Jewish Identity in the Messianic Jewish Context


Obviously we (Messianic Jews) can't use the historical definition of being a descendant of the Jewish people - or adopted into it - and not believing in Yeshua. Yeshua Himself was/is Jewish and came as the Jewish Messiah, fulfilling the torah and the prophets. If He is true, there can't be a contradiction between following Yeshua and being Jewish.

2. Jewish means belonging to a people, the Jewish people, or better, the nation of Israel. As a nation in whose birthing G-d was directly involved and which made a covenant with G-d, there are requirements before G-d, which are to be kept in order to be a faithful, upright Jew. The punishment for not keeping some of these requirements is to be cut off from the people.

3. Turning to believe in the G-d of Israel and joining the community of the people of Israel are two different things. Ruth the Moabite did both, but Nebuchadnezar, Ahashverosh, Naaman, the syrian lepper and many others only came to believe in the G-d of Israel, without becoming part of the Nation of Israel.

Question 1:
Is there a distiction to be made between Jewish believers and followers of Yeshua and non-Jewish ones?

OPINION: A Gentile - regardless as to nationality - who becomes a Torah observant believer in Messiah Yeshua, is grafted in to the Olive Tree, and therefore, becomes part of Israel.

The common-use definition of Messianic Jews here is Israel means believers and followers of Yeshua within an Israeli Jewish context, whereas non-Jewish (mainly according to their own self-definition) members of the community just call themselfs messianics, but this doesn't say anything about torah observance.

(Moshe brought a "mixed multitude" out of Egypt, and YHWH told them to do "exactly as the Jews/Hebrews" - meaning, be Torah observant.)

Numbers 15: 13 "'Everyone who is native-born must do these things in this way when he brings an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD. 14 For the generations to come, whenever an alien or anyone else living among you presents an offering made by fire as an aroma pleasing to the LORD, he must do exactly as you do. 15 The community is to have the same rules for you and for the alien living among you; this is a lasting ordinance for the generations to come. You and the alien shall be the same before the LORD: 16 The same laws and regulations will apply both to you and to the alien living among you.'"

Torah observant grafted-in Gentiles are now Messianic believers, no longer just Christians.

'Messianic' and 'Christian' are translation equivalents. 'Messianic believers' is supposed to be the same as 'Christian believers', just with different historical connotations.

But are all Messianic or Christian believers supposed to be or become Jewish?

Should then eventually all mankind become Jewish, or, if making a distiction between Juda and Israel, become Israel?

No. Just the believers who are grafted in through Yeshua. Why should there be a difference? Same God, same rules.

I'm not sure whether this makes sense.

Question 1.1:
Do all believers in Yeshua have to observe the Torah given specifically to Israel?

The Bible tells us there is no Jew or Gentile in Messiah, consequently, there shouldn't be any differences between their Torah observances. We don't treat our adopted children any differently from our natural ones, and neither does YHWH.

The requirements of observance for gentiles coming to faith in Yeshua, which are put forth by the apostle concile in Acts are in essence what the rabbis today require for gentiles coming to belief in the G-d of Israel in the Bnei Noach movement, the noachide laws.

On the other hand, there is the concept of giur, the process to become fully part of the Jewish people, which requires the observance of the commandments given specifically to the Jewish people.

There should be the same Torah for Bnei Israel and the strangers living in the land of Israel, who join themselfs to the people of Israel, but I think there is room to question whether it has to be the same in other countries and societies.

A good example would be the nation of Uganda, which as a nation, if I recall correctly, made in modern times a covenant with G-d as well as with Israel. Could G-d have different specific callings for other nations willing to serve Him, which maybe also would result in a different Torah for them to enable them to fully fulfill their calling as a nation? I think Gavriel Gefen makes an interesting point in stressing the legitimacy of different cultures. See here.

While I believe YHWH made us all different and different countries have different mores, etc, this has nothing whatsoever to do with keeping the one and only Torah He gave us. We must all keep Torah to the best of our abilities, regardless as to where we live. There is no excuse for not keeping the seventh day Sabbath or the Biblical Feasts, or being kosher....

I would agree with you that we have the one and only Torah given to the Jewish people and that the Jewish people are bound to keep it wherever they are, even though the absence of the temple and the coming of Yeshua and the sacrifice fulfilled through Him could also question the need and demand of a literal fulfillment by us today of a big portion of the biblical Mitzvoth given to Israel.

