Boundaries, MJ, Jews & Gentiles

This weekend I had a rare and uncomfortable experience. I felt a need to protect a boundary at synagogue. In the process I had several congregants witness the event and had productive follow-up conversation with them.

The actual incident was relatively calm, no shouting, but the conversation was tense. It really doesn’t seem possible to protect a boundary at times without making people feel rejected, no matter how good your intentions may be in bringing up boundary issues or how careful you try to be in showing respect while being firm.

So why do it? Why not just live and let live and let everyone do as they please? Are there principles that transcend peaceful community and hospitality? Can a little conflict sometimes be called for?

Before I get into the exact boundary issue that came up, it would be instructive to describe my friends (congregants, we are a congregation of friends) who witnessed the event and with whom I discussed this at length afterwards. It was late on Shabbat, around 5 p.m. and only a few families were still hanging around. These three men are all people I know well and who represent our synagogue community well.

One is a Torah-keeping, knowledgeable non-Jew who never puts on airs, who respects Jewish identity, who does not dress frum, and who is clear in his interaction with people that he is not Jewish. He has become over the last year a close friend, a loyal friend, and is a teacher in our synagogue.

Another is a non-Jew with a Jewish wife who is Messianic. Their whole family is involved in leadership at the synagogue. He is a close friend, someone who shares a hobby with me (table-top wargames of the science fiction variety). He has a very Christian outlook, resisting some Jewish ideas, and is definitely an independent thinker. Yet he respects the diversity in our synagogue and in his own family. While disagreeing with some traditional aspects of Judaism, he is a mature person able to fit into a community without losing his independence.

The third observer of my boundary-keeping chutzpah yesterday is a very observant Jewish man who is Messianic. His family is one of the two or three most observant in the synagogue. The standards of the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council ( are actually relaxed and a bit liberal to him.

Now, after all that setup, what was the boundary issue I had to address yesterday?

Primarily, I was attuned to an individual who came wearing tzit-tzit (Jewish ritual fringes) on his clothing but no kippah (skullcap). He sported an Orthodox looking beard and the tzit-tzit had the blue cord (techelet).

I have been asked by other rabbis if I get visitors like this as often as they do. No, I do not. Maybe I exude some sort of “I am not a One Law advocate” pheromones that keep people like this away. Truly there is a congregation in our city that is exactly the place for non-Jewish, One Law, we-make-up-our-own-Judaism people. I suppose these types usually go there and don’t visit our synagogue.

Now, mind you, we do not exclude people who think in One Law ways from our synagogue. We have wonderful members of our community who think in a One Law sort of way. The issue is not ideology, but rather identity.

That is, these visitors yesterday would not have earned a boundary-keeping talk from the nervous rabbi (me) if it had not been for their crossing a boundary of identity. The person I talked to crossed two:

(1) He wears tzit-tzit in public with no kippah (I’ll explain this below).

(2) He is a non-Jew who dresses as a frum Jew (note: there is another type of clothing-style issue that we rarely encounter, but which Messianic rabbis call “biblical characters,” people who think MJ is about dressing like the first century — thank God we’ve almost never had to deal with this issue).

The principle is that some non-Jewish Torah-keepers would eradicate the Chosen People by defining Jewishness as irrelevant..

In case anyone thinks I am worrying about a non-existent problem, let me tell you: these gentlemen in the parking lot of the synagogue said it themselves. Here are a few examples of things they said as we debated the issue:

I didn’t say I was Jewish. God told me I was part of Israel.

When you are grafted into Israel by faith in Yeshua you are part of Israel. Haven’t you read Ephesians?

I don’t wear a kippah because that is man-made.

God said there is no longer Jew or Gentile and Gentile means pagan, so of course I am not a Gentile.

I am a descendant of Jacob. You don’t have to be Jewish to be from Jacob.

There can be no doubting God’s love both for Israel as the Chosen People and those from all nations as his children. But I do doubt, repudiate, oppose, and challenge any notion which erases God’s covenant blessing through Israel and which says it has ceased, is not presently operating, or has no future relevance.

This issue is of signal importance for MJ. Will we allow our synagogues to be filled with people who believe God does not keep his covenant with Jewish people? Will we allow this kind of replacement theology (Torah-keeping non-Jews replace Israel)?

Three Conversations from Three POV’s
My friend who is non-Jewish, Torah-observant, and respectful of Jewish identity had this to say:

At first I thought you were being a little hard on them. I thought maybe they thought like I do. But as the conversation unfolded, I saw you had them pegged accurately. They really were anti-Jewish.

What are some differences between our visitors and this friend? Well, for one thing, my friend wears his tzit-tzit privately, not publicly. He wears a kippah in worship, but not in public places. He is clear in conversation with people that he is not Jewish. His ahavat Yisrael (love of Israel) is evident in his lifestyle and in conversation.

My other friend, who is very Christian in outlook, but with a commitment to some of Torah (the parts found in the Bible), but whose wife is Jewish (and his children), has a different POV. He was puzzled and surprised by the distinction I had made:

I don’t get it. You let non-Jews in service wear the tallit (prayer shawl, which has fringes), but you have a problem with someone who wears fringes in public and is not Jewish. Also, you used to practice only the Torah that is written, but over the years you’ve incorporated rabbinic rulings. So you allow Jewish weirdness, but you exclude Gentile weirdness?

I responded that I allow the wearing of tallit because it is temporary and can also be seen as a worship custom. But wearing fringes all the time is a sign of Jewish identity. This didn’t satisfy my friend. He still thinks I am being inconsistent. That’s all right. My friends are free thinkers. May there be more such free thinkers in the world.

Finally, my observant Jewish friend, who is fairly new at our synagogue, weighed in with his opinion. He thanked me for challenging these visitors. It turns out he had already had a conflict with one of them earlier in the day when he tried to bring the issue up himself:

I was offended. Any observant Jew would be offended by someone not Jewish wearing tzit-tzit and dressing frum.

