Torah Fundamentals, #1

The first point worth learning about Torah seems an obvious one, but in fact it escapes quite a few people. Right from the beginning of the actual enactment of Torah (you’ll see what I mean shortly by “enactment”) this point is emphasized. Yet there are many in our time who, knowingly or not, deny it — and for more than one reason coming from more than one point of view.

Before I state the first point in my list of Torah fundamentals, let me ask: where do you actually find Torah in the Bible? Many would answer quickly: from Genesis through Deuteronomy. But Torah means more than one thing. Torah in the most general sense is teaching. Your mother’s words of wisdom to you are Torah. “Do not reject your mother’s Torah,” says Proverbs 1:8. Torah in many Jewish contexts means the whole system of studying and practicing every facet of divine wisdom (Pentateuch, Hebrew Bible, rabbinic literature, teachings in the study halls, daily life lived out). And the way I mean Torah is a relational covenant between God and Israel.

You find Torah in Exodus 19 through all of Deuteronomy. Torah is found in the codes of commandments, in the covenant instructions, in the curses and blessings of the covenant. And the enactment of Torah begins in Exodus 19, not in Genesis 1.

So, what is the first thing that should be realized about Torah, the fundamental that begins our understanding of the Torah given at Sinai?

Torah is not a covenant made with any nation on earth except Israel, but is rather an eternal, unending code of relationship between God and the specific people Israel. Torah is specific to Israel. It is specific to the land of Israel, so that outside of the land, there are differences in how Torah is kept. It is specific to the people of Israel, the Jewish people, so that the application of Torah principles to non-Jews requires some consideration. And the Torah covenant is for all time. The people with whom this covenant is made cannot be replaced. The terms of the covenant may adapt, there are plenty of examples within Torah and the Hebrew Bible itself of adaptation, but the terms never end.

There are several groups who would disagree with the statement that is in bold print above. Some groups would say that Torah is for all people alike and Jewishness has literally nothing to do with Torah obligation or relationship. Many groups would say the people of Torah can be replaced and that the Torah covenant itself can come to an end. So, let’s consider Torah itself and see where I derived this fundamental of Torah from in the first place, shall we:


  • Where Torah begins to be enacted, we see right away that it is something intimate between God and Israel (and no other nation): ‘Now then, if you will obey Me faithfully and keep My covenant, you shall be My treasured possession among all the peoples. Indeed, all the earth is Mine, but you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words that you shall speak to the children of Israel (Exodus 19:5-6 JPS).

  • When Moses repeats and explains what has been done in the Torah covenant, he is clear about those subject to Torah, who are the Israelites and no one else: it was to your fathers that the Lord was drawn in His love … He chose you, their lineal descendants, from among all people … because He loved your fathers, He chose their heirs after them … you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God: of all the peoples on earth the Lord your God chose you to be His treasured people … not because you are the most numerous of peoples … because the Lord favored you and kept the oath He made to your fathers (Deuteronomy 10:15; 4:37; 7:6-8).

  • Time and time again we read that the Torah is for all generations and there is no indication that the people of Israel will be replaced and that the covenant will be annulled: throughout your generations you shall observe it as an ordinance for ever … It shall be a statute for ever to be observed throughout their generations by the people of Israel … You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you (Exodus 12:14; 27:21; 31:13).

  • In several places it becomes clear than non-Jews who come to Hashem are not required and in some cases not allowed to keep certain ordinances: And when a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it … You shall not eat anything that has died a natural death; give it to the stranger in your community to eat, or you may sell it to a foreigner. For you are a people consecrated to the Lord your God (Exodus 12:48; Deuteronomy 14:21).

APPLYING THE PRINCIPLE THAT TORAH IS ISRAEL’S COVENANT
I try to help Christians understand that Messianic Jews should and must continue keeping Torah, including the identity markers of Israel in the Torah which are Sabbath, dietary law, circumcising male children, marrying Jewish, keeping the appointed times, and so on. These are for all our generations. Messiah did not come and say, “Stop doing Torah now that I am teaching you a new religion.” The confusion about this in Christianity comes from the letters of Paul because of one simple oversight: Paul’s letters are instructions for the gentile churches, where the identity markers of Israel were not prescribed (see Acts 15). Yet Paul himself kept the commandments (Acts 21:20-26) and the Jerusalem Council never assumes Jews will stop keeping them.

