Jewish Justice!

I apologize for the hiatus from blogging over the past few months. I was involved in a hit and run accident and have been recovering. The driver was under the influence and I was a pedestrian. Over the next weeks, I will be blogging about our new issue of Kesher that is available online. One of the articles is on the Jewish judge Cardozo. Elliot Klayman offers some introductory thoughts about his article:

“Benjamin Cardozo:  Jewish Justice” in the most recent Kesher Volume (26) presents a famous judge who spoke to justice rather than partisanship.  True to the biblical cry:  “Justice, justice, thou shall pursue justice” he applied it evenhandedly with a passion, and perhaps this is what makes his legacy so enduring.

Cardozo exemplifies the modern Jew who is able to maintain a Jewish identity while operating in a secular world, in his case – a justice on the highest court in the Land.  This comes with its own conflicts. It is akin to Paul, who became all things to all people – to the weak he became weak.  Cardozo empathized with the less fortunate.  Shaped by the shared experience of being a Jew, with knowledge of the span of Jewish history, he was poised to identify with the weak, albeit, the collectivity of the weak, as opposed to simply the individual. He identified with the groups of those who were homeless, those who were pension-less, those who were jobless. That he did in the myriad of cases that he was called upon to judge, both in the state appellate court and the U.S. Supreme Court venues. His progressive stands on many issues reflected his experience and desire to extricate the needy from their “Egyptian” enslavement.

Noteworthy, though, was his evenhandedness, and essentially, non-partisan decision-making.  He followed his philosophy and his gut as he carved new precedent, and was not reserved about taking stances against the majority or the political swing of the day. Named by a Republican President, and yet seemingly Democrat on a personal level, he was beholden to no man’s party or program. He exhibited moral integrity, and his uprightness perhaps made it more palatable for Jewish appointments to the court in the years that followed; and today’s constituency where the High Court justices are one-third Jewish.

Experiencing a life altering accident like I did, it forces one to re-examine God’s justice and ask good questions. Like Cardozo, are we able to allow higher principles to govern our lives and decisions? Or, are we subject to the ever-changing social structures of this world? Jews and all followers of the God of Israel, including Christians, should be willing to lay aside allegiances to party, platform, and program to follow God’s higher ways of justice.

“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:9

For a more in depth study of Jewish justice see “Benjamin Cardozo:  Jewish Justice” by Elliot Klayman at*


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Where is the Messianic Testimony of Torah Observance?

How will the Jewish people know that the Messiah has come? One unmistakable sign is the Messiah will keep Torah and cause others to do so.  In other words, an observant Messiah will increase observance in this world, and especially among the Jewish people. With Yeshua’s coming, what has occurred?

Over the past two millennia Gentiles in increasing numbers have believed and obeyed the God of Israel through Christian teaching. This testifies to Paul’s stated purpose that his apostleship was given “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles.” Though antinomian tendencies have characterized much of church theological, greater obedience among Gentiles has occurred.

The very opposite has happened to Jews who turn from Judaism to Christianity. Both in perception and reality, Jews who have aligned themselves with Christianity have decreased their level of observance of Torah.

What a dilemma! Gentiles who embrace Messiah move closer to Torah, while Jews who accept Yeshua as Messiah have historically moved away from Torah. If Paul were alive he would decry, “may it never be.” Yet, it has happened.

Jews who have fled Torah after accepting Messiah, and Christians who have encouraged them to do so, should both turn from this path that unwittingly testifies against Yeshua’s Messianic identity. Follow the logic—from a Jewish perspective if Yeshua is the Messiah then his Jewish followers would be zealous for the law and reach higher levels of observance. Without this Messianic sign of Torah observance seen in the lives of Messianic Jews, the Jewish community will not take Yeshua or his followers seriously.

Messianic Judaism, which honors Torah observance for Jews, is part of the answer. Still, Christians also should encourage the Jews in their midst to keep Torah.

Torah is not passé and deficient, yet relevant and sufficient for Jewish life today.

In Kesher 16, “Defining Messianic Judaism: Addendum 1: What Do We Mean By “Jewish”?” by Rabbi Russ Resnik, highlights the role of Messianic Judaism in distinction from the Church and delineates the role of Torah in Messianic Jewish life. See


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A Vision for Messianic Judaism

I had a vision.
A vision of our people turning toward the Messiah in unprecedented numbers.
A vision of thousands of messianic congregations spreading across the world.
A vision of a thriving messianic seminary where our young people can be trained to go forth with boldness, wisdom, and compassion.
A vision where we, as messianic Jews and a united movement, stand side by side with our Jewish brothers and sisters and work toward a messianic age of peace and harmony for both Jews and Gentiles.