So, now, dear readers, Let’s discuss this issue (with civility, with respect if we disagree, and for the purpose of mutual learning). Is there a boundary which non-Jews should not cross? If so, where are its lines?

I have a few rabbi friends who draw the line much more sharply than I. No non-Jew can make an aliyah or wear a tallit. I can make a case for non-Jews being able to pray along with Jews about being chosen. I can make an argument for wearing tallit in worship, but not tzit-tzit in public.

But I want to hear from you.

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, Messianic Jewish, Messianic Judaism, Replacement Theology, Supersessionism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

60 Responses to Boundaries, MJ, Jews & Gentiles

  1. Rebecca says:

    Well, there is much to say about this topic, but I will paraphrase a quote from a conservative rabbi (who name escapes me at the moment), “I am less concerned about Gentiles who keep Torah [or dress frum] than I am about Jews who do not keep Torah.”

    It breaks my heart that this passover season there will be Messianic Jews who do not keep the first and seventh day of Unleavened bread. So, no, I’m not all that concerned about a gentile wearing tzit tzit.

  2. Rebecca:

    Interesting. In my area, I sometimes find the non-Jews are more zealous for keeping the Yom Tovs than those born into Jewish families. Sociologically there are many reasons we could surmise for this. One is that those who keep Torah by choice, not by birth, are often more zealous.

    OTOH, many came into MJ for reasons which require some maturing over time (Jewish customs are cool, now we get to practice all those things in the Bible Christianity ignores, etc.). Perhaps many who came into MJ for these reasons do not take commandedness seriously.

    But to be clear, since you raised the issue: a day of rest on the first and seventh day of Passover is commanded, not suggested.

    Having said that, the issue of non-Jews holding theologies that eradicate the continuing validity of the elect people of God (Israel) is too important to ignore.


  3. We decided to address these issues through education (classes and one-on-one), and we already have seen results – many Gentile visitors who were once adamantly One-Law have started to realize the importance of identity boundaries, or some simply left. Some (we had one British Israelism/Two-House regular – one who wore a huge tallis but refused to wear a kippa) were strongly confronted when found as actively spreading their views to other congregants – and no longer attend our synagogue. Once we find out about what opposite direction you want to steer the synagogue – we’ll come talk to you. If you are just visiting and agree to keep certain things to yourself and don’t get too weird – you’re welcome to come and worship with us.

    Also, being pro-rabbinic turns off many but the most hardiest of these types rather quickly. Having a strong focus on the Jewish community and and having an emphasis on being a welcoming place to Jewish relatives, friends, visitors and seekers above everyone else also helps to weed out those who have other agendas.

  4. Rebecca says:

    After re-reading your visitors comments – I see your point. There is a “set-apartedness” (is that a word?) for the Jewish people.

    As a gentile who is Torah observant (but not perfect) I find that I get a little defenseive when the subject of identity, and gentile observance, comes up. It seems like it’s always the non jewish frum that are accused of not knowing who they are.

    But then again, I’m just happy to be in the MJ community.

    • “It seems like it’s always the non jewish frum that are accused of not knowing who they are.”

      Don’t worry, we are equal opportunity accusers – we also “accuse” the Jewish “non-frums” of NOT knowing who they are:)

      BTW, the Yiddish word “frum”, historically speaking and to this day, only applied to those who bind themselves to follow all 613 commandments as interpreted within Orthodox Judaism’s halacha (as applicable to a particular individual, of course). So, anyone who DOES NOT live an Orthodox Jewish lifestyle (e.g. no turning on of lights or driving on Shabbat, washing hands when waking up, mikveh, among MANY other things) may call themselves “observant” or “traditional” (or as popular among some Messianics – “biblically observant”) but probably should not call themselves “frum”. Just thought I’d throw that in.

  5. jroush81 says:

    at our synagogue we are arrempting to…confront/head off/avoid these issues as best as possible through education.
    Thankfully it’s been a good long time since we’ve had any odd folks visit.

  6. izzy0209 says:

    Luckily, we don’t have to deal with this too much at our shul either. Usually its Christians who come agreeing that they are not Jewish but feel that Christians should stop observing Easter and Christmas, keep kosher, etc… They are quite often church burnouts, hurt and wounded.

    We did have a somewhat humorous incident a few years back. I was told that we had a family coming one Saturday where the husband was Jewish and the wife was Christian. A family showed up. After service, I greeted them. The husband was saying all these things about how Christmas shouldn’t be observed and such. I was really confused. About 10 minutes into the conversation, I realized that this wasn’t the couple that I had expected. This was a Christian couple who happened to show up that day. I politely but firmly pointed out that many of his stances on things may seem to be Jewish to him, but actually aren’t. For example, I pointed out that Judaism is very much concerned with tradition. Since Christians have developed a Christmas tradition, that there was nothing wrong with them celebrating this. They left and never came back.

  7. cjlid says:

    For those who do not know me, I’m friend #2.

    I was mostly surprised by the reaction to the tzit-tzit for many reasons, but mainly because I had not fully realized the lingering effects of shifts in MJ as a whole and our fellowship of believers. In view of MJ as “a Judaism”, I may not agree with a “gentle nudge” to go elsewhere for such an individual, but I do fully understand it.

    I can understand that the theology of our visitor could become disruptive if they made it a point to be so, but I am still having a hard time viewing the tzit-tzit as a problem. I don’t understand why tzit-tzit claim Jewish identity, but tzit-tzit + kippah does not, or perhaps it just doesn’t also make anti-rabbinic statements. Does making a commitment to follow any part of the Torah claim Jewish identity? Does keeping that one particular commandment claim Jewish Identity because Jewish people say so? It seems like there are already some commandments which God has set apart only for Jews, why add to the list?

    Scoot back to a bigger picture. I know many Gentiles, myself included, who live some part of the Torah out in our daily lives. For me it is not out of any sense of obligation from a “one law” or other similar theology, but more like a vow before the Lord, if you will. Are Gentiles not “allowed” to make such commitments without first consulting thousands of years of rabbinic debate to find out how? Some Gentiles honor the Sabbath/holy days, some keep kosher, you even host Seders at Churches every year. Where is the line?