I try to help Messianic gentiles (Two-Housers, One Law folk, Sacred Namers, gentiles in Messianic congregations, and so on) understand that it is wrong for a non-Jew to act as if they are suddenly Jewish. It makes a mockery of the eternal covenant of God with the people of Israel, the Jewish people. Being grafted in does not mean you are an Israelite. Furthermore, there is no reason a gentile should want to be a Jew. God loves all his children, though Israel is his firstborn among the peoples. And as a gentile you are invited to keep Torah alongside the people of Israel, but if you do so, it should be with utmost respect for God’s eternal covenant and not as though you are a replacement for his people. You should practice in such a way that it is clear you are a gentile keeping Torah with Israel (e.g., don’t have a Bar Mitzvah and do not use the traditional prayers at your Bris but modify them, etc.).

And I try to help Messianic Jews understand: Torah remains your covenant with God. Many do not realize that the majority of Messianic Jews (and I mean the ones in Messianic congregations, not the tens of thousands of Jews who are in churches) do not keep Torah. Most are Hebrew Pentecostals and Hebrew Baptists (see last week’s post “Types of Messianic Congregations”). It does matter whether you assimilate. It does matter whether you cease making Sabbath holy. It does matter whether you have a Bris for your sons. If you let your faith in Messiah annul the Torah covenant, you are acting as if Jesus is at odds with the Father, as if Christianity replaces Judaism, as if Christians replace the Jewish people, as if God’s promises are null and void. By being a living witness to Torah’s eternality and God’s election of Israel, you are the people at the forefront of Messianic redemption. It is when Israel calls on Messiah that Yeshua will return. So, Messianic Jews, be the people of Messiah, those who are a light within the Jewish people, showing the way to bring Messiah.

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60 Responses to Torah Fundamentals, #1

  1. Schalk says:

    Derek,

    What is you definition of “Israel”? You do not state this clearly in the article.
    I assume from your discussion that you see Israel = the Jewish nation. This includes all the gentiles that have “formally” converted to Judaism. What about people that have converted from Judaism to another religion (forced or free choice)? Are they required to keep Torah?

    Regards,
    Schalk

  2. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    I do think “Israel” equals the Jewish people, including all who have been included by conversion. As for Jews who have become something else (Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus), I think they are called to return and to be Israel.

  3. James says:

    In an odd way, I wrote about the “other side of the coin” in my morning meditation for today. I’ve been pondering the role of the Noahide Laws (Genesis 9) and how they may have been a covenant with God that was accessible to non-Hebrews in the days of Noah, Abraham, and beyond. One of the ideas I suggest on my blog is that the “God-fearers”, the Noahides in the days of Jesus, Peter, and Paul, could enter into the Messianic covenant without having any of the conditions of being a disciple of Jesus conflict with the Noahide requirements. If that’s true, then why would those people joined to God by the Mosaic covenant (Jews) find the Messianic covenant to present any sort of conflict either? Interesting parallel, at least in my opinion.

    Thoughts?

  4. Schalk says:

    Derek,

    To be more specific – Who’s defintition of Jewish? The rabbis do not consider Messianic Jews as Jewish, neither do they consider Karaites. If we use their definition, then Messianic & Karaite Jews do not need to keep Torah. If not, you are making up your own defintion of “Israel” to include Messianic Jews & Karaites.

    Thus I can also make the assumption that the current Jewish nation represents all the original tribes. Should all the descendents of these original tribes return and be Israel? How do we identify if our ancestors were Jewish/ one of the original tribes? How many generations do we go back?

