Discussion: What is Judaism? How Christian Can We Be?

I will try and remember not to post provocative things on Tuesday mornings. Every Tuesday I am away from the internet from 1 pm until about midnight. Tuesdays are fun days and include things like a meeting of a Sci-Fi Lit group (only two of us in it), several Hebrew classes that I teach, and some late night movie viewing at a friend’s house (currently finishing up the whole series of Battlestar Galactica: “so say we all!”).

So yesterday I posted “How to Be a Messianic Congregation, #2” and I got an intelligent push-back from Rabbi Joshua Brumbach, an escalation of controversy by Gene Schlomovich, and a declaration by Andrew T. that he now realizes (due, apparently, to my utter failure as a rabbi to live up to his standard) that MJ is not and never will be a Judaism.


Let me try and address the issues raised. I am sure that some of you out there in the blogosphere care about these issues. Maybe you’d like to weigh in. First, I’ll give a simple summary of the dispute and then suggest some pointers for clear thinking.


  • I said that Messianic Judaism (and Judeo-Christianity) have a fantastic double tradition, the core traditions of Judaism and Christianity, to draw from. I suggested that this means Messianic Judaism must learn from classic and enduring examples of Jewish thought and Christian thought. Examples included the ancient (Christian creeds, rabbinic literature) and more modern (C.S. Lewis, Abraham Joshua Heschel). I suggested that neglecting either tradition would be a mistake and leave us either weak on Torah or weak on Messiah.
  • Rabbi Brumbach saw a potential misstatement in my words, though he did say “At the same time I know that we would agree more than it may seem.” Yet the problem he had was with my suggestion that we draw equally from both streams. In his words: “our primary community of reference is, and should be, Jewish.” He went on to give as his primary example the way we order our public services, noting that they should follow Jewish means of worship and not Christian ones (inasmuch as the ways of worshipping differ). I think, as I will explain below, that Rabbi Brumbach’s comment did not really concern what I had affirmed.
  • Gene Schlomovich, God love him, escalated the whole controversy by saying, “Rabbi Joshua: A++++.” Gene has never given me an A++++, so I have to conclude that he sides overwhelmingly with Rabbi Brumbach on this one and perhaps even thinks Rabbi Brumbach understated matters. Perhaps Rabbi Leman gets an F- – – -.
  • Andrew T. was scandalized by my statement that our synagogue’s Oneg Shabbat is not kosher. Upon hearing from Rabbi Kinbar that the MJRC does not compel all Messianic Jews to abide by the MJRC standards regarding dietary law, Andrew T. said that he was even more scandalized by the MJRC’s lack of real authority. And eventually he went on to declare that MJ is not really and never will be a Judaism, as this blog post and discussion have only just today persuaded him! And to think, I had no way to respond though I saw Andrew’s alarming comments on my iPhone!


  • I really like the part where Rabbi Brumbach said we agree on more than it might seem. I was talking about the traditions we draw on for our belief and practice, not how we order our service (with one exception which I will address in the next bullet point). As Rabbi Brumbach admits, we’d be crazy to say we can understand Yeshua apart from Christian tradition. And since I think Messianic Judaism must understand Yeshua, this rabbi and that rabbi agree we must use Jewish and Christian tradition. But would Rabbi Brumbach really quibble over percentages? Should I read two Jewish books for every Christian book? If I spend an hour studying Midrash must I limit my study of a homily by Augustine to half an hour? I’m not sure why the “equal” part disturbs him. And maybe it doesn’t. After all, we might agree more than it seems.
  • Perhaps though, it was my belief that Christian music was appropriate in Messianic Jewish worship that concerned my friend, Rabbi Brumbach. If so, I’m curious what his thoughts are on the use of music in MJ services at all. An argument can be made, and I respect it, that since the Orthodox and Conservative forms of Judaism reject musical instruments during Sabbath services, so should MJ. I have been to Rabbi Brumbach’s congregation and there are musical instruments on the Sabbath. Perhaps the idea that a song is “Messianic Jewish” makes it kosher for MJ worship but if a Christian wrote the song it is not kosher? Is music to be like kosher wine (no gentiles involved in production please)? At any rate, I can say that many Jewish people love pop music and worship music that is based on pop musical styles is not antithetical to Jewish cultural tastes. Now Country Music, that would be another story.
  • Gene’s A++++ comment was just mean. And being mean is not a Jewish value. So there, Gene. And I’m not sure what Gene would specifically disagree with. Does he think we can ignore Christian tradition in developing our practice and belief? Obviously he thinks we should be kosher in our synagogue meals. That’s a legitimate opinion. And I feel pretty certain he was not trying to characterize me as “grace trumping Torah.” I assume he was talking about someone else.
  • Finally, we come to Andrew T. I appreciate Andrew. He has made some thoughtful comments and I’d like to know him better. But as for his disappointment that the MJRC has not compelled the mass of Messianic Jews to adopt Orthodox Jewish standards, here is a serious historical question for Andrew. Did the Tannaim succeed in getting the Jewish community of their day to adopt their standards? The Tannaim are the sages of the Mishnaic era (up to 200 CE). The answer is no. The Jewish community largely ignored the Tannaim and even the Amoraim were only starting to have wide influence and authority. How does a rabbinic body compel people or gain authority? If Andrew has a suggestion about how rabbis like myself should be able to get everyone to cooperate with our opinions about standards and beliefs, I’m all ears. Ha, I’d love to have some real authority! Now wouldn’t that be scary?
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72 Responses to Discussion: What is Judaism? How Christian Can We Be?

  1. “Rabbi Joshua: A++++.” Gene has never given me an A++++….Gene’s A++++ comment was just mean. And being mean is not a Jewish value. So there, Gene.”

    Oh, come on, Derek! This wasn’t a grade, this was an expression of satisfaction, sort of like buyers leave in eBay feedback!

    In any case, I certainly agree with Joshua (and Dr. D.H. Stern) that for Jews the primary community is Jewish and that giving equal time – or even significant time – OR I dare say ANY time – to non-Jewish elements of worship and culture within this otherwise Jewish setting will only help facilitate dilution of what it means to be Jewish and spur on assimilation (and confusion). Furthermore, while it is indeed helpful and beneficial for us to explore and be familiar with Gentile Christian expressions of faith or Christian theology/view of G-d and Yeshua (and we SHOULD), I think that the existing Jewish spirituality reenforced by realization and centrality of Yeshua’s messiahship is sufficient for Jews and should not be muddied but rather purified.

  2. Derek Leman says:


    Hopefully it was clear that I was being a bit tongue in cheek. No actual offense taken on this side.

    Meanwhile, your understanding of Yeshua is shaped by Christian tradition whether you realize it or not. And I don’t think Stern or Rabbi B. meant ignore Christian sources and don’t read them. If you were to query the leaders of Messianic Judaism, Gene, and ask if MJ can exist apart from Christian tradition, the answer would be “of course not.” This sounds like something for you to consider.

    • LWL79 says:

      Hey Derek,

      I’m a bit bewildered at Gene’s remarks, and am looking for understanding.