But, I would be hesistant to demand from the nations what the apostles found right not to demand from them.

While the apostles certainly argued among themselves about who should do what, YHWH said that EVERYONE who attached themselves to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is to do EXACTLY as the Hebrews did. And after all, He made His New Covenant with the Houses of Israel and Judah, not the Gentiles, nor Christians nor anyone else (Jer. 31):

The Torah is given to Israel, which is intended to have one culture (granted with different sub-cultures), one homeland and one socio-political structure. There are commandments given to all mankind, but most are not.

=> Regarding Shabbat:

For instance, here in the USA the Shabbat means nothing to most people, and our world revolves around businesses (like malls, grocery stores, etc) being open 24/7. I, as a Torah observant believer, however, am required to observe the Sabbath, which means NO WORK and no purchases on Saturdays. (With the exception of an emergency room visit which ends up requiring the buying of drugs in the case of severe illness. Yeshua made that perfectly clear.)

Against the Rabbinic ruling, I see a point for all mankind voluntarely keeping Shabbat in ways they can because of the order of creation, which applies to all mankind.

Plus, I don't believe in being hung up about how many meters we may walk or drive on Saturdays because here in the US, everything is so far apart that, if we want to attend a synagogue, we're forced to drive there. My husband and I live in the country, and when we used to belong to a synagogue, we had to drive 30 miles on Saturday mornings to get there....

Your problem of not driving on Shabbat applies to the States, when people don't live within a Jewish community keeping Shabbat. Here in Israel those that seriously keep Shabbat have usually no problems to arrange themselves such that travelling on Shabbat is not necessary.

I don't think it is right to lift the prohibition of travelling on Shabbat for Jewish people just because people living in a gentile context outside of the land of Israel have a problem with it.

The rabbis of old put way too many restrictions on us to the point where some hardly wanted to get out of bed for fear of being guilty of "work." That is NOT what YHWH intended and so some common sense is involved in our every decision concerning Torah keeping.

This fear is rather a result of ignorance and not knowing how to get to the full meaning of Shabbat within these restrictions, of which travel, cooking, making fire and work are not rabbinical restrictions but are found in the bible itself.

=> Regarding other commandments:

Many of the other commandments mandatory for Israel can be done voluntarely by other nations and peoples, but other nations and peoples could also just take the idea and adapt it to their circumstances.

Pessach as a rememberance of the Exodus was not given as an universal Holiday, nor is the harvest festival Shavuot and the national Atonement day Yom Kippur, even though all these festivals are full of meaning for believers in Yeshua because of the events connected to Yeshua's life and mission and the birth of the Church.

Sukkot is different. On Sukkot all nations shall come up.

Question 1.2:
Is the Olive Tree something bigger than the Jewish people?
Being One in Messiah, the Messiah/Saviour/King/Lord of Jews and gentiles alike, doesn't necessarily mean that everyone has to become a Jew. G-d can redeem whole nations and people groups, and they will have their own story of redemption in which they came to recognize the Lord and accepted to serve G-d, who is the G-d of Israel, but also the G-d of all of His creation. In his plan of salvation of His creation the nation of Israel plays a key role, which is undeniable. Moreover, it is his chosen dwelling place, but the national and agricultural holidays, for example, are specific for the Jewish people and the land of Israel.

Could the Olive Tree be the people of G-d, of which Israel is the firstborn, such that who is being grafted in the Olive Tree gets grafted in the family tree of G-d, to which Israel already naturally belongs?

Question 1.3:
Is Christianity supposed to be true Judaism and the Church supposed to be true Israel?

The original realization standing at the birth of the messianic Jewish movement is G-d's faithfulness regarding the promises given to the Jewish people and the irrevocability of the calling. Replacement theology is found faulty. Being a Jew is not a curse that needs to be washed off at baptism together with all the sins, but it is a responsability, which remains, just as a parent retains the responsabilities of a parent after baptism, - surely not without relying on G-d's help, guidance and direction in order to fulfill these responsabilities.

RESPONSE: Absolutely! We're God's "Chosen" - that's an honor, not a curse!

One of the definitions of messianic Judaism being offered at Youtube holds that Messianic Jews are Jews and Gentiles united by the Messiah Yeshua, which refrain from certain "Christian" traditions, and keep certain other Jewish ordinances. This sounds like an attempt to reform and correct the Church, creating a new, more biblical-correct movement within the Church.

