With All Due Respect to Simple Jew

Simple Jew is a friend. I appreciate his perspective. I get unique insights from his perspective. But I cannot agree with him in full. And now, I am going to briefly challenge some of his positions.

First, I need to address an unwarranted and harsh criticism of someone who did not deserve or merit this criticism. Simple Jew said:

I havent met “Rabbi Rich” and can only go by what I glean from the RC web site and from Nathan and Derek. However there sounds like something is wrong either at the knowledge level or the reasoning level. Or I just am not hearing right and need to shake the water out of my ears.

Simple Jew disagrees with the decision of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council to have a broad definition of Jewish identity, especially from the paternal side. This is fine as far as halakhic disagreement goes. Yet here are some erroneous concepts that Simple Jew is guilty of:

1. Rabbi Dr. Rich Nichol is not solely responsible for the decisions of the MJRC (ourrabbis.org). He is one of many rabbis on the council. Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann, for whom Simple Jew has great respect, is equally responsible for the decisions of the council.

2. There is nothing wrong at the “knowledge level” with Rabbi Dr. Nichol. He is a brilliant, learned man. Simple Jew went too far in suggesting otherwise. If the two were to enter a debate over halakhic matters, I’ve no doubt Simple Jew would be humbled.

Second, Simple Jew has a strong desire for a Messianic Judaism that is Jewish. Since Messianic Judaism currently is mostly a movement of non-Jews, he has opted not to be a part of Messianic Judaism. Simple Jew attends a traditional synagogue and avoids Messianic Judaism.

I respect this choice, though it saddens me. Messianic Judaism needs people like Simple Jew. I do pray that someday it will be possible for him to fully participate in the community of Jewish followers of Yeshua. I believe Simple Jew is missing out on more than he realizes. There is power in community that is centered around Yeshua. There is a reason Yeshua came and formed a community and those who choose to exclude themselves from it suffer from their choice. Whatever the reasons, and many are good, no reason can make forsaking the assembly of Yeshua a good choice.

Third, Simple Jew is pessimistic about the future of Messianic Judaism. In his pessimism, he is discounting two of the few (only?) good forces for positive change: the UMJC and the MJRC (umjc.net and ourrabbis.org).

I understand the pessimism, but let’s consider a little history here:

1. Long ago Jewish Yeshua-followers had to assimilate into Christianity.

2. Hebrew Christianity, rising up in the late nineteenth century, at least brough some improvement and allowed Jewish Yeshua-followers to communicate and identify.

3. Early Messianic Judaism arose out of charismatic and dispensational Christianity. It was barely a Jewish movement, but it was still a step forward beginning in the 70’s.

4. Messianic Judaism has since had numerous spin-offs of Gentile groups who have a Torah focus but not a Jewish focus. These groups are, I believe, a dead end. I hope they will end up dissolving back into the church, but with a pro-Israel, biblically holistic focus.

5. Messianic Judaism has kept a core that is at least partially Jewish and that is where my optimism lies.

6. Just as earlier movements of change brought us Hebrew Christianity and incipient Messianic Judaism, I believe that we are on the edge of more change for the better. I believe a truly Jewish Messianic Judaism is arriving.

The UMJC’s definition of Messianic Judaism was and is a key step in this revolution of change. The formation and development of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council is a vital part of the change. The Messianic Jewish Theological Institute (mjti.org) is the first true seminary for Messianic Judaism (and not Hebrew Christianity).

Meanwhile, as Messianic Judaism comes into its own, I do not believe the non-Jews in the movement will be left behind. I believe there will a maturing. I believe some of the nonsense ideas and splinter groups promoting Torah while replacing Israel will leave MJ and fade into well-deserved obscurity.

Simple Jew, I have faith. I believe great things will happen in the Jewish remnant as Messiah’s coming draws near. I hope you can catch some of my optimism. I hope you can be part of making something great. Your critiques from the outside do have a positive effect, but your participation from the inside would do more.


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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6 Responses to With All Due Respect to Simple Jew

  1. yochanan says:

    good job derek!

    i know “simple jew” and have talked with him online and in person.

    i think that what he lacks in understanding is that the building of a messianic judaism for the future is a process that is taking time, but is moving forward.

    i have been involved with the messianic jewish world since 1989. back then it would be scandalous to wear kipas at services, except for maybe the high holydays and the umjc’s requirement for affiliated congregations to have a friday or saturday service (many also having their main services on sunday) was scandalous and “judaizing”, even spawning alternate congregational associations like the fellowship of messianic congregations (a hebrew christian/missions minded group of congregations – mostly CPM planted).

    so to simple jew and others i say there is a bright future ahead, now things are in transition but there is so much good coming from the young scholars movement, now under the banner of the yachad network, the growth of mjti and the great work online of my friend derek and other blogggers that are writing about a new kind of messianic judaism (my own blog’s 3rd birthday is tomorrow!).

    derek, i, jason sobel, jonathan kaplan and others are working on the foundation for the future of messianic judaism, building up from where people like Rabbis Dauermann, Kinzer, Nichol, Fischer and others have built.

    we may not see the messianic judaism we all desire in our lifetimes but we are willing to do the work to pass on something great to the next generations who G-d wiling will complete the task to build a Yeshua honoring, Torah faithful Messianic Judaism for the future.

  2. "A Simple Jew" says:


    Simple Jew is a friend. I appreciate his perspective. I get unique insights from his perspective.<<<<

    Likewise. (And a hearty hello to Yochanon as well)

    I learned from a wise mentor to regard all criticism as a form of “Quality Assurance”. If I am wrong I stand ready to be corrected. If I have sinned I stand ready to do Teshuvah.

    unwarranted and harsh criticism<<<

    Let me apologize up front for any criticism of Rich or anyone else which was harsh or unwarranted. I don’t think asking for citations, questioning the reasoning behind an argument or even asking what credentialling a person has to make an authoritative opinion is out of bounds. Do you? If I have gone beyond this please point to the specific statements and I will retract them at once.