    Regards,
    Schalk

  5. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    The Jewish people include those from all of the tribes. I do not believe in the myth of the lost tribes. The Jewish people have always intermarried and the definition of Jewishness is not about pure racial lines. Usually when people start quibbling, as you are, about definitions of who is Jewish and who is not, they wish to find some exception or loophole so that they may conclude they are in fact Jewish or Israelite. Is that what you are trying to do? Here is simple test: was your mother Jewish? Did she belong to a synagogue, have you circumcised? If not, then you were not born Jewish.

  6. Derek Leman says:

    James:

    The Noahide laws, in my opinion, are post-New Testament. The concept did not exist. God-fearers were not Noahides. I recommend Feldman’s book, Jew and Gentile in the Ancient World.

  7. Schalk says:

    Derek,
    Can you please quote the scripture of this test regarding my mother?
    I am not trying to proof I am Jewish. How do people that have converted know that they are Israel and need to return and keep Torah?

    I am simply trying to understand your logic to confirm that it is consistent.

    Are Messianic Jews Jewish by your definition? From this article it seems clear that they are. Thus I still need to know who’s definition of “Jewish” you are using in your article above. Could you give me a definition of “Jewish”?

    Regards,
    Schalk

  8. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    I gave a definition based on the current custom in Judaism of matrilineal descent. As it happens, we also accept patrilineal descent in the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (you can find our standards at ourrabbis.org). The basic definition of Jewishness is that it comes by birth or by joining the people of Israel through circumcision/conversion. I should not need to prove that birth is the normal means as this is commonly expressed in all the verses about “your offspring.” As for the possibility that people can join Israel through acceptance by the community, there are many examples of this as well. I usually point to Caleb, an Edomite of the Kennizite clan, who became part of the tribe of Judah (he was accepted into the tribe).

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Derek,

      None of the branches of Judaism, including MJ are acepting you conversion, yet you have the chutzpah to decide for us?

      • Andrew T. says:

        Derek,

        Here’s a test question to see if you practice what you preach:

        Would you prevent gentiles from eating of the Passover meal, or is this one of the things that has been changed when Messiah heralded the New Covenant?

  9. wordmachine says:

    The way it is sounding to me is that Messianic Judaism is kind of like a cult. Only people who are approved get into the group. The way I’ve always learned it is that Yeshua’s disciples are supposed to love everybody.

    • Cliff says:

      It is not a cult. It is simply the physical Israelite nation. It has existed since Sinai, and maintained itself through the centuries. We can argue about it, but I wish more people would simply acknowledge the physical difference. Being born Jewish or converting does not make Jews “better,” it just makes them Jews. The New Testament only creates a new spiritual identity for all who believe and are immersed in the Messiah, but this is not a physical change, rather it is a symbol of the spiritual change within the heart of the believer. The physical distinction between Jew and Gentile does not magically wash away. The move of Messianic Jews should be viewed as a very positive development since having a rising remnant within Israel of believers in Yeshua, the King of the Jews, is way way way past due.

      • Schalk says:

        Cliff:

        Thus Messianic Gentiles are not part of the remnant and will not be returned when Y’shua returns?

        • Cliff says:

          What is the remnant?
          The bible speaks of remnant in terms of Israel, or Judah frequently in the Prophets. Nations are often spoke of in terms of being called by God’s name, a picture of Nations attaching themselves to God, the means of which were clearly spelled out after the resurrection of Messiah. In terms of the remnant within Israel, hopefully it is beyond obvious that that only includes those who are Israelites, whether Jews or proselytes.

          Be returned to what?
          If you are talking about being resurrected at His coming, I certainly agree with Paul in 1 Thessalonians. But that does not make Jews and Gentiles the same. Do you see what this post is trying to get at? The main point is the physical reality of Israel in our world, as it exists in real life. Forget the afterlife for a minute, and the spiritual/mystical “one new man” etc etc. There is a nation of Israel, and you are either an Israelite, or you’re not. Essentially that is all Derek’s post is saying. Paul opens the doors for Gentiles to enter covenant faith with God, but that covenant is based on a spiritual identity in the Messiah Yeshua, one that we are called to live up to every day. Paul does not teach that baptism or being “born again” is a magic trick that turns believers into physical (blood line) Israelites. I am trying to speak in as clear terms as I can. Thanks for the question Schalk and I know that these are some of the most emotive questions for a lot of Messianic Gentiles. I’ve been through it myself and am still trying to figure it all out. Peace…

          • Schalk says:

            Hi Cliff:
            Thanks for your response. As you have stated, I am also trying to figure it all out. What I do not understand is based on this article, why would God choose to have so many covenants and be different to each group of people?

