to convert and he did. I know of a second case that was very similar.

    Derek

  16. Gene Shlomovich says:

    Derek… if that’s so, that’s much more encouraging then. Of course, this would mean that a whole slew of current MJ rabbis are not Jewish, by conversion or descent. But, that’s a whole different story…considering how many pseudo-Jewish Christian charismatic “ministries” are out there diluting the field and mocking the whole MJ thing up (with their “rabbis”). Sometimes I just wish that G-d would speak out about the whole thing:) I guess the time will tell…

    Gene

  17. A Simple Jew says:

    Derek and Gene:

    1 Yes Gene it’s me.

    2 Derek I agree that the cases you cite are encouraging. However they are just that; anecdotal cases.

    Your motto is “Let My People Think”. Well I am reading and am thinking. The clear reading of the standard on the RC site is that that person would have passed as Jewish. Why the inconsistancy?

    I hate to be cynical but one is led to question if it is being equally applied as written. It wouldnt be the first time in MJ that one obtained an Orwellian/ Animal Farm situation in which “some MJs are more equal than others.” One standard for leaders another for the average Joe.

    Will they be as strict with someone with a prominent ministry of the sort that Gene describes? Time will tell but they have clearly left wiggle room. It should be easy enough to clarify if that was what they wanted. Why dont they?

  18. Gene,

    Shalom,

    Think about your question, the answer is obvious, not deceitful (not sure if you where implying deceit, but I read it that way). My Grandmother was a Sephardic Jew, she married a Gentile – producing my father (who by tradition would clearly be a Jew – thus both are totally true). She died while he was young, so he was not raised as a Jew.

    I do not try to hide who I am, that is why it is posted publically. Things seem to work best in the light. Though the website has not been updated, my wife has finished conversion based on Conservative practices, and is now a Jew.

    As to whether I am a Jew, my father was, and I am living a Jewish Lifestyle and identification (far more than many reformed). Thus MJRC would consider me Jewish under their existing Halacha (see http://www.ourrabbis.org/main/).

    Simple Jew – The exact wording of the MJRC is:
    Jewish Status – Following the consensus of Jewish tradition, we recognize as a Jew anyone who is born of a Jewish mother or who is a convert to Judaism. We also accept the Reform decision, which acknowledges patrilineal descent under certain conditions. In our definition, the necessary and sufficient condition consists of that individual identifying as a Jew.

    This is not as loose as you stated, the only difference between the MJRC & Reformed is in Reformed the person must have been raised Jewish. Don’t forget that a Ba’al T’shuvah is considered to have a place that even the rightous Jew cannot attain. Many Ba’al T’shuvah were not raised in Observant homes.

    Gene, to complete my answer to you:
    My heritage is sufficiently Jewish to have placed me in a camp in Germany 65 years ago. The distinction of mother or father being Jewish I think is the appropriate criteria along with identification. As the 3 dominate sects of Judaism have adopted this approach (all 3 mother, Reformed also allows father).

    I also stated I was converting as most Jews do not recognize lineage from the Father, even though it is the model in scripture (Boaz offspring come to mind). The Rabbinic change to maternal appears most likely to have occurred sometime around the destruction of the 2nd Temple or after “(seems much scholarly debate on this issue).

    The issue of lineage can be handled by conversion (I have seen several reformed Rabbis who had converted). The issue of education is much more fundamental to me. Is Bible college or Seminary adequate preparation for a Rabbi? I do not think so. These organizations rarily teach Talmud, Shulkan Aruch, or other important aspects of Jewish Thought. When they do it is generally one of contempt.

    The solution, if we had an organization with enough guts, require both conversion and Yeshiva for existing “rabbis” who do not meet the requirements. Place a time limit of x years (to be determined by a Beit Din) to complete the process. If unable, nor not willing, they should instead be called by another title, or asked to step aside.

    Blessing to all – Good discussion

    While some may consider it harsh, it has elements of mercy, an ability to allow correction, and a defined time frame. All new Rabbis would have to meet the criteria beforehand.

    One of the hardest issues is moving people in the proper direction, especially if you are changing the status quo.

    Blessings

  19. "A Simple Jew" says:

    Rabbi:

    Yashe Koach. You are the first person I have seen to publically address the biggest problem in MJ.

    Rabbi:

    MJRC would consider me Jewish under their existing Halacha (see http://www.ourrabbis.org/main/).<<<<<

    I agree that under the RC criteria you would be Jewish. You would not be considered a Jew under any normative branch of Judaism and I agree with your decision to convert.

    In our definition, the necessary and sufficient condition consists of that individual identifying as a Jew. This is not as loose as you stated, the only difference between the MJRC & Reformed is in Reformed the person must have been raised Jewish<<<<<

    That is a big difference. I would bet that the Reformed criteria were put in place ( for better or worse ) to preserve Shalom Bait in homes with mixed marriages in which the father is Jewish and the parents wanted to raise Jewish children. This reflects the demographics of modern American Judaism and while I may or may not agree with it is within their perogative as a group of Jews making a decision about their own fate.