Have you ever seen my "Challenging Mainstream Christianity" and "Challenging Traditional Judaism" pages? They're at http://therefinersfire.org/ca.htm and http://therefinersfire.org/challenging_christianity.htm

I think the messianic Jewish movement understood as a correction of mainstream Christianity is a response to the replacement theology, which had taken hold of main stream Christianity. If claimimg to have replaced Israel and if claiming the promises of Israel for oneself, once realizing that G-d didn't trash Israel and does uphold his promises to Israel, those that claim to be the true Israel and claim the promises belonging to the Jewish people for themselfs, after realizing their mistake, if they continue to uphold their claim they have to join the Jewish people and keep the rules and instructions that go along with it.

Question 1.4:
If being a Jew is an honour, which entails special promises but also responsabilities, are these promises and responsabilities automatically transfered to non-Jews that become believers?

Question 2:
What are the special responsabilities of the Jewish people?
I would want to try to state these special responsabilities of the Jewish people, which are incumbant upon all Jews born as such and upon those that join the Jewish people and are adopted into it.

One might think of the "obvious" answer to the responsabilities: the 613 Mitzvoth. But this is not a very applicable answer to the question. They might supply a theoretical framework of action, but the reliability of the rabbinical translation into halacha is a matter of dispute for messianics. The reasons are manyfold:

-disagreement about the adaptation to the new reality: on one side to the absence of the temple and living in exile, on the other side to the time after the coming of Yeshua and the multitude of gentile believers in Him.

-mistrust towards the rabbinic judgements, their intentions and the spirit guiding them.

-the dichotomy of the Letter and the Spirit might require rather an understanding of the heart of the Mitzvah, its intention and normal practical application, leaving the specific details for each instance up to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, instead of arguing about specific applications based on the Letter in a kind of legal debate.

With this last point in mind, one might also in regard of the responsabilities rather look to describe them in terms that touch the heart of the calling of the Jewish people. The framework of the 613 Mitzvoth are just the instructions given by divine wisdom in order to live out this calling to G-d's honor. They reflect G-d's love and character and are a way which He chose to bless.

RESPONSE: Absolutely! The problem is, most of the 613 Mitzvoth were for the priests of the day; some only applied (and still apply) to only men, and some only to women. We get to keep what we possibly can today, but the rabbinic "stuff" needs to be tossed out.

The Sabbath was never meant to be a burden wherein we can't do ANYTHING but sit at home and read the Bible....The rabbis put way too many fences around Torah! Here's an article I recently wrote to dispute some nut who tried to tell us we don't have to keep the Sabbath because it's too much of a burden: http://therefinersfire.org/sabbath.htm

Question 2.1:
How can we describe the responsabilities in terms that touch the heart of the calling of the Jewish people?

That is not an easy question to answer in an email, but the answer is pretty much outlined in the next book I'm about to publish, which is geared toward traditional Jews to show them their need for not only Torah keeping, but their need to believe in the Final Sin Sacrifice of Yeshua haMashiach.

The bottom line is: A Jew has a calling to be a light to the nations. This doesn't mean he has to wear all the traditional black garb, etc., but to wear the commanded tzit-tzits, be kosher, keep the Sabbath and the Feasts, and be Torah observant to the best of his ability.

No Halacha prescribes the wearing of the traditional clothing of the Jews in Russia and Poland from 150 years ago.

There's still a big gap between the very general "being a light to the nations" and the literal and very technical fulfilling of certain comandments. Many people would get stuck or fall in this gap full of questions.

No one ever "does it" perfectly, but by just doing these things, he sets him/herself apart from the world and consequently shows the world how to LIVE OUT the faith.

I think the heart of the calling of the Jewish people needs to be described precisely to fill this gap, such that the multiple aspects of being a light to the nations can be grasped and the specific technical commandments can be understood as tools for it: Truth, Righteousness, Justice, Holiness, Longsuffering, Grace, Goodness, Love, to name some of the characteristics of G-d, which shall be hosted in the midst of the Jewish people, reflected by them and uphold as a light to the nations.

I'll stop here for today. Would be happy to hear what you think.
Greetings in Yeshua!

Looking forward for your comments and contributions!

related posts: Link Collection: Defining Jewish Identity in the Messianic Jewish Context

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