    Now to clarify these points:

    I havent met “Rabbi Rich” and can only go by what I glean <<<<

    I mean this.

    something is wrong either at the knowledge level or the reasoning level<<<<

    I stand by this statement. I wrote this with regard to the issue of the constitution of a Minyan not with regard to the Jewish identity issue. The position I have seen here attributed to Rich makes no sense. Please clarify what I misunderstand.

    Rabbi Dr Rich Nichol…not solely responsible<<<

    I happen to believe it quite possible that a group can be less than the sum of the talented individuals it contains.

    Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann<<<<

    I respect Stuart. And I urge him to take a look at the RC’s decisions in light of his own stated views. They appear to me to be incompatible.

    Rabbi Dr. Nichol…..If the two were to enter a debate over halakhic matters, I’ve no doubt Simple Jew would be humbled.<<<<<

    It doesn’t take much for a Simple Jew to be humbled in a Halachic debate. However even Simple Jews can sometimes tell when something is surpassingly at odds with most of Jewish law and internally inconsistent as well. It makes no sense to argue that non Jews can make up a Minyan and read from the Torah and then argue that they can’t wear Tallit etc etc. Is it too much to expect someone to provide the reasoning and the sources for this very unusual opinion?

    And since you brought it up, would it hurt for them to provide the same for their position on Jewish identity?

    This is also several standard deviations from the mean of the entire rest of the Jewish world!! As our math teachers used to say in High School “Show your work!”

    I dont mean to sound patronizing so forgive me Derek. In the scholarly world there is a standard of “public observability and accountability” that I find lacking not just with Rich but with all of the RC when it comes to these points. Its easy to best a Simple Jew in a debate. Its another proposition entirely to make novel Halacha that is going to stand up to scrutiny. And how can it stand up without someone coming forward with the sources and the reasoning?

    Messianic Judaism that is Jewish.<<<<

    Sounds like a tautology to me<grin

    movement of non-Jews… he has opted not to be a part of Messianic Judaism<<<<<<

    Please allow me to repeat what I have said. I left because it was clear to me that it was impossible for me to fulfill my covenental OBLIGATIONS as a Jew in MJ. This has nothing to do with the presence or absence of any number of non Jews.

    This is a matter of conscience Derek. Stuart persuasively and repeatedly argues in his blog that these obligations exist. He and the rest of the RC have a responsibility to us Simple Jews to show us how these obligations can be discharged in the MJ that they say they are creating.

    no reason can make forsaking the assembly of Yeshua a good choice<<<<

    Please see the above and if you see my friends on the RC take it up with them. I have discussed my decisions and rationale with several of them. I believe that they are sending us mixed messages which along with current policies put us in a double bind.

    he is discounting<<<<

    I dont discount anybody or anything. I believe that the current process is hopelessly politicized. This inference is reasonable given the murky nature of the discourse. If I am wrong, then show me the way by responding to the specifics.

    but let’s consider a little history here<<<

    I dont agree with your view of the history of recent MJ.

    fade into well-deserved obscurity<<<<

    I think that they already are obscure. The focus on them appears to me to be because they are an easy target and distract attention from the real deficiencies in MJ. Furthermore if as Nathan says “it is their Torah too” then I fail to understand what leg you have to stand on to deny them what they want.

    but your participation from the inside would do more<<<<

    I cant see what inside means except sacrificing my identity and responsibility as a Jew. And I dont think you would advocate that!!

    Be well

    PS please forgive my length. I slightly exceeded 850 words. Will try to do better in the future. Look forward to lively discussion with you Yohanaono and others.

  3. "A Simple Jew" says:


    have been involved with the messianic jewish world since 1989. back then it would be scandalous to wear kipas at services<<<<

    I was at the UMJC flagship congregation in the early 80’s and observed a thriving minyan (and some) of JEWS davening properly with proper Jewish attire.

    What do you suppose happened to that?

  4. Nathan says:

    To all. I feel badly that I quoted Rabbi Nichol out of context and in a manor where I could not support his words with any where near as much wisdom, knowledge and love, that he would be able to do. That was a sin, and I have sinned against him. Please do not form an opinion of him based on my argumentation. It is not accurate. I do know that he is a brilliant scholar and does have sufficient backing, scholarship, and opinions to substantiate his theology. We should not be talking about people when they are not present and I apologize for bring that up in that way. Simple Jew I’m certain that you would not be perplexed if you were speaking with him about this.
    Love in Messiah,

  5. "A Simple Jew" says:


    I had concerns that you might feel this way. I dont think this is your responsibility. Its a simple question of a state of affairs in your congregation that doesnt take a scholar to answer. In your congregation are the non Jews who have not converted asked to read from the Torah? Are they used in counting the Minyan?

    In my opinion this question should have been addressed by the RC as part of their Halacha before they did anything else. If Rabbi Rich has wisdom in this area he should make it public. The RC web site would be a good place for him to start. Along with an area for Simple Jews to post questions and get responsa.

    That would be the Jewish way of doing things.

  6. Jon Cline says:

    Hello Derek,

    Thank you for providing some highlights for our discussion here. I certainly would consider myself a simple Jew who does honor Hashem as directed in Torah in the midst of MJ.

    It may not be the case everywhere but the primary catalyst of that positive change will be Jews willing to continue building from the inside for the next generation.

    May we all continue to build a mature MJ for us and our children (hopefully many, Derek :D).


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