    What is troubling about the RC criteria is that it leaves the determination of Jewishness up to the individual. The operative phrase is as follows: “consists of that individual identifying as a Jew”. Given that this is the case it is not clear to me how the RC could have justified requiring the son of a Jewish man raised in a secular home to convert in the case that Derek cites if the facts are as simple as he describes elsewhere.

    Having said the above, I am pretty much in agreement with you. My major concern is with the proliferation of “rabbis” who are not only ignorant but contemptuous of Judaism. Many of them are not even Jews by any standard but by this idiosyncratic standard of the RC. I have written on another blog about a hypothetical MJ “rabbi” who had a Jewish father, was raised in the Methodist Church, went to a Methodist seminary married a good hearted Methodist woman fathered a son and discovered “Jewish roots” when he developed a ministry to the Jews. He enjoys Jewish people but is puzzled that they are “under bondage to the rabbis” and believes that gentle but firm church dicipline is necessary to bring them out of the product of generations of legalism. He insists that his congregants adopt “Biblical Jewish distinctives” which sound a lot like Christianity. Since his son was raised “Biblically Jewish” he insists that his son is Jewish even under the Reformed criteria. Under RC criteria as written this individual AND his son would be considered Jewish and would not require conversion . I think you would agree that this is problematic.

    The issue of lineage can be handled by conversion….Is Bible college or Seminary adequate preparation for a Rabbi? I do not think so….. important aspects of Jewish Thought. When they do it is generally one of contempt.<<<<
    Read Dan Juster on Kabballah. He talks “ex cathedra” against it after reading a book by Gershon Scholem. And HE is on the faculty of MJTI.
    The solution, if we had an organization with enough guts, require both conversion and Yeshiva for existing “rabbis” who do not meet the requirements. Place a time limit of x years ….to complete the process. If unable, nor not willing, they should instead be called by another title, or asked to step aside……While some may consider it harsh<<<
    “Harsh” to whom? It depends upon whose ox is being gored. If we were talking about physicians practicing without a license there would be more concern about the patients and little sympathy for the fake doctors. Why so much concern about “leadership”. If these folks had put their ego in check in the first place they wouldn’t be in a predicament. The average Jew in MJ is suffering. As the Midrash says “Kindness to the wicked ends in cruelty to the righteous”.

  20. Simple Jew,

    Shalom,

    Your arguments have great merit. We encourage those with “questionable” Jewishness to convert. Quite simply, we need to follow our Rabbi’s & Sages.

    We may not like all decisions, but they are our Rabbi’s. Being part of B’nai Israel is not just tzitzit, it is how we think, live, and probably most important, what community we belong to.

    MJ has to decide, either belong to the Church, or belong to Judaism. My choice is made. My master never stepped foot in a “church”, if He did today, they would probably ask him to leave.

    I will not give up Messiah; but I don not have to accept or listen to the likes of Ignatius, Origen, etc.

    Charismatic Christianity has infected MJ so deeply, only HaShem will be able to change it.

    On the harsh part, I was being diplomatic. My real feelings tend to be a little more direct. One of my friends ordains bible colleage trained (though very knowledgeable) Gentiles as Rabbi’s, and it causes me great concern. When I mention conversion, I get comments like, so can a Jew convert to Gentile so he can eat pork? I’m afraid these attitudes are deep seated and wide spread.

    I really am starting to see a fresh start is needed. I would be all for the MJRC starting their own organization. But his does not seem to be in the near future.

    This desire for a Union of Conservative Messianic Jewish Synagogues keeps burning in me, and I can’t but help think it could be part of the solution. The critical issue will be finding some other like minded Jews who will help define the halacha. Seems not such a hard task, start with Conservative Halacha and make as few changes as possible. It has to be community based, public, and open for inspection and critical discussion.

    Maybe one day – Toda

  21. Gavriel:

    You said, “My master never stepped foot in a “church”, if He did today, they would probably ask him to leave.”

    I couldn’t just let that stand unopposed:
    1. It would have been impossible for Yeshua to enter a church since they didn’t exist.
    2. This fact renders your point moot.
    3. Yeshua certainly did envision a congregation of non-Jews following the God of Israel.
    3a. Yeshua overturned some tables in the temple because, in my reading, the commerce was taking up the court of the Gentiles and preventing non-Jews from being able to worship God at the festivals.
    3b. Yeshua nearly got thrown over a cliff in Luke 4 for suggesting that Gentiles often come with more faith to God than Jews.

    I cannot countenance anti-church statements. Critical statements about weak theology or despicable practices in the church, fine, but not slamming the entire concept.

    Like it or not, Messiah has one body made up of two distinct parts, the Jewish ekklesia and the ekklesia of the nations. We are all together. Baptists, Pentecostals, Methodists, Presbyterians, Pentecostals, Anglicans, Catholics, etc., wherever faith in Yeshua and Israel’s God is found, they are my brothers.

