Recently I had online “opponents” from OJ (Anonymous and Meir) comment on the blog and one even saw me while shopping at the local kosher Kroger. I welcome their part in this discussion (my caveat is that they don’t write 500 word plus rebuttals or get nasty — I define what nasty is, by the way, on my blog).
This experience got me thinking: there are plenty of reasons why Orthodox Jews (OJ’s) should consider Yeshua. And I mean this to be a positive approach to the discussion, not a free-for-all-let’s-insult-OJ type of post. I think the discussion may grow and this may be a multipart series (hence the number 1 in the title).
Separatist Christians and Jews have a lot in common. By separatist I mean those Christian and Jewish groups who form exclusive communities with narrowly defined membership requirements. Some Orthodox (like Anonymous and Meir) belong, perhaps, to the separatist category. But let me assert again, that their insecurities are not indicative of the entire OJ spectrum.
But the first thing I should like to say about Yeshua and OJ is that the separatist variety cannot honestly evaluate the identity and claims of Yeshua. There is a wall a mile thick keeping this kind of OJ from truly considering him. A separatist’s entire self-identity is wrapped up in maintaining the Club Rules. Even a slight divergence will put one at risk for eviction from the Club.
Christians understand this. If you say at church that you think God’s love might reach down and save people out of hell, you may be asked to leave (or at least not to teach the kids’ Sunday School anymore).
Jews understand this. If you try writing with a pen or pencil on the Sabbath, you will be warned and maybe asked to leave the synagogue (a real case recently blogged about on a popular Reform blogger’s site).
OJ’s of the separatist variety have a lot to live up to. To think that an OJ in this kind of community could admit something like, “The Christian doctrine of the Trinity really has a lot in common with kabbalistic notions of the emanations” is a real stretch.
It is this “stay-in-the-Club” mentality that may from the outset make this series of posts an unheard voice in the blogosphere wilderness or a lightning rod for Clubbers seeking to enhance their status with knee-jerk reactions.
But, darnit, the Christian conception of Yeshua’s identity is all over the pages of the Hebrew Bible. And the comments of sages and medieval commentators often remind us MJ’s (Messianic Jews) of our own beliefs (not to mention some of the ideas of the kabbalists and mystics).
That brings me to reason #1 why Orthodox Jews should believe in Yeshua. Of course, I do not mean this principle to be in and of itself a proof, but I do wish to suggest that it is a principle consistent with OJ: The Holy One desires to and does walk with us and it is totally believable that he did walk with us for a time 2,000 years ago and that his Presence remains with us in a concentrated form after that time of deep revelation.
For this first posting, I will simply clarify what I mean and leave other principles for future posts:
(1) The Eternal did not create directly but through his Word (“and God said”) which has a long tradition in Jewish literature, including the Targumim, of being recognized as an emanation of Divine Being.
(2) The Spirit of God hovered over the deep at that time, indicating the great desire of the Infinite One to give life to and love his creation and his creatures.
(3) The Ineffable One was able to place his image in people, suggesting that humanity and the Divine Nature are compatible.
(4) God’s Wisdom was here at the beginning too and all creation is endued with it.
(5) The Living God walked in the Garden and this could be explained a number of ways, but one of them is that a person radiating from the Ein Sof walked bodily.
(6) The same Holy One walked with Enoch, Noah, and Abraham, and even wrestled with Jacob. Don’t refute me here by pointing to some isolated comment by one commentator either. Consider the variety of interpretations and be open minded, please.
(7) Hopefully these examples are enough to refute the ridiculous notion that Yeshua must be rejected because humanity and Divinity are incompatible and the idea of Incarnation is Jewishly impossible. And hopefully these examples will either force you, my OJ friend, to recognize that you are not a rationalist like Maimonides and you do not limit the Shechinah to a symbol or a mere analogy. God dwells.
What we are saying, and we have evidence to back up our claim, is that God dwelt in Yeshua and this was not something which came about after Yeshua was born, but that from eternity past Yeshua was the Radiance of the Holy One’s Being, a person who shares the nature of Ein Sof (the Unending One) while not being the Ein Sof (the Son is not the Father).
Well, we’ll see if this is met with a resounding silence or with anger or with dialogue. MJ’s and Christians, feel free to comment as well. Mainstream Jews who are not OJ, I welcome your discussion as well. Who knows, maybe someday I would consider a series, “Why Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist Jews Should Believe in Yeshua.”