      If he (and I’ve read other in MJ with the same POV) thinks that it is wrong or anti-Semitic to call out problems within RJ, and to differentiate it from what G-d commands and provides (i.e., the prophets given to lead, steer and warn Israel), then how does one with that frame of mind deal with the Prophets who are clearly telling Israel they have got it wrong? Does one decide the prophet is bad and anti-Semitic? Or how does one deal with Yeshua’s ” Woe to you’s” of Matt 23 and other places? He says they have fake righteousness, he differentiates some of their practices and emphasis from G-d’s, and he challenges their interpretation of Torah.

      Not looking to inflame, I truly don’t get it.

      • Derek Leman says:


        I understand your bewilderment, LWL79. I don’t know why I like Gene (but I really do). He is extreme. He is not gentle. Sometimes, perhaps he should repent in the Days of Awe for being so rough with people online. But he is a bulldog for a good cause: upholding the honor of Israel.

        Here is my direct answer to your question about criticizing Judaism: in our modern context we should only do it very carefully and with proper qualification of our statements. Isaiah, Amos, and Yeshua no withstanding, much water has passed under the bridge and people all too easily read contemporary criticism of the “rabbis” as typical anti-nomian, horridly stereotyping, supersessionist trash (the kind of stuff you despise in Chrysostom).

        I assume that you have not considered this angle. Having considered it, I would advise also, along with Gene, that you re-frame your criticisms in future writing to reflect a more balanced view. Furthermore, a criticism of something so broad without specific examples and some back-up support for assertions looks like Jew-bashing. I am not saying you were Jew-bashing (and even if you are Jewish, it is possible to engage in Jew-bashing). But we have to consider how our words appear to those who read them.

        You will note, I avoid such critical language. The rabbinic sages disagreed healthily with one another and we can best engage in dialogue with an understanding of internal criticism, not as if we are removing ourselves from rabbinic Judaism and criticizing from the outside.

  3. James says:

    The question I’ve been considering recently is how Jewish does a “Judaism” have to be in order to be called a Judaism. I’m sure everyone realizes there are congregations in the world calling themselves “Messianic Judaism” that have only a passing acquaintance to anything we call a Judaism in real life. My comments address primarily (but not exclusively) the “One Law” (OL) branch of MJ (and like it or not, MJ has to claim OL as part of their stream since, if we could take an accurate survey of MJ congregations in the U.S., we’d find most of them are OL and the majority of their members are Gentiles) who tend to select those aspects of Judaism that fit an otherwise Christian theology, copy and paste them into their template, and then toss out the rest of what makes up a modern Jewish life (Talmud, halachah, kosher, proper Shabbat observance, a thousand traditions and cultural practices, and so on).

    I had a recent encounter with just how Jews view Christians in my chronicle of the Ger Toshav series (which came to an abrupt halt after three submissions) and it’s the current question on today’s morning meditation (sorry for all the spam links, Derek, but it’s easier than writing a 2500 word comment in your blog post).

    I know you try to work around all this with your classification of primarily Gentile MJ groups as “Judeo-Christian” but that’s like creating an anomaly within an anomaly. What is “Messianic Judaism” as it exists in a practical expression today? A Judaism? Except for rare instances, that’s probably not true, at least as Judaism is defined culturally, halachically, and religiously in the early 21st century C.E. It might be more accurate and more fair to call most of today’s MJ congregations “Judeo-Christian” since, as you point out Derek, they share an equal Jewish and Christian tradition. In fact, most of them, kippot and talitot aside, are probably biased more toward the traditional Christian side of the scale.

    I know that ultimately, God is the final arbiter of what and who is Jewish and is a Judaism, but as human beings, we have to consider history, commentary, documentation, rulings, and judgments, all of which have been handed down to us across the vast span of time as Jewish and Christian tradition. It’s on that level we struggle with who we are and who we are to each other, and its on that level we try to forge a relationship with God.

  4. Derek Leman says:

    A point I made which has so far been largely overlooked or at least not responded to: would Gene and James suggest MJ should define its theology of Messiah Yeshua in isolation from/avoidance of Christian tradition and creed? And why shouldn’t MJ’s read and use Christian sources? Since when is Judaism defined as anti-Christian?

    Gene, you are erecting a false boundary between Judaism and Christianity.

  5. “Hopefully it was clear that I was being a bit tongue in cheek. No actual offense taken on this side.”

    I knew it was said in jest.

    “Meanwhile, your understanding of Yeshua is shaped by Christian tradition whether you realize it or not. ”

    No, Derek, I realize this quite well. The solution for Jews in such a predicament (which affects most if not all of the modern Jewish followers of Yeshua), may be to seek to identify the areas which have been consciously or subconsciously shaped by non-Jewish Christian tradition (by which I mean post-NT traditions and theologies, from Church Father until today), be aware of them and learn how they may relate to and just as importantly, how they differ from Jewish understanding. Then, a Jew may want to seek to sift and discard all the chaff generated by centuries of anti-Israel/anti-Judaism theology and bring his/hers religious culture closer to the today’s Jewish mainstream. Sifting and refining is quite biblical and Yeshua spoke of it quite often.

  6. “Gene, you are erecting a false boundary between Judaism and Christianity.”

    I disagree, Derek. Are you saying that there’s currently no boundary at all in Jewish and Christian world views and theologies? I think it is quite evident to all that there’s is indeed one and to deny this is to deny facts on the ground. Perhaps you mean to say that there should have NOT BEEN one [in a perfect world and in some imaginary non-confrontational versions of Christianity and Judaism], but we are not talking about what could have been. There certainly is one today and has been for the last 1900 or so years. We may seek to pull this wall down, but we shouldn’t ignore the fact that it’s still standing firm.

  7. Carl Kinbar says:

    I agree with R. Joshua — we probably agree more than it would seem. Give us a few hours face-to-face and we’d have a meeting of the minds.

    I can’t speak to the Judeo-Christian situation. But concerning Messianic Jews and our congregations, there are some problems with the idea of a double tradition as you’ve described it. One of them concerns not so much what we draw from these traditions but who we are.

    As you know, for the most part MJs were previously Jews in the Church. We were immersed in Christian culture and came to read the Scriptures, think, and act like Christians. Most of those who would later become MJ leaders we were educated at Christian colleges. (Of course, there are exceptions to all of this, MJs with no Christian background, though many of them were secular.) Then we became Messianic Jews. What happened next? Though we may not have been fully aware at the time, we faced the same situation that Robert Frost described in “The Road Not Taken.”

    I shall be telling this with a sigh
    Somewhere ages and ages hence:
    Two roads diverged in a wood, and I
    I took the one less traveled by,
    And that has made all the difference.

    For us, the less travelled road meant that we walked with the sages. We walked beside fellow Jews whether they were Messianic or not. We spoke with the apostles there. Not so surprisingly, we found that Yeshua was everywhere on that road. We relied on him to show us the way. And slowly, slowly we began to think and live as Jews.

    It seems that, for Frost, the direction and maybe the goal of the road were paramount. For us, it was – and is – the company. Unless we walk with Jews, the sages of the past and Jews of the present, how would we ever come to think as Jews?
    So who are we, the ones who would draw from both traditions? Are we those who took the road less travelled, who think and live as Jews? Or did we take the other road?
    It seems to me that MJs who don’t yet read the Scriptures or think about life Jewishly will not have the spiritual or intellectual wherewithall to draw from Christian tradition in a healthy way. And those who do think Jewishly will respect but not necessarily engage all that much with Christain tradition. (Just to clarify, I do read the occasional Christian book.)