            My issue is not with being Jew or Gentile. I do not grasp the theology behind some people keeping Torah, same partially keeping Torah and others doing whatever they want and we all end up under His grace. It nulifies for me what James was trying to teach (or is his teaching now also exclusive to the Jews)?

            Based on this discussion, I now see three seperate and parallel covenants (all with different rules) One with Abraham, one with Israel at Sinai and another with non-Jews who choose to believe in Messiah. (Let’s leave Noah and David out for now!) This really seems to me like a very man-made complexity!

            Also, I do not understand the difference here between a Christian and a “Messianic Gentile”. Both have accepted Y’Shua as Messiah. What else sets them apart? Do “Messianic Gentiles”(I really hate this term!) then set themselves apart by choosing to obey some commandments? What benefit would this bring? Would I get some of the blessing that is now exclusively for “Israel” and the Christians none?

            Hope you can help me clear out the muddy stream.

      • wordmachine says:

        Thanks for the information.

        It would concern me though if I wanted to invite any of my family or friends to a congregation and had to think “Wait, on second thought, I wonder if they will be approved here.” What kind of an example would I be to them if I had to tell them they might not be approved at the congregation I attend?

    • Rodney Hollingsworth says:

      @wordmachine:

      It is not a cult. Yeshua live, talked, and walked Torah. He is the most pro Torah guy I know. Do you know why Yeshua’s disciples are to love everybody? What are the two greatest commandments? And you can’t do the latter without the first.

  10. Schalk says:

    Derek:

    In order for me to instruct people I meet the test if they should keep Torah is simply a question whether their mother or father was Jewish and belonged to a synagoge. If “yes”, keep Torah, if “no” you do not need to keep any of it. People who’s grandparents were Jewish but their parents did no belong to a synagoge or converted to Christianity do not need to keep it? You could also choose to become Jewish, but this must be “approved” by somebody that is already Jewish. Where in Scripture is conversion to Judaism described? I believe that this is a man-made (rabbinic?) tradition not supported by the Y’Shua or His apostles. According to the site you mentioned, being Jewish is a board decision made by men (Central Conference of American Rabbis, Reconstructionist movement, etc…). I have not been able to find anything to show me such a test in the Scriptures. It is not mentioned that the gentiles that went out of Egypt with the Israelites were asked to convert before they had to keep His commandments.

    In your article you state that Time and time again we read that the Torah is for all generations but in this discussion you state that it can be broken/left/abondened after one generation. Scripture says it is for all generations but men say it is limited (based on what you parents decide). Seems a bit of a contradiction to me.

    I agree with you that I should not need to become a Jew, but I do not agree with you that I do not need to keep the commandments. It is clear that we should all fear God and keep His commandments! It is not a theology of “You should all fear God, but some keep His commandments”. He wants us all to keep His commandments because we love and fear Him, not because my mother went to synagoge!

    Why would you have two sets of rules in your house for your biological son and your adopted son? Wouldn’t this create a mess?

    Regards,
    Schalk

    • James says:

      It is not mentioned that the gentiles that went out of Egypt with the Israelites were asked to convert before they had to keep His commandments.

      Greetings. Sorry to barge in here, but the resolution to this piece of the puzzle should be obvious. Where did the “mixed multitude” go? There’s no record in the Bible that says they retained their non-Jewish identity and yet kept the Torah commandments given at Sinai. This population of non-Israelites must have intermarried, eventually assimilated into the tribes, and eventually, after many generations, became indistinguishable from the “born-Israelites”.