I began my message this way for the Shabbat morning service at the Annual UMJC conference almost 10 years ago. A lot has changed, yet my vision remains the same.

Currently, I am focused on working toward my third vision statement: “A vision of a thriving messianic seminary where our young people can be trained to go forth with boldness, wisdom, and compassion.”

I serve as CEO of Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, which is the leading institution of higher education of Messianic Judaism. Messianic Judaism must raise up a thriving educational institution faithful to its principles or it faces potential decline. Without an educational center for Messianic Judaism, the following will be difficult, if not impossible to do.

1. Train a new generation of rabbi and leaders for synagogues and Messianic Jewish institutions.

2. Provide an authentic engagement with Judaism that is theologically aware and sensitive to halakhic process.

3. Guide the Messianic Jewish community in specific areas of thought and practice, such as informed engagement with Christianity, development of Messianic Jewish theology, and a distinct Messianic Jewish approach to Biblical studies, hermeneutics, canonical narrative, and missiology.

[MJTI faculty are some of the thought leaders in this area. Also, MJTI provides leadership forums for Messianic Jewish leaders in the US and Israel to explore these issues.]

4. Offer a context that encourages and focuses on life-long learning and spiritual development.

More could be said, yet I encourage you to further explore a vision for Messianic Judaism in my article in Kesher called “The Way of Life” at and also visit for our new website for MJTI School of Jewish Studies.

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The Jewish and Christian God: One and the Same!

Do you wonder what was the Jewish view of God in the first few centuries CE? Daniel Boyarin wrote a landmark book in 2004 called Border Lines: The Partition of Judaeo-Chrstianity. Boyarin establishes that Judaism and Christian had a common view of God in their earliest shared history. He states:

“The Gospel of John, according to this view, when taken together with the Logos of Philo and with the targum, provides further important evidence that Logos theology, used here as a general term for various closely related binitarian theologies, was the religious koine of Jews in Palestine and the Diaspora . . . 
In saying this, I am arguing . . . that in the doctrine of God there is no essential and crucial difference between Judaism and Christianity.” (pp. 126–27)

As the centuries wore on, Judaism and Christianity continued to define themselves in distinction from each other, and in contradistinction to shared Scripture and tradition out of which both Faiths arose. In Boyarin’s terms, these Faiths created artificial boundaries that removed any ambiguity to the extent that two distinct religions were established.

God is constant and unalterable, despite the increasingly divergent ways that Christianity and Judaism defined God. These Faiths may self-identify, yet should avoid redefining Divinity.

Will the future offer a convergence of views of Divinity—a reconceiving of Divinity as the One and Same God of two Faiths? Will Judaism and Christianity be restored to a conception of Divinity before there was a parting of ways? Will the future be a return to the beginning? The way back may seem blocked, yet the living God is the revealing God who may be pointing the way forward by having us look back.

Though Thomas Jefferson has said, “I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past,” a glimpse of the past as well as a dream of the future may hold the greatest promise.

For further exploration, see Joshua Brumbach’s review of Border Lines in Kesher Journal at





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Is Big Brother Watching You?

In the age of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, and YouTube, we see a trend toward people publicizing personal information. Personal web pages, blogs, and social networking are one the rise. Is privacy important anymore when we are living our lives on display on the web? Today, I was reading online at CNN Money:

“The House of Representatives, as expected, approved a controversial cybersecurity bill late Thursday, staring down a veto threat. But the fight to protect the United States from a cataclysmic cyber attack is far from over. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act, which has been revised several times over the past week, allows the government and private companies to share information with one another with the aim of warding off cyber threats. Companies would be incentivized to voluntarily share information with the government, and the United States could share crucial attack information with companies. Much of that kind of information sharing had previously been banned under existing privacy laws.”

Experts believe that some form of this bill will be passed by the Senate and supported by Obama.

Kesher published an excellent article that relates directly to this issue of privacy law. The author, Elliot Klayman, a Harvard bred lawyer, spent 8 years with a civil liberties law firm, and currently is Chairman of MJTI and Director of its School of Jewish Studies. According to Klayman, Brandeis was progressive in this time, especially as compared to Oliver Wendall Holmes, recognized by some as the greatest jurist of his time. For example, Brandeis, contrary to the consensus on the US Supreme Court at the time, would see surveillance techniques such as listening devices as just as intrusive as physical invasion. In Klayman’s opinion, Brandeis would have extended privacy protection to cyberspace.