    Of course, real life isn’t so black-and-white. Most of us are in transition, somewhere between our former ways and a fully Jewish world view. I just don’t see how drawing from two traditions will get us there.

    One more thing. The Brit Hadashah is the most Messiah-centered collection of writings. We need to learn how to read it Jewishly on the deepest levels and spend lots of time in it. If I can make a risky analogy, for us the Brit Hadashah is like the Tanya for Chabad Jews or the Thirteen Tales for Breslavers. Only more so, since it is God-breathed.

  8. LWL79 says:

    I find this post, and comments, so interesting. 
    I thought Derek gave a very balanced and reasonable position about drawing from both Jewish and Christian traditions. I didn’t take him to be advocating an insecure or  schizophrenic approach, but a reasoned and mature attitude toward all that is good within the BODY OF MESSIAH. 

    Personally, I get uncomfortable when people read from the NT in synagogue and don’t use CJB or HNV. They are easily accessible and I believe should be used. I’d  rather hear the real names and take a break from the Jesus Christ, or just Christ that is constantly used by the Church.  I mean it is a Synagogue, so I believe it should reflect Jewish standards. Churches are everywhere and you can hear that lingo and get non kosher food at any of them, why shouldn’t MJ be different?

    Anti-Semitic writings by Church Fathers boggles my mind. I can hardly stomach it, especially in light of what happened to Jews as a result. I’m amazed when I hear John Chrysostom quoted from the pulpit without a mere mention of his antisemitic, ungodly, hateful rantings against Jews.  Or the fallout from Luther’s hateful rantings. Why does the church exalt these men who rejected and despised G-d’s ways regarding the Jews, and how believers are to LOVE them and show mercy?  I have to watch my attitude while in Christian settings because of my passionate disdain for replacement theology that crops up so often while engaging Christians and the Church. 

    But then I am also disturbed by the attitude that MJ needs to be so worried about emulating or getting the stamp of approval from Rabbinic Judaism. Or to follow their standards.  Be knowledgeable? Yes. Look for good? Yes. Love those in it. YES!  

    But these are people who are deliberately rejecting G-d’s provision in Messiah, and have deliberately re-written what Jewish is (defensive theology against the accurate claims of Christianity) and I hardly think they have the authority to do so from G-d’s POV.  It just makes MJ seem so juvenile and insecure to be exalting men who reject and or/ despise Messiah.   where I think the ideal for MJ is to be more concerned about G-d and His ways than what other “men” think of us because that is a sure road to destruction. 

    Is anyone promoting all those who opposed Moses in the desert? Or how about all of the Jews who ignored Isaiah and the rest of the prophets? Is anyone advocating the practices and authority of the Jews who ended up in exile for ignoring G-d and His ways?  Isn’t it those who stayed true to G-d’s Word that we study and emulate? 
    So why this attitude that MJ has to be fashioned in the form of unbelieving Rabbinic Judaism? They are on the wrong side of the issue.

    • “So why this attitude that MJ has to be fashioned in the form of unbelieving Rabbinic Judaism? They are on the wrong side of the issue.”

      First of all, Messianic Judaism IS Rabbinic Judaism. Right, Rabbi Leman?

      “It just makes MJ seem so juvenile and insecure to be exalting men who reject and or/ despise Messiah. ”

      No, what’s juvenile is to make a summary judgement about who gets rejected and who gets despised, and in essence to make a classic blanket statement of condemnation of ALL Jews and Judaism (because this is really what it is) (but, “love the sinner”, right?). Being in a Jewish environment I can tell you that G-d-fearing Jews deeply LONG for Messiah and would LOVE to be in his presence and pray for his coming daily. The only remaining obstacle is the identity of Yeshua as that Messiah being temporary hidden from most Jews. But to claim that Rabbinic Judaism DESPISES Messiah is a appalling.

      • LWL79 says:

        If Rabbinic Judaism IS MJ, then why MJ at all? If MJ is Christianity, again, why MJ at all?

        I’m not looking for, nor will I support, another man made “fake righteousness” religion that seeks to promote itself above G-d. The bible is full of examples of this wrong-headed, but all too common human approach to Him and so is history for the past 2000 years.

        I’m a lover of Him, not of any system that seeks to promote it’s own authority over and above His, be it Christian, Jewish, or anything else. Yet I am not advocating a broad-brush rejection of ALL that either have to offer. Hence, my remark about finding Derek’s post balanced and mature.

        “No, what’s juvenile is to make a summary judgement about who gets rejected and who gets despised, and in essence to make a classic blanket statement of condemnation of ALL Jews and Judaism (because this is really what it is) (but, “love the sinner”, right”

        This isn’t even close to what I said, or meant. Why didn’t you take what I said as a “blanket statement of condemnation” against Christianity, I had much harsher things to say about it after all. It isn’t a matter of REJECTING either, just sifting and sorting the wheat from the chaff. Basic reasoning skills, but first one has to know where their allegiance lies.

        “Being in a Jewish environment I can tell you that G-d-fearing Jews deeply LONG for Messiah and would LOVE to be in his presence and pray for his coming daily.”

        They reject and/or despise Yeshua, who is the Messiah. And it is appalling -ly tragic.
        I’m not saying they haven’t fashioned their own version of what Messiah is, or should be, and then long for their wish to be fulfilled, I’m saying that Messiah showed up and has made his presence known. Due to many circumstances, they are activly rejecting him. I don’t necessarily fault them for all of it either, because many simply don’t know any better due to people calling themselves Christians who have masked his identity and committed horrific crimes against them. Hence, my remarks about the disgusting practice of Christianity exalting Church Fathers without even a mention of this wrong-headed, anti-Semitic vitriol they spewed or the results of it.

        • “Hence, my remarks about the disgusting practice of Christianity exalting Church Fathers without even a mention of this wrong-headed, anti-Semitic vitriol they spewed or the results of it.”

          LWL79, your own attitude and remarks vis-à-vis Jews/Judaism, labeling it “man made ‘fake righteousness’ religion” (!) are not that far removed from that of the some of the vitriol of the Church Fathers whom you so ardently condemn. I hope that you can reflect on that and change.

          • LWL79 says:

            I’m simply saying there are people who are out for their own glory and exaltation in all walks of life, in both genders, both Jew and gentile and in both Christianity and Judaism. I know by now I have stated this clearly, and I’ve clearly apologized for any unintended offense, the fact that you refuse to acknowledge it is your choice. 

            I’m not condemning Jews or Judaism, as man made fake righteousness, I AM making a distinction of attitudes of PEOPLE (Jew and gentile) who fashion or place their religion above G-d and this is done regularly in both Christianity and Judaism. I do not wholly reject either because if it, I am saying care has to be taken in sorting out the info. 

            And I will refrain from hyperbole regarding your comments and not say that you think that anything a Jew does or believes is all good, and all  correct.

            If you equate my position the same as the appalling writings of the CF then you either haven’t read them or are deliberately trying to be hurtful to me. Either way, there isn’t much grace flowing so I’ll bow out of this interaction with you.  

