My new job with MJTI is a bit of a blur at the moment. We are about to launch a web network that will have a tremendous amount of content. I am bringing together oodles of last-minute details to make it all happen. And that means scores of excellent articles and papers are passing me by, each one of them worthy of contemplation, but each one getting at the moment only passing consideration.
Here is an old thought from Stuart Dauermann, the Senior Scholar of MJTI, something he wrote way back in 2004 (does anyone even remember 2004?).
Commenting on Numbers 9:15-23, where the text repeats again and again that the Israelites followed the pillar of cloud whenever it directed them to move, Rabbi Dauermann points us to a deeper sense of commandedness:
What do you notice from this text about what it was like for the Jewish community to live with God in the wilderness on a day by day basis? Their relationship with God was based on responding to God’s intiatives, His commandments, His covenant. Their spirituality was about knowing the will of God and doing it—it was about learning to make His will their own will. It seems to me that this is why the text is so VERY redundant about who was taking the lead and who was following whom!
This passage has much to teach us about the difference between Messianic Judaism and Messianic Jewishism. Messianic Jewishism is about shtick—it is about adding Jewish decorations to our bodies, our homes, our services. You see Messianic Jewishism in too many congregations where the objects and practices of Jewish life are used inappropriately and on a whim, where following a sense of personal leading is approved of, but where following a Torah-based way of life may even be regarded with suspicion or hostility, and where just a little bit of Torah life is good, but any more is surely going overboard. In many cases, Messianic Jewishism even embodies a mindset that is fundamentally secular or pop-culture-religious, coating it over with a thin veneer of Jewish looking stuff. But such a road does not lead to the mindset, the heart-set, the life-set of our ancestors. How could this ever be what God has in mind for Messianic Judaism?
In contrast to Messianic Jewishism, Messianic Judaism is, will be, and indeed must be a religion that goes against the grain of our 21st Century, self-centered, individualistic perspective. We would rather call the shots, do our own thing, be free to do exactly as we please, answerable to no one, and above all, we want to minimize inconvenience to ourselves. And in our religious lives we tend to remain in the center, doing only what we “feel led” to do.
This is not the faith of our fathers—this is not the road to which Yeshua calls us.
It is crucial that we wrestle with this and resolve this issue deep in our hearts. Is our religion simply about getting God to do our bidding? Is it about Jewish shtick? Is it an elite religion that makes us feel special because we attend its services? Is it about “What I get out of it?” Is it about “Meeting my felt needs?” Is it simply about my feelings? Or shouldn’t it be more about responding to a God who is “out there” and has not been silent?