      In other words, they “converted” the same way that Ruth converted…by attaching to the God of Jacob, by living the same lifestyle as the Israelites, and eventually by becoming Israelites. This is why the oft-quoted phrases “one law for the native and the alien among you” isn’t a justification for non-Jews today to be fully obligated to the 613 mitzvot. They didn’t keep the full Torah and remain non-Israelites.

      More recently in history, the conversion process has become more formalized so that the person desiring to convert to Judaism can be made aware of the lifestyle that comprises Jewish distinctiveness. If I were going to convert to Judaism, I wouldn’t have problem one with having the standards for that conversion being laid out for me by a Beit Din (Rabbinic court) since some authority has to verify that I am learning the basics of Judaism correctly. Most Christian churches have classes for people who have recently declared their faith in Jesus to help them understand what it means to be a Christian. You won’t find this in the Bible, but again, it’s very reassuring to know that you don’t have to try and understand your faith and your new identity alone with just a copy of the Bible and no other guidance.

      • Schalk says:

        James:
        Why does Messinic Gentiles then not effectively convert if the keep a lifestyle like the Jews, as Ruth did? Where is it mentioned that Ruth “converted” in any way other than choosing to follow His commandments and stay with His people? If we follow this example you quoted, we do not need formal conversion processes.

        What benefit does a Messianic Jew have over a Messianic Gentile that would make anybody want to be a Messianic Jew?

      • Dan Benzvi says:

        James,

        You are making a mish-mash of: a nation-Israel, a religion-Judaism, and a people-Jews. But so is everyone. That is why the question of who is a Jew remains a controversy. If we start thinking in terms of “covenant members” and not in terms of “Jew-Gentile,” this fall into place, and Derek is not a Jew only in his own mind.

        • James says:

          What benefit does a Messianic Jew have over a Messianic Gentile that would make anybody want to be a Messianic Jew?

          @Schlak: According to what Paul said in Galatians 3:28, nothing. We are all one in the Messiah. But that still doesn’t mean that Gentiles are Jews and Jews are Gentiles. My wife is Jewish and I’m not. She has an identity and a “peoplehood” that is different from mine. She’s not “better” than I am, nor am I better than she is. We are however, different in terms of responsibilities and responses to God and I am in no position to override her Judaism because of the Messianic covenant.

          @Dan: I agree that the distinctions are very confusing at times and, at the core, if we obey the mitzvot to feed the hungry, visit the sick, and clothe the unclothed, we are doing what is right, regardless of issues of identity and covenant. Still for a non-Jew to claim that they are identical to a Jew in every covenant aspect essentially eliminates Jewish vs. non-Jewish differences. If we’re all the same in every possible aspect, then doesn’t that end Judaism as a distinct entity? It’s one of the problems I have with the One Law movement and having walked that side of the street once upon a time, I can see both perspectives.

          As far as Derek’s status as a Jew, you’ll have to take that up with him.

          • Dan Benzvi says:

            James,

            Your argument becomes moot when you realize that there exists 50% assimilation within Judaism without the influence of One Law. God would be unjust to make a distinction between people other than sinners and righteous.

  11. James says:

    Sorry to be pesky, but I’d like to pursue this a bit. You are looking at this as a scholar, which is understandable, but take a look at Genesis 9 thematically. God did give Noah and his descendents a set of “commandments” to follow. I have no idea how or if they were passed down the ten generations to Abram, but assuming they were, then there was some form of standard for righteousness upon which a person could build a relationship with God. (midrash aside).

    We have non-Hebrew servants in the household of Abraham who, assuming Abraham taught the One God to his family and servants, would need to develop their own relationship with Hashem (see Genesis 24:11-14 for the prayer of one of Abraham’s servants). We have other examples, such as Joseph’s household, of non-Hebrew family and servants who Joseph may have taught the One God. We have a group of non-Israelite slaves who left Egypt with the Children of Israel who had to find a way to integrate with the Israelites. Finally, we have the “God-fearers”, non-Jews worshiping in a synagogue setting during NT times, who had to operate on some level in relationship with God but without access to the Mosaic covenant.