  9. Derek Leman says:


    Thanks for saying I gave a balanced approach. I do hope, though, your appreciation for Jewish sources will increase. I wonder if you have been exposed to rabbinic lit by a competent teacher in your location, LWL79. Rabbinic lit is a massive corpus and not intended for individuals to crack the code alone. My personal favorites include midrashic parables, medieval commentators among whom Kimhi (Radak) is my fave, and the later literature of mussar (especially Luzzato or the Ramchal). If you want to read just one, accessible example of pure rabbinic gold, get the recent JPS Edition of Mesillat Yesharim with commentary by Ira Stone.


    I assume you are not holding me responsible for LWL79’s statement. I did not say it was a mistake to draw on the sages. On the contrary, I said we must draw on them.

    • “I assume you are not holding me responsible for LWL79′s statement. ”

      Not at all. Simply noting your title as a rabbi for confirmation that essentially MJ is RJ (plus Yeshua).

    • LWL79 says:


      I’m not sure if I simply didn’t express myself well or if you and Gene are maybe overly sensitive on the issue, but what ever my offense, I am truly sorry, and am NOT intending to imply that there is no good reason to study the extra-biblical Jewish writings, nor Augustine for that matter (although since reading Barry Horner’s FUTURE ISRAEL, it’s been hard to motivate myself in that direction; I’m still in recovery!) I’m a fan already of some Sage/Rabbinic material that I’ve read and conceptually, I do not have a problem at all with it.

      I’m only trying to say that anything “man-made” is ultimately doomed and just as I can’t understand the disregard in Christian circles for the crimes of the Church Fathers’ writings and consequences thereof, I equally cannot fathom trying to align MJ with an entity that actively rejects G-d’s provision. I equated it with agreeing with those Jews who rejected Moses, Isaiah, Jeremiah, et al. They too were Jews, they too were wrong. so what I’m objecting to is what seems to be an attitude that “they are the boss of us” instead of allowing G-d to be the Boss of us.

      Hope this helps clarify. (?)

      PS thanks for the book reference, I’ll check it out.

  10. Derek Leman says:

    Rabbi Kinbar:

    It seems your point is largely that MJ’s have much Christian exposure and very little rabbinic lit exposure. Therefore, what is needed in our time is a major effort to catch up and re-orient Messianic Jewish thought toward Chazal (our sages of blessed memory).

    I agree. So, since MJ reading now tends to be 90% Christian and 10% Jewish, my suggestion immediately suggests a need for change to 50/50 (smile).

  11. Derek Leman says:

    Gene and Rabbi Kinbar:

    I do hope when you study or teach John you won’t avoid Raymond Brown or that your research into the historical Jesus won’t avoid Richard Bauckham.

    And I’m sure Rabbi K will agree, but not so sure with Gene: your idea of the divinity of Yeshua is necessarily in conversation with Christian tradition and creed.

    And a Jew who refuses to read C.S Lewis, oh what they are missing!

    Of course I agree we need to merge our Jewish way of thinking and form new ways of talking about Messiah, divinity, the Presence, etc. That’s what I do week in and week out here. And our understanding of Yeshua is strengthened by taking what our forbears on the Christian side have done and re-expressing it through a Jewish worldview. That is what I have been advocating (not multiple personality disorder).

  12. Derek Leman says:

    Ooh, Gene, I left out a key point. Note the sages’ use of Greek philosophy and the benefit it brought to rabbinic thought. Greek to Rabbinic is as Christian to Jewish.


    • “Greek to Rabbinic is as Christian to Jewish.”

      Derek, not at all. In fact, is it not the OTHER way around, in as much as it is Christianity that had to heavily rely on Jewish sources and oftentimes even on direct Rabbinic expertise to develop its own theology?

      But I would have to agree with you that it’s certainly the case with Messianic Judaism, most of which (with some notable exceptions) is Charismatic Evangelicalism with a touch of Hebrewism. For now….

  13. Derek Leman says:


    Thanks for further clarification and I am glad that you have appreciation already for some Jewish traditional sources.

    As for “man-made,” that’s all there is. My belief is man-made. Your’s is. Christian books and commentaries and theologies and interpretations are all man-made. So are Jewish ones.

    Alas, there is no direct line from God for anyone. All that we know comes through our humanity and is tainted upon reception.

    • LWL79 says:


      “Alas, there is no direct line from God for anyone. All that we know comes through our humanity and is tainted upon reception.”

      Good point, and I will agree with the exception that I believe the bible is authoritative. Although I am not sure where I stand regarding “infallible v’s inerrant” I do affirm that it is a record of G-d giving a “direct line” to his Prophets and that is why I place that material above anything else on the subject.

  14. Glenn J says:

    Jews read Christian scholarship, or should I simply say scholarship, to their advantage. Take Jews in the Time of Jesus by Rabbi Stephen Wylen or Rabbi Harry Manhoff, Amy Jill Levine, etc. Rabbi David Wolpe reads CS Lewis. A friend of mine went to Regent College in Canada and had professors who used Abraham Heschel as foundational books on understanding The Sabbath, The Prophets, etc. Michael Horton builds areas of his Reformed theology utilizing Michael Wyschogrod. Jewish Christian cross-pollination is acceptable. Why should Messianics have any qualms about doing likewise?

    • “Jewish Christian cross-pollination is acceptable. Why should Messianics have any qualms about doing likewise?”

      Glenn J, reading or writing theology books on a particular subject is quite different than living it and incorporating something in one’s own life, worship, and very identity (which is what being discussed here). I can write about Mars all day long, but I will not set my foot there and no one will confuse me with a Martian.

  15. Derek Leman says:


    Me-thinks you are ill acquainted with the influence of Greek philosophy on the rabbis. I was stating a fact, not an opinion. My analogy then, to make it clearer:

    As the rabbinic sages benefitted from Greek concepts, so Messianic Jewish rabbis can follow their example and benefit from Christian creed and theology.

    Still Q.E.D.

    • “Me-thinks you are ill acquainted with the influence of Greek philosophy on the rabbis.”

      I’ll take ill acquainted to being called mentally ill (grin). I am well aware of the Greek influence, but I saying that your analogy doesn’t work in Christian-Jewish (including Messianic) since Judaism is the original source that informs Christianity not the other way around. I am aware that some Jewish philosophers were influenced by Greeks, but I certainly do not think that rabbis borrowed 50/50 ratio of Greek ideas to form Jewish ideas (50% of Jewish theology is Greek?).

  16. James says:

    My, this conversation has sure progressed since this morning.

    It seems your point is largely that MJ’s have much Christian exposure and very little rabbinic lit exposure. Therefore, what is needed in our time is a major effort to catch up and re-orient Messianic Jewish thought toward Chazal (our sages of blessed memory).

    I agree. So, since MJ reading now tends to be 90% Christian and 10% Jewish, my suggestion immediately suggests a need for change to 50/50 (smile).

    While you made the comment half in jest Derek, it does touch on something important. Carl mentioned that even the Jewish members of MJ come from a largely Christian background and, as my wife can attest, learning to “think Jewish” requires time, effort, and continual exposure to a Jewish community and lifestyle.