    I guess for me, I comes down to a “bird in the hand” situation. We had a believer present who (definitely) needed some encouragement, and who would have either A) benefited greatly from your teaching, B) been rebuffed after a few weeks and left to find like-minded individuals, or C) become openly hostile, then “the boot”. Instead he was encouraged to attend elsewhere and be left to his own devices.

    • “C) become openly hostile, then “the boot””

      Why wait for the option “C” and risk causing harm to the congregation? If the individual in question, who is not Jewish but from the description seems to be even hostile to Jews (what’s the primary vision and focus of this congregation?) appears to be a problem waiting to explode from the get go, why not nip this in the bud and encourage him to go elsewhere (considering that there are plenty of alternative places, and Derek’s congregation is not the only game in town)?

  8. cjlid (otherwise known as friend #2):

    I’m answering some of your points here for the benefit of blog readers.

    One of the points you made: why not encourage these visitors to come back and hear more teaching, which perhaps might have helped them see things more my way? My answer: leadership is often about judgment calls and we err many times. My sense of these individuals is that they were die-hard in their One Law belief and choice of clothing-appearance style. If they attended, even for a few weeks, and if I had Jewish visitors I hoped to give a good impression of our community, I risked having these Jewish visitors instead see and/or meet these people who dress Jewish but are not. As it happens, I am expecting a relative of a member to visit soon. I’d rather they did not confuse us with people who confuse Jewish identity issues.

    Another of your points: why is tzit-tzit a big deal when there are other examples of non-Jews in MJ keeping Torah? The answer, which friend #1 understood well, is that wearing tzit-tzit is understood by the Jewish community as a badge of Jewish identity and also of Orthodox level observance. The visitor not only sported a frum-looking beard, but wore the tzit-tzit without a kippah. This communicates something very strange: an Orthodox Jew not wearing a kippah. It’s like a Christian who wears a cross but does not believe Jesus rose from the dead.

    Finally: many differences in belief can be incorporated into a community. As I indicated to our visitors: belief in the One Law idea is not a deal-killer for our synagogue. But lack of respect for the continuing role of the Jewish people as God’s elect people is a deal-killer. And showing outward signs of identity confusion is a big deal-killer.


    • judahgabriel says:

      Derek, from my perspective, you just booted a God-fearing, Messiah-loving, Torah-keeping gentile man because your theology says he shouldn’t keep certain parts of the Torah. Also, because you are embarrassed by him in front of your Jewish members.

      I, too, wear fringes, and rarely wear a kippah. Kal V’Khomer. And I encourage gentiles to take hold of God’s commandments, in fact, I think the great influx of gentiles into MJ is a work of God. Would you boot me, too?

      • I know that you’ve addressed this to Derek, but as a congregation leader within Messianic Judaism I would only ask you to leave if you continued (after being asked to stop) to PROMOTE theologies that we view as incompatible with Messianic Judaism, that are known cause conflict between our members or otherwise detrimental to our vision and purpose. Everything else can be accomplished through education and relationship building.

  9. cjlid says:

    “Why wait for the option “C” and risk causing harm to the congregation?”
    Because he is an individual as well. Because he at least claims to be seeking to serve the Lord and can use patience and gentle correction.

    I don’t mean this to be as inciting as it might sound, but it’s almost like saying, “I believe your theology is errant and harmful to yourself and others, but what I’d like you is go here with similar wack-minded folk who will help you stay as you are, so that you don’t interfere with my ministering to any “real jews” who might show up.” I don’t mean to make anyone angry with that statement, and I may be being unfair, but really consider the implications.

    “(what’s the primary vision and focus of this congregation?)”
    The first MJ congregation I explored claimed that MJ existed only as a mission to the Jewish people; I left there. At first HOD was “a place for Jews and Gentiles to worship together”, and I stayed and have made the best friends I have yet found. Now with the Rabbinic Council and (the currently named)TD, MJ is “a Judaism” as I said in my earlier post, I do understand the decision in light of that information. I am just trying to understand the implications and find my place in a changing world.

    About tzit-tzit
    So basically, yes, that particular commandment stands out above others because the Jewish people believe it does. I can accept that as an answer even if I don’t understand it. Would you have accepted him if he also had a kippah, though?

    About identity confusion
    You may remember that, soon after I began attending HOD, I bought a kippah and a tallit. To the uninitiated it just seemed like “what you do here”. Later as I digested the idea, I kept the tallit to pay respects to God’s commandments, but dropped the kippah, ironically, because I didn’t want to appear to claim a Jewish identity. Later, I stopped wearing the tallit for the same reason. I do not wish to appear to make a commitment before God that I haven’t.

    • cjlid, I know this has been a bit of a confusing ride for you and for many others. I believe a lot of confusion and disappointment people experience within Messianic Judaism stems from the chronically schizophrenic nature of Messianic Jewish movement and it’s inability to clearly express and focus on its vision and goals. Many people, specifically our non-Jewish friends, are left disillusioned about the direction of MJ and their role within it. I think Rabbi Stuart Dauermann described this well in his article found at this link:

  10. cjlid says:

    Thanks for the article Gene. Honestly Dauermann describes the sort of congregation that I fear. The mission statement, “A family-friendly community of Jews and Intermarrieds” by definition excludes Gentiles, and while he says that he welcomes Gentiles who will aid in their work, it seems he’s also concerned too many will show up. You have to admit that it’s a far cry from “a place for Jews and Gentiles to worship together” with the walls(which should never have been built) down.

    • cjlid, I don’t believe that Gentiles should be Judaized they way they have been in Messianic Judaism thus far. This has caused much confusion and pain for everyone in the movement, and much division. Messianic Jewish movement’s goal has never been to create a place that fits everyone needs, but to specifically be a place / spiritual home where Jewish followers of Yeshua can follow their Messiah in a covenant-faithful ways as Jews.