Part of the issue is balancing the interest of a person’s privacy against the protection of society. There is a tight rope that can be walked between individual freedom from intrusion and the state’s need for security, requiring a constitutional balancing act between the individual and the state. Brandeis would likely say that any type of intrusion in order to protect a larger government security interest must be narrowly drawn and restricted so as not to unreasonably invade personal freedom. In order for such a bill to be constitutional and avoid an unreasonable intrusion into privacy, it must be targeted narrowly to the interest of governmental security. Under the guise of protecting governmental security, Big Brother can rear his ugly head and engage in snooping on individuals. For a more in depth study of Brandeis’ viewpoint on privacy issues see “The Life of the First Jewish U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Louis Brandeis: Exploring “Privacy Issues” and Ancestral Cultic Connections” by Elliot Klayman at“Privacy-Issues”-and-Ancestral-Cultic-Connections

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Reading Christian Theology as a Messianic Jew

What is the nature of the relationship between Messianic Judaism and the Church? Should Messianic Jews praise the Church for its social triumphs or castigate the church for social offenses leading to the suffering of millions? The same unhealthy dynamic has existed in the thought-world of the church. Some doctors of the Church have illuminated many truths, yet these same theologians have also distorted and clouded truth by subjecting divine words to human systems of thought. The same glass that was intended to sharpen and focus a beam of light can obscure its source or even redirect it to an unintended purpose.

One of the most telling issues is how the Church and its theologians have treated the Jewish people. From the Medieval to the Modern Church, Christian leaders have had a kind of Dr. Jekyll – Mr. Hyde relationship with the Jews, from Cyril, Bishop of Alexandria, who ordered the retaliatory killing and expulsion of the Jews in the fifth century to the Holocaust when countless professing Christians participated in the mass murder of the Jews only 70 years ago. (Although fraught with historical inaccuracies, the 2009 film Agora convincingly depicts the relational aspects of the rise of Christianity in Alexandria to the detriment of the Jews.)

In the 20th century a Christian leader emerged who was a game-changer in terms of Jewish-Christian relations. His name is Karl Barth. He led the Christian charge against the Nazis and developed a theology that surpassed prior theologizing in relation to the Jewish people. At the same time, remnants of supersessionism, antinomianism and anti-Judaism persisted in his theology. If you have not been exposed the theology of Karl Barth, I invite you to read the succinct and thought-provoking review of Barth’s theology from the vantage point of a Messianic Jew, R.R., who specializes in the field of Jewish-Christian relations. In R.R’s analysis of Barth’s contributions and shortcomings, she provides an exemplar of a balanced and careful reading of Christian theology.

Messianic Jews need to avoid the extremes of simply adopting Christian theology as our own or rejecting such theology as wholly other. Let’s chart a clear course that eventually leads to our own Messianic Jewish theology, acknowledging truth wherever it is found.

For further related reading, see the article “”Salvation is from the Jews”: An Assessment and Critique of Karl Barth on Judaism and the Jewish People” by R.R. at:

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Intra-Messianic Jewish Dialogue

In 2011, an issue of Kesher was dedicated to dialogue between Jews within the ecclesia, which we might call intra-Messianic Jewish dialogue. In unprecedented numbers, Jews are reaching across denominational lines to understand each other and share in the common bond of Jewish heritage. Since that first conference in Helsinki in 2010 that gathered all stripes of Jews, there has been another conference in 2011 in Paris. In 2012 the conference returns to Helsinki to make further progress.

This is not an isolated phenomenon. In fact, the next issue of Kesher will publish the proceedings of a theological conference in Berlin last year that shared the same vision. The undergirding premise of such events is that when Jews who are faithful to Yeshua come together, the cause of the Jewish people is advanced.

The past is littered with Jews who in their misguided attempt to be faithful to the church, worked contrary to the good of our people. We cannot erase the past yet chart a new future. Together, if Jews who have found the Messiah will unify over essential theological and biblical common ground, and put good relations first before our own personal advantage, then a new day will dawn.

Both the Messianic congregational community, and Jews within the church have a good inheritance from Christianity. Yet, we have also inherited the church’s conflicts, divisions, and foibles. Let us together rise above the human weakness of the church and ourselves, and unify for our good and for the sake of Israel!

Andrew Sparks
Editor in Chief

For further related reading, see the article “Messianic Judaism: The Ecumenical Factor” by Fr. Antoine Levy, OP at

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