    I don’t think we have to worry about there being too little Christian influence in the Messianic community. What it now needs (and I can see significant efforts being made here) is to move in a more “Jewish” direction. After all, it is called Messianic Judaism for a reason. This goes back to my original statement about how much Judaism should MJ contain in order to be called a “Judaism”? Also, are we just talking about (and this has already been discussed above) just 1st century Judaism, or should we include all of the wisdom of the Sages that has been recorded since then? Granted, there is some concern about statements and rulings made that directly go against faith in Jesus as Messiah, but then we have a similar problem in the writings and teachings of the church fathers, who go directly against the legitimacy of the Jews as a people, let alone a faith.

    Derek, you don’t ask easy questions but then again, those are the kind I like. However, I think the underlying question that we’re trying to answer here is, “What will the community of faith be like in the Messianic age?”

    We can’t answer that one yet, but nothing prevents us from trying.

  17. Derek Leman says:

    Excellent thoughts, James! A++++

    (Oo, I hope Gene gets offended . . . ).

    • a la Ebay feedback: “James in an excellent commenter, an asset to WordPress – super fast typing and least expensive words on the web for the money. Would definitely read his stuff again. Recommend highly – do not hesitate to read his stuff!!! A+++++. “

  18. James says:

    Thank you, gentlemen. I’m blushing. 😉

  19. NY*NY says:

    Hi Everyone…..I live in a household where my wife is MJ and I am Christian. Our home is is harmony with both. I guess I am lost as to why anyone would care to leave out Christianity or MJ either one? My wife totally respects my beliefs as a Christian as I do hers as a MJ. She realizes as I do that compromise and respect is what its all about. (not meaning either of us compromise our relationship with our G-d) We found balance 10 years ago when we married and it all works. What she brings to me about her relationship with G-d is amazing and she feels the same way about what I offer. As far as traditions…..We always do Shabbat twice a month (2 friday nights) and we go to a Christian church equally as much as we do a MJ Synagogue. It all meshes together beautifully in a fair and easy way for us….I guess the love I have for her and she for me makes that easy! When we have children one day….we will enter them into this compromise and in the end…..our kids can make the decision of what spiritual belief they feel drawn to. Why would any of us deny the goodness of either religion. In fact learning about MJ has actually taught me more about the Old Test and she has also felt the same about the things I have brought to her. We live is such a post 9-11 era where we are so divided and point fingers at the “other people” and we always want to be right. We are in a very sad place in that way. If there are two spiritual groups that needs to be together in this crazy world….its the Jewish and the Christians. Its all about respect….right?

    • Derek Leman says:


      Great thoughts. I like how your household manages the situation. That is a healthy compromise and a win-win. The post 9-11 era comment is also well taken. Too much red vs. blue, right vs. left. How about: God is God and we are his creatures?

    • James says:

      Greetings NY*NY,

      Please don’t take my question the wrong way and I apologize if I’m getting personal, but I have a really good reason for asking. Is your wife Jewish?

      I’m in a (sort of) similar situation as you. I’m a Christian (formerly attended an MJ/One Law group for quite some time but left last May…it’s a long story) and my wife is Jewish, both halachically and religiously (we were both atheists when we got married 28 yrs ago…like I said, it’s a long story). I don’t attend a church currently and my wife, due to a variety of circumstances, only occasionally attends synagogue services (either at the Chabad or the local Reform shul). Nevertheless, her entire lived experience is as a Jewish woman (not the Messianic kind).

      I’m curious as to how far apart you see your Christianity vs. your wife’s Messianic Judaism? One of the things I’ve suggested in my previous comments is that I don’t see too great a difference, at the core, in the theologies of either group. The differences are largely “behavioral”, for lack of a better term, but both confess Jesus as Lord/Savior/Messiah, so you and your wife should be more alike than unalike.

      As an intermarried person, I’m understandably curious about how others navigate a “mixed” relationship. Sorry to jump you with all of these questions on our first “meeting”.


      • NY*NY says:

        Hi James…So sorry I missed your question earlier…First of all… I am so glad you and your wife found G-d and are no longer atheist. I have thought so many times when things were going wrong in my life that if I had not had G-d in my life and Jesus as my savior, I may not be here! The answer is no, I do not see Christianity and MJ too far apart. Our beliefs mesh well. If you ever feel like there is something that seems far apart….I suggest you talk with your wife about it and pray together about it….G-d will have all the answers. He will work it out if you ask and he will reveal the answer to whatever is going on. I hope that helps.

  20. I tend to agree with Rabbi Leman though I respect each of the opinions voiced here.

    Christians have done more than make mistakes, misinterpret the Scriptures, and persecute Jews. I am not convinced that excluding the majority of Yeshua-believers throughout history from the conversation of what it means to be a Jewish believer is a healthy move, nor would it, in my opinion, help to foster the kind of unity and acceptance Paul fought for throughout his ministry.

    For better or for worse, the Apostolic decision to accept believing Gentiles sans conversion brought another voice to the table. I hope we shall not at last be shoved away from it.

    • Derek Leman says:

      Jacob, thank you. I like the note about not excluding the majority of Yeshua-believers throughout history in formulating our beliefs and practices. Klal Yisrael and the Church are imperfect. Klal Yisrael and the Church are sanctuaries in which the Holy dwells.

  21. NY*NY says:

    Yes DL…..Totally agree “we are all his creatures” we are not perfect (and thank goodness we aren’t made to be!! ) Thanks for a great blog.

  22. Glenn J says:

    Gene – “reading or writing theology books on a particular subject is quite different than living it and incorporating something in one’s own life, worship, and very identity (which is what being discussed here).” I think the people I cited did incorporate “it”. Jesus impacts Rabbi Manoff, Martin Buber and many others. CS Lewis impacts the life of David Wolpe. This is why it has a place in their books – it has had an impact on their life.
    “Intellectually, we might just as well be sitting in boiling excrement ourselves. Not only does our reluctance to engage with Jesus shut us out from knowledge of other religions — and that was what I hated about the shrinking and revulsion I encountered at King David: the gating of ourselves in — it denies us access to a crucial chapter in the history of our own. We forget that the Messiah was a Jewish concept, and baptism a Jewish ritual. The words have grown alien to us by association, or, if you like, by misappropriation. I am not suggesting we go knocking on the gates of the Vatican and asking for our Jesus back. But we should be historians, at least, of our own wisdom. We need that wisdom today, but then when do we not?” Howard Jacobson

  23. Andrew T. says:


    My comments yesterday were a bit harsh, I admit. I want to be as empathic as possible about a movement that is still in its infancy. But I stand by what I said: MJ will never be real Judaism at the rate it’s going, because its zeitgeist really is more Christian and gentile than Jewish and halakhic. But I do agree with your method of giving equal time to Heschel and Lewis, Rashi and St. Augustine, Talmudics and Patristics. I enjoy reading Christian theology myself.