    • judahgabriel says:

      >> Thanks for the article Gene. Honestly Dauermann describes the sort of congregation that I fear.

      You’re not alone.

      I think it stems from different visions for Messianic Judaism. One group sees MJ as Jews believing in Jesus. Another group believes Messianic Judaism is a work of God among both Jews and gentiles, even an extension of the Reformation.

      I’ve made it no secret I side with the latter view.

  11. mjgot says:

    I often think about the boundaries of non-Jews in the Messianic community, whether home or synagogue. I am not Jewish (my husband is) but keep a kosher home, pray from the siddur daily and have kept Jewish holidays for many years. I have been told by Jewish friends and family that I am “more Jewish than they are”. Although I’m sure these comments were meant as complements they always leave me feeling a bit uneasy as I’ve never converted (because I will not hide or deny my faith in Yeshua). At the same time I have often been welcomed/accepted in the Jewish community and have never been told I don’t belong. I would like to learn more about boundaries. I have more questions than answers.

    • “At the same time I have often been welcomed/accepted in the Jewish community and have never been told I don’t belong.”

      Jewish community is welcoming of all visitors, but of course most mainstream synagogues, unlike Messianic Jewish ones, do not have 90% Gentile membership – so to them, Gentile visitors do not represent any significant demographic challenge. Many traditional synagogues will not accept Gentile spouses as official members (Reform congregations are another matter), and those who do allow membership will not allow full participation. Regardless, you can be assured that if you openly proclaimed yourself as a follower of Yeshua, you will not be either accepted or welcomed, even if your were Jewish (in most cases, although they have been exceptions that prove the rule).

  12. JudahGabriel:

    In the first place, your attitude is nothing like these guys. By the way, you may know one of them (I’ll tell you why if you email me).

    In the second place, you’ve been completely empowered and encouraged in your congregation to do as you do. You’ve not been in a community in which, growing together, you might learn some other perspectives. I wonder if your community has a strong desire to be in the Jewish community and to represent Messiah to Jewish people who may come (I do not know the answer, but the largely non-Jewish, tzit-tzit wearing congregation in our town is not a place reaching out to the Jewish community and meets in very non-Jewish area).

    In the third place, “the boot” is rather strong for suggesting that some very strong One Law, make-up-our-own-Judaism-and-reject-the-rabbis, I’m-an-Israelite-but-not-a-Jew type people would find a better home at another congregation which thinks exactly like they do.

    Finally, who knows what opinions of yours might change if you were in our community, Judah? And you are Jewish (but no kippah? why wear tzit-tzit then?).


    • judahgabriel says:

      Why do I not regularly wear a kippah, you ask? Because the sources for wearing a kippah is not Scripture; it doesn’t carry the same weight as a commandment from the lips of God. (And even in the Talmud, head coverings are not required, except during prayer.)

      Contrast this with fringes, which is a commandment from the lips of God.

      With apologies to greater Judaism, it is unwise to consider good rabbinic rulings and practices as binding on the same level as God’s own instruction.

  13. JudahGabriel:

    About your second comment, that MJ is seen either as (a) Jews who believe in Jesus or (b) an extension of the Reformation for Jews and Gentiles…you side with (b).

    How about I tweak that and point out that I agree in principle with much of what you are saying. It is a Reformation.

    For Jews, the Reformation part is a better understanding of grace and law, Paul, the Jewish identity of Messiah, and the myth of a boundary between Judaism and Christianity. Messianic Judaism shows that Jewish life and Jesus go together seamlessly.

    For Gentiles, the Reformation is not becoming Torah-followers and Sabbath-keepers. It is in rejecting all forms of supersessionism (replacement), recognizing Israel’s continuing role as the people of God, a better understanding of grace and law (in the New Perspective on Paul), and reconciling the Church with the Jewish people after a long enmity.

    What say you?


    • judahgabriel says:

      >> For Gentiles, the Reformation is not becoming Torah-followers and Sabbath-keepers.

      That’s where you and I part ways.

      This Torah-lifestyle, these gentile folks keeping God’s commandments and living a holy lifestyle; it’s God’s doing, a modern-day act of God, and I praise Him for it.

      All those Messianic gentiles, those Messiah-fearing, Israel-loving folks (for example, most of First Fruits of Zion and their readership) are gentiles drawn to the Torah lifestyle. I bet a good deal of your gentile congregants are drawn to the Torah lifestyle, too. And even you, Derek, you were drawn out of Christianity and towards a Torah lifestyle. How is it that you now oppose the people who have made the same journey as you? The reformation that took place in you and brought you to where you are today is the thing you are now calling “not a reformation”.

  14. JudahGabriel:

    Here is why I do not find your rationale on no kippah but tzit-tzit: those who remove themselves from the customs and practices of the wider community in such an explicit manner (you are sort of protesting what you regard as faulty halakha) are guilty of a worse transgression than those who do not wear tzit-tzit at all.

    Here is my reasoning: we don’t have four-cornered garments to put fringes on. It was a commandment suited to the times, but not suited to the present time. Thus, the more liberal custom of a prayer shawl during prayer and worship makes a lot of sense (it depends on whether you think God intended Torah to adapt to changing situations or not).

    But, amongst the community that takes the commandment to wear tzit-tzit as timeless, the universal custom is to cover the head. So, you are separating yourself from the universal custom of those who interpret Torah strictly and with little change. You are ignoring the judges of Israel (see Deut 16:18 and 17:8 and following).

    What you are doing is what I have heard called by a respected mutual friend of yours and mine “silly, self-defined Torah observance.”

    What say you now?

    BTW, you know I love you, right?


    • judahgabriel says:

      Derek, this will be my last post on kippah-wearing, since I don’t want to hijack your thread.

      I said I do not regularly wear kippahs, because it does not hold the same weight as God’s instructions. (Note I did not advise against; I have worn a kippah in the past, I just don’t put the same weight on it as instructions from the Torah.)