    While the concept of a Noahide may well have been developed post-NT, I’m suggesting that maybe God just didn’t leave the vast majority of the human race to “swing in the breeze” so to speak, between Noah and Jesus. If God established a standard of righteous living with Noah, then at least some human beings who are not in the line of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, could have related to God in some fashion while not ultimately becoming Israelites. It would establish that God really did care for everyone enough to not ignore people who were not descendents of Abraham and only “remember” us when Jesus started his “earthly ministry” in the late Second Temple period.

    Of course I could be dead wrong (it wouldn’t be the first time) in which case, most of humanity across most of history lived and died without any sort of awareness of let alone connection to God, even those people who had occasional contact with the Israelites of old.

    Sorry to toss this one at you since you appear to have your hands full on your blog this morning.

    • Schalk says:

      James:

      To be even more pesky here:
      Being a descendent of Abraham, Izak or Jacob does not count. You have to be a descendent of the people that stood at Mount Sinai, Hebrew or Gentile, to be considered part of Israel. Being of the bloodline of Abraham, Izak and Jacob makes no difference here (contrary to Gen 13:15)! It is before Exodus 19. Physical attendance or conversion is required to be part of this covenant.

      • Rodney Hollingsworth says:

        @Schalk:

        “Being a descendent of Abraham, Izak or Jacob does not count. You have to be a descendent of the people that stood at Mount Sinai.”

        What doesn’t beginning a descendant of Abraham, Isaac or Jacob count for? Please make that clear to me.

        @Everyone: I’m really not understanding the argument. There is One G-d, One L-rd and we are all one in Him (one body). We, whether Jew, Gentile, God-fearers(however we choose to identify ourselves) are all body parts. We have different functions {as with which commandments to observe}like employees on a job. There may be several managers (as we would be because we “manage” our lives according to our daily walk in the L-rd, and as we support each other), but there’s only one boss. And again, the BOSS has given us our various roles; as for Israel and the nations. However, we are Echad B’Yeshua.

        Though seemingly “spiritual” HaSatan is laughing at some of us right now as we’re quarreling about small stuff. The greatest revelation is to know G-d. The greatest sacrifice is to love G-d and our neighbor as ourselves.

        Can we not see how these petty arguments could cause further distinction within the community of believers and do know that followers of Yeshua aren’t the only one whom read this post. Imagine what they think of such quarreling.

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      James,

      Abraham’s household was the first “covenant community.” Besides his immediate family it also included sevants and slaves. They were all members of the household before they were circumcised, the not need to be “converted.”

  12. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    It really sounds like you are thinking and discussing, not just baiting a discussion to try and champion some pre-determinbed point of view. So I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that your rather difficult manner of discussing this issue is sincere. It is not easy to tell in blog comments.

    You can’t imagine that the Abrahamic and Sinai covenant are different (though they are highly related) or that non-Jews mediate their relationship to God outside of the Sinai covenant. You think this is “human complexity” and not divine revelation.

    Well, let me refer you to two specific points as a demonstration that non-Jews are outside of the Sinai covenant:
    1.1 Israelites must eat the Passover (the term means the sacrificed goat/lamb) according to Exodus 12:3-11.
    1.2 The stranger, a gentile living with the Israelites, is forbidden to eat the Passover according to Exodus 12:48.
    1.3 Thus, the command to eat the Passover does not apply to gentiles (that makes two different standards–one for Jews and one for gentiles).
    2.1 The Israelite is forbidden to eat meat found dead according to Deuteronomy 14:21.
    2.2 The Israelite is permitted to donate meat found dead to a stranger (resident alien) or sell it to a foreigner passing through according to Deuteronomy 14:21.
    2.3 Thus, the command not to eat meat found dead does not apply to gentiles.