    Contrary to what secularists say, Judaism has always been about mitzvot done for the sake of Heaven. I have no idea, but let me assume that a small minority of your congregation is halakhically Jewish. And I assume most or all drive to services. In so doing, they violate not only Rabbinic but Biblical commandments. If the congregations accepted with open arms Jews (and I mean Jews, not gentiles, who are not obligated) that violate the Sabbath, while at the same time insisting that they gradually re-orient their lifestyles to the point that they are eventually no longer violating but keeping the mitzvot, that would be great, but what actually happens is a general apathy and looking the other way. After all, we’re under grace, aren’t we? You see, MJ cannot be Judaism if a small minority of its congregants are halakhic Jews, and only a small minority of those are serious about living halakhically. The mitzvah in MJ is treated as a second-class citizen or an afterthought. There is little sense in today’s MJ of being “commanded” to anything. How can this change?

    Here is my ignoramus’s opinion on musical instruments on Shabbat: Orthodoxy is wrong on this point. The reason they’re prohibited is because there is a temptation to repair them if they malfunction. This is extremism and violates common sense; besides the tremendous value of instrumentation to add to a worshipful atmosphere, if a Jew really cares about observing Shabbat (as the Orthodox do, of course), any “temptation” to repair the instrument will be irrelevant. This is one example of the countless unnecessary stringencies in Orthodoxy that have scared away most Jews away. Yeshua said “follow me, for my yolk is easy and my burden is light.”

    Once again, I say emphatically: halakhic does not have to mean Orthodox. Read some of the Union for Traditional Judaism (UTJ) responsa to get a sense of how open-minded fidelity to halakha (minus Orthodox extremism) works out in real life. For just a quick taste, see: http://viewpoints.utj.org/?p=1073 For a brief Needless to say, the leadership in MJ is far below that standard, let alone the laity.

  24. Derek Leman says:

    Andrew T:

    Excellent. I hope you will stick around and comment often. Your perspective is very needed. I’m wondering what your situation is (Jewish? An MJ synagogue? A mainstream synagogue?).

    We could discuss the halacha of prohibiting driving on Shabbat. I’m not convinced it violates the spirit of Chazal.

    See, if we could have more talks with people like my colleagues in the MJRC, people like yourself, and others who deeply care about MJ’s future and connection within Klal Yisrael, that would be the heavenly Beit Midrash, would it not?

  25. Rabbi Joshua says:

    My dear friend and colleague, Rabbi Derek,

    I hope you did not read too much into what I wrote yesterday. As I mentioned, “I know that we would agree more than it may seem.” Especially given that you are a fellow member of the MJRC, etc. However, as I also wrote, my comment was more for the sake of discussion. It was not about percentages or music, but of primary community of reference. Even though I am sure we would agree, I just did not feel that came out in your post (even though an argument could possibly be made that the post itself was advocating a primary community of belonging within the Jewish community).

    G’mar chatimah tovah – May you be sealed for a wonderful New Year!

  26. Derek Leman says:

    Rabbi J:

    This rabbi and that rabbi agree. And are still friends.

    May the Awe of God and Love of God increase in your life, your family’s life, and your synagogue’s life, and in all the houses of God, amen.

  27. Andrew T. says:


    I am a gentile, a Christian, with no real-life connections to MJ, but MJ has really sold me on Torah and the Jewishness of Jesus. While Yeshua criticized Pharisees for not practicing what they preached on the ethical basics, I am disappointed that most of MJ does not practice what it preaches on halakha. FFOZ is about the only beacon of hope on that front. I have been eagerly learning about Jewish stuff for years, but according to halakha, I am an ignoramus no matter how much I’ve learned Torah on my own time, because I have no proper teacher. 🙂

    There is one MJ congregation in my town, formerly called “Beth Sar Shalom” but now called “Hope in Messiah”, maybe because the former name sounded “too Jewish” (sigh). Gosh, I wonder if those people know what a mikvah is (or if they don’t simply conflate it with a baptismal pool).

    I’d love to know why you think driving isn’t a Sabbath violation. I suspect its extreme convenience influenced your conclusion. On the grossly physical level, the combustion of the gasoline is obviously kindling a fire that one benefits from. How do you work around this fact?

  28. Carl Kinbar says:

    I need to state my case more clearly, without the poetry.

    If we don’t understand our condition, we won’t accept the remedy.

    As I see it, the underlying issue isn’t first of all whether and how much we should consult Christian writers. It’s the spiritual, intellectual, and social formation of individuals and communities. I think we have general agreement that most Messianic Jews received their early formation in Christian contexts. It is difficult to see how, then, we could have formed communities that are authentically Jewish.

    The question is how we make the transition to Jewish spiritual, intellectual, and social formation. It’s not just a matter of embracing a better theology or even becoming Torah observant. As James mentions in behalf of his wife, “learning to ‘think Jewish’ requires time, effort, and continual exposure to a Jewish community and lifestyle.” I would state it more dramatically: our way of relating to God and community , once formed, can be changed with nothing less than blood, sweat and tears.

    As James wrote, “I don’t think we have to worry about there being too little Christian influence in the Messianic community. What it now needs (and I can see significant efforts being made here) is to move in a more ‘Jewish’ direction.”

  29. kenneth c says:

    I agree somewhat with derek, but I tend to agree with Gene,carl,and andrew. G-d fearing jews would certainly agree with the opinions made by chrstians why G-d exists, BUT at the same time disagree greatly on the attempt to influence Torah judaism with chrstian theological and practices.so I guess derek is saying that we can agree here and there on a few certain chrstian opinions on G-d and messiah, but at the same time greatly disagree with mainstream chrstianity because of it’s Anti-Torah/rabbinic/judaism structure.

  30. kenneth c says:

    The bible, as we all know is Holy Jewish book, NOT a chrstian,hindu,buddist,or muslim book, but exclusively Jewish in and out,and it should be read and studied as such(with the help of rabbinic writings and maybe a chevruta).

  31. kenneth c says:

    Btw,I’m sorry if my posts don’t seem to be well typed/written.


  32. Derek Leman says:

    Andrew T:


    I believe Torah was meant always to change with the times (gasp). Internally we see this in Torah. The most famous example is the forbidding of any slaughter outside the sanctuary (Lev 7) which was modified when the people moved into the land and no longer camped around the sanctuary (Deut 12, 14). And we see this in the rabbinic traditions: the Prosbul, the rabbinic interpretation which renders capital punishment essentially void, etc.

    We no longer live in a village-based world (to my great sadness — let’s bring back agrarian, village-based life, I say!). Our work moves us around. Our cities and suburbs are spread out. Living all together in the same neighborhood is a beautiful way of rolling back history and living as in a former era. Yet I would not limit community to those who can participate in such a beautiful tradition. Transportation is a must and a Sabbath limit on travel makes no sense in the modern reality. The MJRC ruling is to limit travel to purposes of sanctifying Shabbat and doing mitzvot in community. We could also debate the fire issue (kindling is forbidden and starting an ignition is not the work of kindling fire).

    • Derek, it’s one thing for Torah itself to give authorization of change (as you noted) and a whole other thing to unilaterally change Torah simply because a certain commandment is inconvenient for secular city dwellers who no longer gather daily for prayer (which would necessitate at least a minyan that meets closer to home) but instead prefer to drive to the big temple once a week or just a few times a year.

      Besides all that, driving on Shabbat opens one up to violation of other explicit Torah laws, such as conducting business transactions on Shabbat (should one forget to fill up or runs out of gas on the way to or from synagogue), or carrying on Shabbat (wallet, keys, etc.)