      I realize the self-defined Torah observance can get silly and out of touch with the Jewish world.

      At the same time, we all must make judgment calls on how to observe God’s commandments. Even you do this, as you deem wearing a prayer shawl during prayer as a sufficient implementation of the commandment to “wear tassels on your garment so you will remember all the commands of the LORD”. That isn’t “silly, self-defined Torah observance”, it’s people earnestly trying to honor God by keeping his commandments the best way they know how.

  15. JudahGabriel:

    You objected saying basically, “Don’t you approve of the attraction some Gentiles have to Torah lifestyle.”

    My response: I do if non-Jews drawn to Torah do so for good reasons and from a clear identity and theology of Torah.

    There are many wrong reasons for a non-Jew to be drawn to Torah. I will list a few: “The church is pagan and Torah living is the way to get out of Babylon.” “I am inadequate before God and must become kosher through Torah living so he will accept me.” “I know I am saved, but God will love me more if I keep Sabbath and quit eating pork.” “I am an Israelite, though not a Jew.” “I am grafted in and that means I am part of Israel as much or more than those born Jewish.”

    I think there are right reasons to be drawn to Torah. Intermarriage. A delight in Israel, Jewish life, and a connection with Jewish people that would likely lead to conversion in a Messianic context (that is my reason). A desire to be part of what God is doing amongst the Jewish people and to participate without converting, but with a clear sense of identity (sojourners).

    There are reasons which I feel cautious in accepting, but which I think may be valid. I am still thinking these through: “We will keep Torah in the Age to Come, so why not practice it now.” “I’ve been keeping Torah for years, I don’t want to convert, but I don’t want to leave the life I love.” “All my friendships are here and this is the life I know.”


    • judahgabriel says:

      Yeah, I’ve heard Dauermann’s talk on this before. You’re a good student.

      Your statement could be rephrased to, “I rejoice over what God is doing with gentiles in regards to living a holy life through God’s commandments. Except when they have bad theology as I deem it.”

      One problem is, you would exclude your younger self! Think about it. Derek Leman started, at first, because he assumed Jews were going to hell if they didn’t become Christians. That’s not a good reason to become involved in Israel, Jews, and Torah life.

      >> A desire to be part of what God is doing amongst the Jewish people

      Right, that’s our difference. I see God drawing Jews and gentiles in a restoration of both. You see gentiles being drawn to what God’s doing with Jews.

    • cjlid says:

      How about the Gentile Christian who seeks to know God better by studying his works and living out his Torah? In which category would you place such a believer? It doesn’t seem like there’s a place for such and individual in Dauermann’s congregation (just going by the article linked earlier), and that’s my fear for the future growth of MJ.

  16. wordmachine says:

    Shouldn’t we just let people be where they are in their walk with Yeshua? I’m not saying I’m right or wrong, I’m just saying should we do that or shouldn’t we? I have never seen someone with any life problems (drugs, alcohol,etc) be rejected from a Christian church, why would anyone in MJ want to reject someone from the synagogue if they don’t fully understand about MJ? I’m reminded of Romans 10:12 every time the issues of Jewish and Gentile differences come up in my life. Am I reading the verse right to mean it doesn’t matter if we are Jewish or Gentile to Yeshua, or is there some other meaning I’m not understanding? Sorry if I’m sounding critical here. I’m just saying what comes to my mind.

  17. mjgot says:

    Isn’t it Messianic “Judaism”. I always thought so. As I said before, I’m not sure where all the boundaries are but this I know, “The Torah Moses commanded us (Am Israel as they are about to enter Eretz Israel)is the heritage of the Congregation of Jacob” Dt. 33:4. As non-Jews who trust fully in Messiah Yeshua we have a glorious heritage of our own, but it shouldn’t be confused with Israel’s. I would agree with Stuart Dauerman and Daniel Juster on these issues.

  18. judeoxian says:

    Derek, if the guy was dressing frum (besides the kippah), then you were right in what you did. I don’t know how confrontational you were, but I would have definitely challenged him and let him know that your community likely isn’t the place for him if he’s going to insist on his confused ways.

    Don’t get me wrong, we are all brothers in Messiah, but Gentiles need to realize there are certain things you don’t do. There are things that offend Jews. If we are operating with the principle of brotherly love, Gentiles must be sensitive to Jewish norms. Sure, it may be cultural, but that doesn’t make it unimportant.

    Wearing exposed tzizit with techelet tells Jews you are Chassidic, or at least Orthodox, (besides religious garb). Not wearing a kippah or headcovering says you aren’t humble before God and don’t care for the people of Israel or their traditions (if they think you’re Jewish). Rabbinic Judaism isn’t just a denomination of Judaism, it has been the ONLY Judaism for almost 2000 years.

  19. Rebecca says:

    I think you’re all right, but I think you’re all wrong as well. I’m trying to imagine what Yeshua would have said to this young man. I expect he would have gone straight to the root of the issue. What is that root? I don’t know.

    To be sure, only Derek and his friends know what vibe this man was putting out there. It’s always hard to confront people on these types of issues and we need to do so in love and respect (which is why I object to the use of words like “weird” and “odd”). This man is not weird. He is a brother in Messiah, and he’ll figure it out.

  20. cjlid:

    I never said I agreed with my good friend and mentor, Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, on the issue of roles of non-Jews in Messianic synagogues. The list of reasons for non-Jews to be in MJ which I listed are certainly broader than Rabbi D would approve of.


  21. mbell6285 says:

    Historically, the Christian Church appropriated the Hebrew Bible for itself while rejecting the large bulk of Jewish tradition AND the large bulk of the Torah as it contains instructions for living.

    I think that One Law Christianity (if I can mix a bunch of terms together) is an attempt to piece together what Christianity might have looked like if it had appropriated the Hebrew Bible for itself without rejecting the enduring applicability of the Torah, while still rejecting the large bulk of Jewish tradition. In this sense, it stops being related to Judaism in the 1st-Century, but it is bound to have some resemblance because of its common commitment to the written Torah.

