I will start with the questions I plan to address in this paper and following that, a personal story so that you have the context of why I am writing this article. The two questions are: Why is there anti-rabbinic attitudes in the Messianic movement? Second, why have so many Messianics left the movement to convert to Orthodox Judaism, leaving Yeshua completely? In another paper, we will address the question: Are Rabbinic Messianic observant people holding to proper hermeneutic understanding of the bible?
To begin, I wanted to tell you about my first experience with a former friend of mine, to whom I was very close, who went from passionate Christian woman, to seeking the truth within the Messianic movement, to then converting to Orthodox Judaism, denying Yeshua as Moshiach, and cutting off her family and friends afterward. My story starts when I returned from Israel after a year of study – I was certainly a changed person and coming back to the states which was very difficult as I missed the Jewish culture. I found a Chabad house and tried attending but once they found out that I had a Christian background, I was told not to come back. I was very hurt by this, and I went back to the Messianic congregation I was attending. I met my friend, who I will call Maggie, through another person I knew at the congregation. She was already involved in a Torah group, and we became good friends quickly. I was still somewhat nervous with anything having to do with the Rabbis at this point. She began to share what she had learned and how she connected to Judaism. I started going over to a friend’s house, whose family was much more rabbinically observant. I had many conversations with this family, and I saw the wisdom that Jewish tradition had. When I saw that this family was able to maintain their faith in Yeshua and be observant, I was able to let my guard down. Time passed and Maggie got involved with studying the Orthodox texts, now, with her new husband. I saw them start to question their faith in Yeshua when her husband was attending a class regarding what the traditional Jewish sources say on what Mashiach will do. I was on the same track as them with my learning and observance, but it had come to the point for them either to choose Yeshua or observance because of the many doubts that the sources – and the influence of Anti-Missionaries - had on them. They also wanted to have a community that was learning the things they desired to learn, and they were pushed away from the believing community by their questioning the Messiahship of Yeshua. Sadly, they eventually walked away from not only Yeshua but their families and friends – and I haven’t heard from them since – last I heard that they converted in Milwaukee and now live in Atlanta.
Based on this story and several other friends going down a similar path – how could we possibly say one can be observant of Rabbinic Judaism and keep faith in Yeshua?
I believe there are two reasons why this couple, and so many more we know, went down this path. First, because the orthodox Jewish world has the community people long for – and in relation to the Jew who wants to follow Torah – the orthodox community has the infrastructure of shuls and mikvahs and the focus on learning that is needed. To put it bluntly, the Messianic movement is just too Christian in feel and style for the Jew who wants to connect more with his traditional family’s past.
Let me paint a picture of what a typical messianic community looks like and an orthodox community looks like so you might get a glimpse into the issues. A Messianic congregation meets on Saturday morning, and maybe they will have a class once a week outside of that meeting. Most people drive at least 30mins to get there so it’s hard to get together on your own. You go into a service – what is the format? – announcements, three or four songs, a sermon, a closing song, and go eat a bagel or potluck. There may be a couple of Hebrew prayers thrown in. Walk into most churches on Sunday – it’s roughly the same format. Most places meet once a week – maybe twice a week for bible study.
In contrast to the above, when you go to an orthodox shul, it not just once a week – its three times a day (for men) every day to gather, study and pray together. It is requirement of Jewish law that at least 10 men gather three times a day for prayer (study and fellowship is common at these times) . On Shabbos – no one drives so everyone lives within walking distance of each other. Did someone have a baby recently? Is someone sick? Need babysitting? All these things are built into the community and are readily available. Need a loan? You can get one interest free. There are even organizations called Gemachs that let people borrow or have items they might need like wedding dresses, baby items, kosher food, and anything else that people might need. All these things point to one thing – the support of the community. The other thing that is focused on in the Jewish community is the bringing of holiness into everyday living. It’s not just prayer – it is blessing everything you eat, is the sanctifying of the marriage by abiding by the family purity laws or make your food holy by keeping kosher and therefore you dip all your dishes into pure mikvah water. Giving to those in need and showing a very practical path to serving G-d in everyday life. And yet, if you’re a follower of Yeshua – you lose this community and you’re left with the choice of denying Yeshua and getting the community a person desires to be a part of.
Is this the only choice left for either the Jew finding his Jewishness or finding Messiah to lose the community or be forced into a culture that is not his own and disown his Jewishness?
The answer to that question is a resounding NO! That is why our organization exists. Our desire is to form (and assist others to form) observant Messianic community so that both orthodox jews and those messianic Jews who wish to be more observant are not faced with the choice of traditional observance or Yeshua. They can be observant and faithful to their Jewishness and to Yeshua. Therefore, we need the financial support of believers and people to join us who have a passion for observance and for Yeshua. Our dream is to establish a community in the middle of the orthodox community – where three times a day – orthodox believers, seekers, and Messianic Jews can gather three times a day and live within walking distance and have a close and loving community. And what can we offer to those in the church or messianic congregations – a way to arm those in these communities against the ways that the Anti-missionaries lie and pull Jews from Messiah by teaching them from Scripture and Rabbinic sources that Yeshua is indeed Messiah. By us having this community – people within a church or Messianic community can point to us and proclaim – here are Jews who are faithful to the torah of their forefathers and to Yeshua the Messiah! There was no place for them to go- the life we live is a difficult one, it is not for the faint of heart. We are pioneers, in the field of Observant Messianic Judaism, holding to a life that is Orthodoxly observant, but also passionate about sharing Yeshua as the Messiah of Israel, we are taking a many difficult steps to forge a way for others to go.
This is one analysis of the problem of Observant Messianics denying Yeshua as Messiah, and a potential answer to that problem. We are living Yedidiah Pollak’s (a believing orthodox jew in late 19thcentury) statement “Because the burden of guarding the Testimony rests upon me, I will stand my watch, answering anyone who reproaches me for it. I belong to the assembly of the Testimony. I am a Hebrew and I fear the God of heaven. I am a Jew and behold, I observe the Torah, the written Torah and the oral Torah, and my soul is inextricably bound to Yeshua the Messiah. He is my life-breath, for he is my Savior King.
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