      Conservative Judaism (to which MJ appears to look up to most and model itself after) has allowed driving on Shabbat during the 50’s (because most of its members drove already anyway.) It’s interesting that its Israeli branch re-banned driving on Shabbat in the 90’s.

      So, let Jews who don’t yet observe driving prohibition arrive to synagogue in cars (and most if not all Orthodox shuls do just that!) – but then again, they tend to not observe most other things in Torah either, but there’s no need to change the law for convenience sake.

  33. James says:

    On Shabbat Driving: It’s actually possible to avoid driving on Shabbat, but it takes some planning. The local Chabad Rabbi and his family drive to shul on Friday before sundown and stay all through Shabbat, not going home until after Havdalah. They’ve set up an area where they, and anyone else who wants to, can spend the night. Granted, it doesn’t come with all the comforts of home, but then, we all make decision.

    Just to be clear, I’ve never practiced this when I used to attend my former congregation, but I suppose that’s either a commentary on how I interpret Shabbat or my lack of committment to keeping the mitzvah. I’m not sure which at this point.

  34. Derek Leman says:


    You said the Israeli branch of Conservative Judaism re-legislated the ban on driving. Note the reason: in Israel all communities are Jewish and synagogues are all over. It is convenient enough to walk in Israel (where CJ again bans driving) but not in the U.S. (where CJ long ago lifted the ban).

    And Torah changes internally and in the rulings of the sages. Even the Orthodox practice this reality, whether they admit it or not. I gave several examples. We all pick and choose. But what bothers me is those who judge others over differences in picking and choosing.

    • “But what bothers me is those who judge others over differences in picking and choosing.”

      Derek, show me one person who says they never judge others for what they do and don’t do, and I’ll show you a liar. On the other hand, a person or a whole community do not have set their own standards to the lowest common denominator just to be sympathetic to those who are not there yet. One can have BOTH Torah and Grace – there’s no need for dichotomy between those two, but then again, many in MJ already know that.

  35. Andrew T. says:


    I can sympathize with the view that it is better to than miss out by keeping the prohibition. There is hardly anything “restful” about taking a long trek to shul in the cold and/or rain. But at the same time, Gene is right that it is a slippery slope to an anything-goes attitude toward halakha. That is one reason the Orthodox come down so hard on anything that looks Reform — they know what happens to the Jewish community if they don’t. Evidently, many Orthodox teens now are texting and tweeting the Shabbat away.

    Saying the combustion of fuel in a car doesn’t count as kindling fire is a semantic game. Fire always means combustion of fuel, whether it’s happening in a fireplace or in an automobile. Your argument that it doesn’t qualify reminds me of Orthodox over-zealousness on minutiae for the sake of making life unbearable, except it goes in the opposite direction for the sake of convenience.

    You’re right, everybody picks and chooses. But by all means, it is better to pick and choose as little as possible. That’s the real derech.

    • “Orthodox over-zealousness on minutiae for the sake of making life unbearable”

      Andrew T., I am a member of an Orthodox community. I don’t know of any sane Orthodox person that seeks to make life “unbearable”. In fact, Judaism is full of leniences designed to make life even more bearable than “sola-scriptura” surface reading of Torah would appear to permit. There are no perfect people and just about everyone is a hypocrite in one area of life or the other, but most Orthodox Jews I know personally are VERY content with their religious lives, probably more so than other Jews. Their lives appear to me very full and meaningful, with community and its needs being at the for-front of everything they do. After all, to do a mitzvah in Judaism is a blessing, not a burden or curse. More importantly, for them it’s a whole lifestyle and not something one does on a weekend.

      Yes, one must be disciplined and have a heart to serve to live this sort of life in earnest. However, we should be careful not to juxtapose the occasional group of stringent heartless hypocritical Pharisees Yeshua confronted in New Testament 2k years ago with a majority of modern day Orthodox Jews. Very careful.

      • Andrew T. says:


        You’re a member of an Orthodox community and you believe that Yeshua is the Messiah son of God? How does that work, unless you conceal your belief?

        I take it that being Orthodox feels surprisingly natural if that’s how you and all your friends and relatives have been raised. Of course, only in complete familiarity and rigid conformity could an Orthodox lifestyle be maintained. But the weighty stringencies, from extreme separation of the genders to not being allowed to play instruments on Shabbat to not being allowed to show tzitzit in the presence of a corpse because that is taken as “taunting” the dead person, are just that, and have scared the vast majority of Jews away. This was not Yeshua’s way; of that I am certain.

        I personally assume that when Yeshua was criticizing Pharisees, they were ones that belonged to Rabban Shammai’s school, which were still dominant in those days. The similarities between Yeshua and Rabban Hillel, on the other hand, are manifold. In mainstream Christianity, 1st century Pharisees are assumed to be monolothic a microcosm of all Jewish people. Sad.

        • “You’re a member of an Orthodox community and you believe that Yeshua is the Messiah son of God?”

          Correct, I am. And I know quite of few others like me.

          “How does that work, unless you conceal your belief?”

          It’s not without its own set of issues, but it works out just fine for me and others. It’s more about the attitude that you come in with {read: “I am here missionary and me-vs-those–unsaved-Jews” attitude is a sure way to be kicked out].

          “have scared the vast majority of Jews away”

          The vast majority of Jews do not care even about Reform or Conservative Judaism, both of which are extremely lax in observance but have seen their numbers plummet [while Orthodox communities have grown]. So, this argument that “strict” Judaism “scared the vast majority of Jews away” is a red herring. Jews were not scared away from “strict” Judaism for thousands of years (and during the Temple times and without modern conveniences it was even more demanding). What led Jews away is the opportunity to assimilate and be accepted that the modern world has provided.

          “The similarities between Yeshua and Rabban Hillel, on the other hand, are manifold. ”

          Ask ANY Orthodox (or Reform or Conservative) and they will tell you that modern Judaism follows that House of Hillel.

        • James says:

          Sorry to butt in on this conversation, but something you said struck me as rather interesting, Andrew:

          I take it that being Orthodox feels surprisingly natural if that’s how you and all your friends and relatives have been raised. Of course, only in complete familiarity and rigid conformity could an Orthodox lifestyle be maintained. But the weighty stringencies, from extreme separation of the genders to not being allowed to play instruments on Shabbat to not being allowed to show tzitzit in the presence of a corpse because that is taken as “taunting” the dead person, are just that, and have scared the vast majority of Jews away. This was not Yeshua’s way; of that I am certain.

          I’ve never been a part of an Orthodox Jewish community and so I have no room to speak about what their lived experience is like. If I were to judge them from an outsider’s point of view and without the inside perspective (walking a mile in their shoes, so to speak), I would be committing a grave injustice.

          Assuming you haven’t spent a lot of time living and worshiping in an Orthodox community either, I wonder if your value judgments aren’t contributing to an injustice. Gene is the only one in this conversation who can speak with any kind of authority about what life is like living and worshiping as an Orthodox Jew. If he’s part of the Orthodox community and a disciple of Yeshua, then perhaps those two lives aren’t as far apart as you might imagine.

          Oh, and in Yeshua’s day, there was a “court of the women” in the Holy Temple and, to the degree that he did not oppose it (it’s not recorded in the Gospels as is the eviction of the money changers), then maybe Yeshyua didn’t disagree with such a separation. Just a speculative thought.