    It is an imperfect replica of what possibly could have been parallel branch of Chrisitanity (which was, of course, at its beginning, a Judaism). I think that this is how many see it, and the reason why many One Law congregations do not have Jewish evangelism as their first priority. They don’t see themselves as being in continuity with the Rabbinic Judaism of the last 2000 years and by extension the Judaisms of today, but with a lost form of Christianity that died out centuries ago.

    But as you are aware, its actual relationship to Jewish tradition is somewhat confused, and I believe there are several reasons for this.

    1.) It did not actually grow up alongside Judaism and form its own tradition. Instead, most gentiles in the One-Law movement came to it through some form of Messianic Judaism which had different goals altogether. They are indebted to Jewish tradition for suggesting to them, in some respect, that the Torah was a good thing to keep. As a result, there is a lot of cross-pollination with the broader Messianic movement.

    2.) Since it has no history, no tradition, and no peculiarly Christian form of expression, and since the attempt to practice a Biblical lifestyle apart from any governing tradition has run up against the same problems as Protestantism in general, the One Law movement has had no choice but to selectively appropriate Jewish tradition in order to inform their law observance.

    3.) Having rejected the authority of the Rabbis to do anything more than advise practice (rather than dictate it), the One Law Movement is left with the awkward and perhaps impossible task of trying to reconstruct which elements of the oral tradition Jesus himself adhered to, while at the same time affirming the “scripture alone” principle of the reformation.

    I think that it is for this reason that a lot of people in Messianic Judaism and Judaism in general look at One Law folks and can’t quite wrap their minds around what they are doing. It’s very confusing from the outside. Heck, it’s confusing from the inside, but if you look at it from a Protestant Christian perspective – that is, if you apply Protestant ideologies to a pro-Torah theology – it is very easy to see how you can come up with One Law.

    I think the important thing to draw from what I am saying is these people you are talking with aren’t even operating with the same categories that you are. Don’t assume that if someone is dressing frum that they are thinking about Jewish identity. As strange as it sounds, it may not even be on the map for them. Not very long ago, I would have fit the physical description of your visitors fairly well, with only a few distinctions (no beard, for instance), and if you had come up to me and told me that I was destroying Jewish identity of advocating supercessionism, I would have looked at you like you had three heads.

    There are exceptions to everything I am saying, but this has been my experience with the movement.

    I don’t have much else to say, but I think that you need to spend some more time getting to know an understand One Law folk (a difficult task because they are admittedly very diverse), or else you will simply end up talking past each other. Stop seeing them as a thorn in the side of Messianic Judaism that you wish would go away and acknowledge their right to exist and their reasons for doing what they do. If you treat them like crazies, then you won’t cause them to change. You’ll just end up with a group of embittered, disenfranchised opponents with increasingly less respect for what you are trying to do.

    That’s all I have for now.

  22. mbell6285:

    Very insightful comments. One thing though: these guys definitely think they are Israelites though not born Jewish. So there is a strong replacement (Two House) element.

    • mbell6285 says:

      I haven’t had a whole lot of experience with Two House theology, but from what I understand, it is in many ways the opposite of replacement theology. In other words, two house advocates seem to believe that they are, in fact, legitimately (not merely spiritually), descendants of the lost tribes of Israel, and that their feeling being drawn to Torah is evidence of this lost lineage. Whether they apply that identification to all Christians seems to vary. Now, leaving aside the fact that they’re probably wrong about claiming that lineage, they believe that their “Israelitism” is supposed to coexist alongside “Judaism.” Hence “Two Houses.” Is this a correct assessment?

      So they don’t see themselves as replacing Israel, but rather that they are actually Israel. And they don’t see themselves replacing Judaism, but rather existing alongside Judaism as two parts to a whole. This is what I hear when you say “Two house.” Moreover, I wouldn’t characterize them as “One Law” either since they don’t believe that Gentiles are obligated to obey Torah. Only Israelites.

      What I gathered from your description is that your visitors made a lot out of the “grafted in” language, which would suggest not two houses, but rather one house of Israel, made up of Jews and Gentiles who have been adopted into the family of God. This is more typical of One Law theology. And I still don’t think that this is replacement theology either. Replacement theology claims that God has adopted Gentile Christians INSTEAD of the Jews to be his chosen people. This theology says that God has accepted them into the fold of his chosen people. The question then becomes how much distinction you make within this body in terms of identity and practice, and I think that I’ve gotten a feel for your views on the issue. But I think you may want to chose different terminology because this isn’t what has traditionally been termed replacement theology OR Two House.

  23. Vanessa says:

    This sort of thing gets my head spinning because I can understand where Derek was coming from – sort of a protective vibe toward his congregation, is the sense I get. I also relate to friend #2 & #3!

    I suppose another element is that, if I were a visitor at a new congregation I’d probably do my best to respect the leaders coming to me with a word of guidance or even rebuke – out of respect even if I did not decide to adopt their point of view.

    I relate to your friends confusion over the particulars about why this false-appearance of Jewishness was unacceptable. I’m also a bit confused as to the “why” in all of that – are we picking and choosing Halacha? Are we rejecting those who have not reached our precise understanding of Jewish identity and Torah practice?

    Hmmm…. I also sense a sort of dilemma in turning them away… to go off to other misguided fellowships!? Is it better to let them realize it’s not the place for them – but leave the possibility of them realizing their error while among you ( but potentially hurt the people God’s already planted in the community?) or should you “weed them out” yourself as best you can. I don’t know, mostly because I wasn’t there in person to scope things out.

    Well in the end, I think my ideas are sort of mash-ups of others that I read in the thread! Except maybe this one:
    Part of this sort of situation, is walking in the Spirit. We have to do our best to listen to the Lord’s Spirit and do as the Lord leads. I don’t believe that will always be the “nice, polite, unobtrusive, inoffensive” route, sometimes things will simply be messy & challenging, causing us to think through what happened or what to do next time. That’s a good thing!