    Derek

  22. Shalom,

    I agree 2 bodies, and there are many good Gentile Believers today, but with large portions of the church actively embracing sin and adopting anti-Jewish altitudes I think there are many bodies He would not be welcome in.

    My key statement was “likely, that depends on which body He visited. Spurgeon said if 20% of his Congregation were true believers, he’d be thrilled (referencing they’re going to Heaven). do we really think we are any better 100 years later.

    We must not confuse the church with the ecclesia, one is man made, the other is of G-d.

    If it was taken as condemning all believers, I apologize. My intent was only those mentioned above.

    Blessings

  23. David Niles says:

    Shalom to all. This is the second time that I have commented on this blog. From some of the comments I have read, there seems to be a disgust for anything associated with Christianity. To me , when beleivers started to cut themselves off from the rest of the Body, you have just sealed your fate. Soloman said in that there was nothing new under the sun. From what I”ve read, some Messianic beleivers would rather be in Judaism than fellowship with anybody from the New Covenant Faith. But in all fairness, it is understandable why they would. Some of the churches out there are in deep theologicial error.

    A couple of things I have noticed about Messianic Judaism is that:

    1.) Some of the leaders call themselves Rabbi’s. This goes against what Yeshua taught in Matt 23

    2.) Some Messianic beleivers insist that obeying the Torah is means of rightousness before God, instead of Faith, read thru-out the New Covenant Writings on this.

    3.) That the Messianic Movement needs a “halacha” to sort various difficulties of obeying Torah, instead of looking to God’s Word, which should be our final authority in ALL things.

    To loving put it this way, I find my completeness in Yeshua (Jesus) the Messiah. I don’t have to be an Israelite before the Lord to honor him and obey him. I”m grafted in to the rich root olive tree of Israel, by faith, in the God of Israel’s Messiah. I would loving suggest that some, not all, Messianics keep it simple and not get caught up in arguments that profit nothing. (Gal 5:1-2)
    Shalom!

  24. David:

    If you noticed an anti-Christianity tone by some on this blog, please note that this has nothing to do with me or my point of view. I have gone out of my way to express a pro-Church position. I wish in your comment you had made that more clear since your statement appears to make me guilty by association.

    I would love to dialogue with you about your understanding of the law, which I find to be completely deficient. However, I find that I dilute my time by rehashing old debates over and over again. You feel your position is eminently biblical, I understand. The reality is that your presuppositions are quite subject to rebuttal. I encourage you to go beyond your theological upbringing and rethink with an open mind. Your anti-Torah position is completely untenable.

    If you’d like to see a pro-Torah interpretation of Paul, one that I believe would really make you think, then please get my book, Paul Didn’t Eat Pork, available at hopeofdavid.com

    Derek

  25. David Niles says:

    Hi Derek, Shalom to you. I want to clarify some thngs. I never accused you of anti-christian remarks. If I came across as that way, then I do apologize. I also never directed my comments towards you in particluar, but at Messianic Judaism as a whole. The Torah(Law) isn’t bad, the Bible says it is “holy,just,and good”. But, I do have a couple of questions to ask. Do you light a fire on Shabbat? Do you travel more than 50 kilometers on Sabbath? Do you go to Jerusalem to keep the three annual feasts, as the Bible command all males to do so! If you don’t, then you just have broken the Torah and are guilty of sin. Yeshua (Jesus) summned up the Torah into 2 commandments: Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, body, and strength. And to love your neighbor as yourself. Say if you had 10 minutes to tell someone the last thing before they left earth. Would you tell them about the Feasts, or how to be saved? As far as discussion, I”m open to discus in a Christ-like manner. I hope that I have responded the same way as well.

  26. David:

    I have plenty of material on this blog and in my books for you to interact with regarding the continuing validity of God’s covenant with Israel, including the Torah commandments.

    Your posture is one of coming to me and asking me to defend my position. Yet you have not read, apparently, nor do you interact with my arguments which are readily available for you to read.

    I enjoy dialogue. I do not enjoy being grilled. I do not enjoy preposterous scenarios like your sentence: “Say if you had 10 minutes to tell someone the last thing before they left earth. Would you tell them about the Feasts, or how to be saved?”

    I’m sure you are an intelligent person, David. But you look foolish when you suggest such dichotomies. I might ask you, “If a person had minutes to live and you could possibly save their life with CPR, would you instead try to get them saved by sharing the four spiritual laws?”

    Ridiculous scenarios trying to force a choice between good alternatives are meaningless. Torah is important regardless of your highly artificial scenario.

    Please interact with my material about the Torah, if you truly wish to dialogue and have the mutual benefit of discussion. If, however, you simply wish to argue, try to change my position, or subject Judaism to ridicule, then you are not welcome to do so here.

    Derek

  27. Shalom Bayit says:

    Derek

    If I understand the evangelical position correctly the answer to your question would be a no brainer. Eternal life is much more important.

    Go with the 4 spiritual laws. Unfortunately if they truly required CPR you wouldnt know if they accepted Jesus because they would not be able to communicate. Therefore I guess on second thought you should ressucitate first.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s