  36. Andrew T. says:

    Gene, I am frankly surprised that you have found a comfortable home in Orthodoxy. Just as Christians traditionally see Jews as stubborn not-yet-converts, I have the preconceived notion that Orthodox Judaism can’t *not* see you as a “missionary.” “Messianic” is a scary word to OJs, because it conjures images of people convincingly resembling them in order to convert them. Maybe the laity is soft on you, but I’m not aware of an Orthodox rabbi that doesn’t come down hard on Yeshua-belief amongst Jews. Not the ones I’ve seen give an opinion. Some, like Shmuley Boteuch, give Yeshua the highest possible respect short of actually saying he could be Messiah. I’m imagining you’ve had a lot of “what, you worship the dead Jew Yesh”u who died on a cross?” Am I off the mark on that assumption? Perhaps that attitude is more common among the Frummies?

    On Hillel v. Shammai: while the way of Hillel eventually prevailed, it was because of the destruction of the Second Temple and the dispersion the Sages determined that the ultra-strictness of Shammai could no longer be upheld. However, it is important to note that they also agreed that in the Messianic age, all would return to the way of Shammai. And the ultra-Orthodox are kind of a throwback, aren’t they?

    Gene is right about the dangers of my critiquing Orthodox Judaism, when I’ve never so much as met an Orthodox Jew; Kentucky is not a very Jewish place to be, let me tell you. I’m relying on a lot of speculation and hearsay, and finding that it’s not so simple as to take Yeshua’s critique of Pharisees and superimpose it on today’s Orthodox Judaism. These issues are complicated.

    I’m convinced Yeshua was about as egalitarian as anyone in his time, though. He had Mary Magdalene and a few other unnamed woman disciples. He talked to women face to face, leveling with them as equals, never being patronizing. He conversed lovingly with Samaritans, women, and a Samaritan woman many times divorced (!). These were radical things. He was good at raising eyebrows. Now, I’m not saying he would have opposed a mechitza in the synagogues or tzniut, because properly understood these are spiritually good things. But he was no woman-hater, that’s for sure.

    In any case, this gentile wishes you a blessed Yom Kipper. 🙂

    • “In any case, this gentile wishes you a blessed Yom Kipper. 🙂 ”

      Thank you, Andrew T. I like your well informed and yet open-minded style.

    • Andrew T, I appreciate your knowledge and responses, and agree with many of them to a point….but with all due respect, it’s a bit odd having a gentile who has never lived as a shomer mitvzot Jew and never even met an Orthodox Jew telling us a) what halakhic Judaism is and to what degree MJs should follow it while also b) decrying Orthodox Judaism for its quote-unquote pharisaic tendencies.

      Walking that level of observance is a very fine line – certainly there is a small group of “Conservadox” Jews and some liberal Modern Orthodox Jews who pull it off, but I think it is a difficult balancing act. Perhaps it was easier in a pre-modern world without the allure of secularism on one side and reactionary Orthodoxy on the other. To do so in today’s world, though, requires a great deal of education and theological subtlety, and frankly, if we can barely pull it off in the mainstream Jewish world, I highly doubt it will ever happen in MJ.

  37. Dan Benzvi says:

    The bias you exibit is appaling…..Why not country music?…….

    • Andrew T. says:

      “The bias you exibit is appaling…..Why not country music?…….”

      Another one of your trademark hit-n-runs, eh, Dan?

      Look, country music is as goyish as it even gets. You might as well be saying: “The bias you exhibit is appalling…why not cover our heads with cowboy hats instead of yarmulkes?”. CULTURE MATTERS. Plus, it’s extremely annoying to some. Messianic Jewish communities ought to be comfortably Jewish. Gentiles have the entire rest of Christendom to thrive and grow with God in (not that MJs should ever exclude or deride gentiles, God forbid). They don’t need to be carbon copies of evangelical Protestant churches, with the added pretense of “keeping [only] the Biblical Law.”

      • James says:

        Well, maybe not country music. Jazz is also and American music form and I really enjoy this: http://www.chassidicjazz.com/

        • Leave them Jewish country songs alone!

          Jewish Country Western Songs:

          “I Was One of the Chosen People (‘Til She Chose Somebody Else)”

          “Honkey Tonk Nights on the Golan Heights”

          “I’ve Got My Foot On The Glass, Where Are You? ”

          “My Rowdy Friend Elijah’s Comin’ Over Tonight”

          “New Bottle of Whiskey, Same Old Testament”

          “Stand by Your Mensch”

          “Eighteen Wheels and a Dozen Latkes”

          “I Balanced Your Books, but You’re Breaking My Heart”

          “My Darlin’s a Schmendrick and I’m All Verklempt”

          “That Shiksa Done Made off with My Heart Like a Goniff”

          “The Second Time She Said ‘Shalom’, I Knew She Meant ‘Goodbye'”

          “You’re the Lox My Bagel’s Been Missin'”

          “You’ve Been Talkin’ Hebrew in Your Sleep Since that Rabbi Came to Town”

          “Mamas Don’t Let Your Ungrateful Sons Grow Up to Be Cowboys (When They Could Very Easily Have Just Taken Over the Family Hardware Business that My Own Grandfather Broke His Back to Start and My Father Sweated Over for Years Which Apparently Doesn’t Mean Anything Now That You’re Turning Your Back on Such a Gift)”

  38. Dan Benzvi says:

    Good, I wanted to stir some humor before Yom Kippur…..

  39. Dan Benzvi says:

    BTW, We have a MJ leader here in vegas who is originaly from Texas. Wears a Two Gallon hat, jeans and a big buckle belt. Blongs to the UMJC too….

    I will listen to Randy Travis sing gospel any day rather than listen to Zemer Levav singing Messianic and slaughtering the Hebrew……

    • “We have a MJ leader here in vegas who is originaly from Texas. Wears a Two Gallon hat, jeans and a big buckle belt. Blongs to the UMJC too….”

      I know that guy – met him at the UMJC conference a few years back.

      Personally, I really enjoy country music (in moderation, as with anything) and I like the country culture and the simpler life of the country folk. It just feels very American to me. Believe it or not we’ve played Cowboys and Indians even in the “good” ‘ol USSR.

  40. James says:

    Gene, please tell me those songs are all real and you didn’t just make them up! LOL

  41. Derek Leman says:

    LOL, Gene . . .

    Did you make up that whole list? Can I employ you to write comedy for my blog more often?

  42. Drake says:

    Cowboy hats, boots, and honkey-tonk, are identity markers for folks livin’ in the South and Southwest, namely in red-state territory, who have made a deep and verbalized commitment to partake in that ther’ life, as it pertains to a particular sect of Noahides.

    Your choosin’ to adopt mah wares grievously offends mah sensibilities and blurs the covenant that Gawd made with Country Gentiles in the Book Of Billy Bob, in the King Bubba Version.

    And just so’s yeh know: yew cannot just go out and purchase a customized belt buckle. Those are generally gifted by family and are worn to either hootnanies or shindigs, but not on the Lawrd’s Day. That’id be irr’rvrnt. (irreverent)

    -General Lee

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