    I also trust that God can handle guiding this person (and others) to the Truth if that is what they are seeking in their hearts. It took me a while just to “get” the truth of Yeshua’s lordship, and I had some weird ideas about God along the way… but I was a seeker at heart and I continued on, through other fellowships, texts, perspectives on the bible. We who are growing, are not static or stagnant… ideally we’re ever growing, ever changing to be more like our Messiah.

  24. MBell6285:

    Supersessionism (replacement theology) has many forms. I have blogged extensively about it and have recommended that everyone read R. Kendall Soulen’s The God of Israel and Christian Theology. You will thank me if you get the book and it will most likely become one of your top ten favorites.

    The root idea of supersessionism is that in some way the advent of Jesus Christ works against the free and irrevocable election of Israel as the revelatory people of God.

    One Law works against this by saying that God’s covenant from Sinai was for the whole world, not Israel.

    Two House works against this by saying identity as a descendant of Jacob is something we can claim for ourselves apart from actual birth or conversion into the family of Israel (having Jesus can make me an Israelite, is what they think).


    • judahgabriel says:


      Derek, God bless him, has a distorted view of 2 House. The focus for many 2 house folks, myself included, is that gentiles are part of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph 2), and that Ezekiel 37 is a future event. I encourage you to read up on moderate 2 House views: see

      Derek and others wish to sling mud on us, guilt-by-association, by claiming it’s replacement theology. The reality is, no one has replaced Jews as Israel. Jews are the only identifiable Israelites today.

      And while Derek slams 2 House because “anyone can claim identity as an Israelite”, he omits the information that his own beliefs, which allow for gentile conversions to Judaism, allow for the very same thing: anyone who converts can become an Israelite.

  25. JudahGabriel:

    I don’t want to distort or misrepresent. So, are you saying that in the moderate version of Two House, there is an idea that only Jewish people are verifiably Israel? Do you mean that moderate Two House people have some uncertainty about whether they descend from Jacob? That is interesting.

    If there is uncertainty, why not make it certain by converting?

    The difference between conversion and “God told me I’m an Israelite” (which is what I have heard from Two House people) is that conversion is a Jewish institution and involves a person being accepted by Jewish people into the tribe.

    Now maybe I am still misunderstanding your version of Two House. Maybe you are saying, “We believe non-Jews become Israelites through faith in Yeshua, not that they literally descended from the lost tribes.”

    I’m confused. Help.


    • judahgabriel says:


      In a sentence, the Two-House community holds to the idea that God has only one group of elect: the Commonwealth of Israel.

      This might help clarify what the moderate 2 House position is:

      What is Two House?

      Also, Have the Two Sticks Been Reunited?

      >> why not make it certain by converting?

      My father’s Jewish (now certified by Orthodox rabbis!), so I feel no need to convert. For others, I would suggest that, among other reasons, Paul’s warnings against conversion in Galatians are enough to shy them away from doing so.

    • mbell6285 says:

      Now this is interesting, because neither Derek’s nor Judah’s definition of Two House is what I have understood it to be (and yes, I have met some, just not very many). I understand that there are different degrees, but to me what Judah is calling a “moderate” two house view sounds like something actually very different in category than what you would perhaps call “extreme” two house views. It comes down to how you interpret Paul’s theology primarily. When Paul speaks of the commonwealth of Israel, for instance, does he mean to distinguish between Israel and Judah, or is Israel the larger entity of which Jews are a subset? In the latter view, Gentiles are grafted into a body that includes the Jews. In the former view, Gentiles are identified only with the tribes of Israel, a separate entity perhaps only to be unified at a later date. The latter view doesn’t deny the fact that the two houses have not been united, but simply says that this is not the distinction that Paul has in mind when he says “Israel.” These are very different views both claiming to be Two House.

      I’m with Derek on this one. That is to say: I’m confused.

      • judahgabriel says:

        Mbell, I posted an answer to Derek’s question about what Two House people really believe. Unfortunately, it hasn’t got past moderation. Either Derek hasn’t seen it yet, or he didn’t like it! :-)

  26. kempoka8h says:

    Yup. I’m confuzzled…


  27. Ovadia says:


    I’m really glad that somewhere a Messianic Jewish leader actually had the courage to do something like this. I think as much as the action may be seen as exclusionary, the alternative, fomenting inconsistency on foundational issues within your congregation, does not turn out well (come check out the Dallas Messianic scene sometime).

    I would probably align myself more with your rabbi friends about non-Jews wearing a tallit and making an aliyah, but can compromise on those. My main concern is with acts which indicate Gentile obligation to Torah: b’rachot that include “v’tzivanu al-…”, counting non-Jews to a minyan for something to which they aren’t obligated, etc.

    • judahgabriel says:

      I hope Derek’s blog readers pay close attention to what is being said above: Ovadia is arguing that Messianic gentiles must not speak many of the blessings of Judaism (for example, the blessing before a meal, the blessing during the shabbat candle lighting, the blessing when putting on fringes, etc.) Why? Because they make reference to God who has “sanctified us with His commandments”.

      Also, Ovadia is arguing that Messianic gentiles must not be counted to a prayer group, etc., in Messianic synagogues.

      The unspoken argument, here, is this: if you are a proselyte, if you converted to Judaism, like Derek and Ovadia, then Torah is good; only then you’re approved. Has God drawn you to the Torah lifestyle? Too bad, you’ll have to restrict yourself until you convert.

      • judahgabriel says:

        Or rather, because they reference “God, who has sanctified us with the commandments…and commanded us to…”.

      • Ovadia says:


        My underlying unspoken argument is that Gentiles are not obligated to Torah in the same way as Jews. Galatians 5:3 comes to mind: conversion to Judaism obligates proselytes to Torah in a way they previously were not.

