Hashivenu is a forum for Messianic Jews who see Messianic Judaism as a Judaism (as opposed to a cosmetically altered version of Christianity). The forum gathers annually in Pasadena to reflect on a major topic each year. This year, we gathered to talk about being a marginal movement while truthfully being at the center of God’s plan for Israel. Messianic Jews are at the margins, but Yeshua is at the center, even though the larger Jewish community cannot yet see it.
The following is a summary of a paper by Rabbi Dr. Mark Kinzer, who spoke to use about praying the Siddur in Yeshua, letting Yeshua inform the Siddur and, at the same time, letting the Siddur shape our prayer in Yeshua. (NOTE: The Siddur is the Jewish book of prayer, which is very scriptural and very theological and rich.)
Rabbi Kinzer’s paper was long (31 pages) and very full of material. I will not even attempt to cover his entire explanation of praying the Siddur in Yeshua. I want to simply give a few examples and models.
The focus of the paper was the Shema. By giving examples of how we Messianic Jews can pray the Shema in Yeshua, Rabbi Kinzer has provided a model that we can adapt to the rest of the Siddur.
The Shema starts with Deuteronomy 6:4 and then continues with three paragraphs prayed straight out of the Torah: Deuteronomy 6:5-9, Deuteronomy 11:13-21, and Numbers 15:37-41.
The first paragraph begins with, “You shall love the Lord your God . . . with all your soul.” What does it mean, with all your soul? In the Mishnah, it says that this means “even if God takes away your soul” (i.e., death, Mishnah Berachot 9:5).
To love God with all your soul is to love him to the point of death, to be willing to die for the sake of his love.
As Messianic Jews, we can look at this high calling and others in the first paragraph of the Shema and say, “Only one Jew has fully lived out this calling.” Even other martyrs for God did not fully live out the call to love God with full heart, soul, and might. But we know one Jew who did, our Messiah, Yeshua.
He is the fulness of the Torah.
Therefore, as we pray the first part of the Shema, we can see that Yeshua has lived this out. We can also see that we are to be like him and our imperfect love is modeled after his perfect love.
I wish I could explain all of Rabbi Kinzer’s paper (but as I said, it’s long). Let me just say briefly that the second paragraph of the Shema, which is a warning of the consequences of disobedience (exile), is prayed in the plural form. We can pray it as though it comes from the mouth of Yeshua. We can pray it seeing Yeshua as the judge of Israel and also the one who entered exile with Israel to bring Israel out. Then, the third paragraph mentions the Exodus from Egypt, which is a forerunner of the redemption Messiah will bring. Thus, we can pray the third paragraph as those who practice Judaism and await Messiah’s redemption.
I doubt that in this short summary I can capture the essence of Rabbi Kinzer’s paper, but here are some final thoughts:
1. We pray as a community with Israel and also in the smaller subset of Messianic Jews (Israel’s remnant).
2. Yeshua is all through the Siddur when you understand who Yeshua is (Word of God, Messiah, fulness of Torah, life, light, etc.).
3. The New Testament uses the Psalms as a sort of Messianic book, which is a model for us to use the Siddur as a Messianic book.
4. Therefore, in Yeshua, our praying the Siddur is unique in all Judaism, and we may say that we are bringing out the full meaning of the Siddur by understanding it in light of the truth of who Messiah is.