        So… Gentiles should not say/do things that imply an obligation that is not there. Whether that’s saying blessings that include “v’tzivanu” (especially for Rabbinically-ordained commandments like Shabbat/Hanukkah candles), being counted to a minyan (only those obligated to do something count to the minyan for that thing), dispatching someone’s obligation for them by proxy, etc. etc. etc.

      • judahgabriel says:


        Don’t you think there’s something to be said of those gentiles that attach themselves to Israel? So many do precisely that, following God’s lead in their life, and yet are shunned and shooed.

  28. JudahGabriel:

    Shunning and shooing is only in extreme cases. I’ve done almost no shunning and shooing in ten years. As I’ve made clear, these people showed on the outside a disdain for Jewish election as the people of God. They confirmed verbally that they do not believe Jewish birth has any meaning.


  29. K. For the record im a Messianic newborn. I live in MI, and have never attended a MJ service, tho I view some online. I recently found one in Bay City MI, which I will probably attend. Thing is, Im not a Jew. And Im sorta confused in my role as it related to dress, keeping of the Torah etc. I am well versed in Christian theology, but honestly, much of this discussion is pretty deep for me. I guess I need more of a “handbook for gentiles”.. Mike

    • judahgabriel says:

      >> I guess I need more of a “handbook for gentiles”

      William Buckley once said, “I’d rather be governed by the first hundred names in the phone book than by a hundred Harvard professors.”

      The same holds true for religion, IMO. Our best theologians and thinkers are often so deep into details and minutia and politics and alliances, they often miss major thrusts of Scripture.

      My advice, Mike, is this: read the Word yourself. Love God, love your neighbor, fulfilling God’s commandments, and don’t sweat the nitpicking naysayers and the religious leaders, Messianic or otherwise.

  30. Troublemaker:

    You might not realize it from Judah’s wording, but he and I actually like each other. It’s just that his biggest disagreement with me is in this area.

    My advice, FWIW: no need to start dressing like an Orthodox Jew. In fact, even if you decide you want to become a Torah-observant person, you should not start practicing things you don’t understand. I see no reason for you to wear fringes. If you ever decide to (I don’t and don’t even plan to after I convert–because I interpret Torah differently), you would need to understand what it represents both in the Torah and to Jewish people today.

    I have seen people wear yarmulkes into non-kosher restaurants out of ignorance. No need to get yourself in such a spot. Wearing a yarmulke in public marks you as an Orthodox or traditional Jew, as does wearing tzit-tzit.

    Meanwhile, as I have written on here many times, non-Jews do not need to come into MJ. There is nothing wrong with Christianity. It is possible to learn and appreciate Torah from within the church. I don’t know your reasons, and they may be quite good ones, but I wanted to make sure you hear this from someone. If you have heard the “MJ is better than Christianity” line, don’t believe it.

    Derek Leman

    • judahgabriel says:

      If there is nothing wrong with Christianity, then Messianic Judaism has no reason for existence.

      The Messianic movement lifts up God’s commandments, instead of deprecating them. (Dayenu!)

    • judahgabriel says:

      All that said, I only warned newbie Mike against seeking approval of religious leaders. I didn’t suggest he sport a yarmulke into his local McDonalds.

      Hope you had a good Passover, Derek.

  31. Judah:

    I know you did not encourage him to wear a yarmulke to McDonalds. And you would not do that. Sorry if I gave that impression.

    But when you say MJ has no reason for existence if the church is right, this is because you think MJ is the reformation of the church. I think it is the revival of Israel in Yeshua with many non-Jews called to be part of it. I think the church exists alongside MJ as the default community for non-Jews in Messiah.

    Yes, churches need to come out of supersessionism and unworthy views of the Hebrew Bible.

    No, as you know, I do not think churches need to start keeping Sabbath and dietary law.

    Derek Leman

  32. I guess when I ask myself WWJD.. I picture him studying Torah and keeping the dietary laws, etc. etc. So I wonder what he expected of the gentiles he taught. I am not totally ignorant of Jewish culture, having read Twerski and Telushkin among other works trying to understand who Jesus really was. I wouldn’t wear a yarmulke because im not Jewish, im not trying to change what I am. I don’t own fringes either. But I have been keeping up with weekly Torah portions and dietary laws best I can. And I enjoy it! I just do not want to do anything inappropriate. I cant find a church that does not believe in replacement theory, which is why im here. Ignorance is no excuse for breaking our civil laws.. why would God’s law be any different?

  33. seeker says:

    I find this post really interesting. I do not understand the ins and outs of the issue you raised but would like to explain my standpoint. I am not Jewish as far as I have knowledge. I am of African origin living in the UK and last year started to congregate with a MJ brother in our home. Even though we no longer meet with our brother, we (husband and I) try to follow torah commandments as much as we can including sabbath feasts. He wants to wear fringes out of love for our Jewish brothers and sisters and out of love for YAH. Is this bad????

    Also, I have another point. Many of the MJ congregations in the UK seem to be focused towards Jews only, this is definitely exclusionary. But the change in our lifestyle has caused many of our friends to label us as ‘Jews’. My husband and I went to shop for food for Pesach and a Jewish boy looked at us like ‘how can YOU be observing Passover?’

    I understand about wanting to preserve cultural identity, but correct me if I am wrong. Didn’t YHVH give the commandments to Israel and not just Judah? I fully understand and respect that since the dispersion of Israel that Jews have been the protectors of Hebrew heritage. But I do think that instead of divisions within the body of Messiah there has to be more communication, love, acceptance and understanding. After all it is not a Jew & Gentile thing.

    I feel that it is wrong to exclude Gentile believers on the basis of blood heritage and to make them convert to ‘Judaism’. The only conversion that needs to take place is in the heart and that happens through the workings of the spirit alone.

    I may be frowned down upon because of what I’ve said but I actually don’t care. Many Gentiles who love Israel and love the Jwish people are made to feel unimportant by those who are supposed to be leading them. This is very wrong.


  34. Pingback: The Messianic Movement: A Western Subculture ? - Page 5 - Christian Forums

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