    Your other objection is that “conversion” is not biblical. What do you call what Caleb did? You might imagine to yourself, “Since the Bible does not describe any process or ceremony by which Caleb was received from Edom and into Judah, there must not have been a process or ceremony.” That argument holds no water. The biblical accounts are very sparse. The fact that no process or ceremony was described in no way means there was not a process or ceremony. The Torah relates very little of the details of how things were done. Examples of this quality of Torah gaps abound and abound.

    Schalk, it seems to me that you are rather new to the study of Torah. This blog post is called “Torah Fundamentals, #1” for a reason. This is not advanced Torah theology. It is simple stuff. I would advise you to read the parashah for a few years and study thoroughly and be slow to develop strong opinions during this period of study. Much of the confusion, fighting, and silly nonsense out there on the internet about Torah is the product of non-Jews forming strong opinions without doing the hard work of study, reading scholars, comparing scriptures, and developing after several years of disciplined daily study some familiarity with Torah texts.

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Derek,

      As someone who holds himself as a scholar you fail miserably here.

      1) Can a Gentile woman eat of the Passover, since she is not circumcised?
      2) Could a Gentile man eat all other food in the seder beside the meat of the sacrificial lamb?
      3) What about a gentile man who is circumcised just because he wants to eat the Passover but does not want to accept “conversion?
      4) Deut. 14:21. See Leviticus 17:15. Is this a seeming contradiction, or that your definition of a “stranger” is wrong?

      As far as conversion is concerned, you are arguing from silence which proves NOTHING.

    • Schalk says:

      Derek,
      I take exception to your comment that I am not versed in Torah. Who made you the expert? I have been studying Torah for quite a number of years.
      The fact that I do not agree with all your theology that is implied in the document does no make me “unschooled in Torah”. I have entered into this discussion with a respect for your opinion and I would expect the same from you. This is now the second time that you talk me down! Please stop it!

      Coming back to your previous point. I do not agree that the differentiation in Exodus 12 is between Jew and gentile. It is between His covenant people and the others. This should still be the seperation today. Those that choose God and follow His commandments and those that do not. If I choose to follow Him and do His commandments (like Caleb or Ruth) I do not need the blessing of another person to qualify me to a special status. The choice must be mine alone.

      I believe that the process of conversion is not mentioned or described because God does not deem this as a “special” process like men do. Thus it also does not hold water for your argument.

      I agree with Dan that the theology behind this article confuses a lot of terms. It then goes further to build new rules upon this confusion.

      For me it is simple: If I choose to follow God, I must follow His commandments. I do not earn my salvation by this, just as I do not become my father’s son (born or adopted) by keeping to his household rules. I become His adopted son because He chooses me and I accept. This does not make me a second class citizen with limited priviledges due to my bloodline. I keep His commandments because I love Him and want to do what pleases Him.

      Thus the only distinction that was made and should still be made is those that choose God and those that do not.

      I also belief that Israel is His first born and He still loves them. However, I do not need to be part of Israel before I may obey Him, but choosing Him and obeying Him makes me part of His covenant people.

      Why do you want to distinguish between Jew, Messianic Jew, Messianic Gentile and Christian? Do they have different priviledges or a different eventual outcomes? If yes, please explain these to me so that I can learn.

      I still have a couple of open questions for you:
      1. What is the scriptural reference for being Israel/Jewish depending on my parents’ religion.
      2. Why can we change a “all generations” covenant to a “one generation” covenant?
      3. What is the covenental difference between a Christian and a Messianic Gentile?
      4. If I meet a person who wants to follow Y’Shua, how do I determine if he must keep Torah or not? Purely his/her parents’ religion?
      5. Are the instructions of the apostle James only for Jews?

      Please clarify for me these open points so I can consolidate for myself what has been discussed so far.

  13. wordmachine says:

    I didn’t talk on here much but I think I decided today that this part of Messianic Judaism isn’t for me, so I think this is my last day of reading this blog. It’s been imfortative in a lot of ways to me over the years to read this blog but I can’t see myself belonging to a secluded Israel tribe, sect, group or whatever you call it. I have more of a Judeo-Christian mind and want to be able to look at people and see that they are people and not be concerned if they are Jewish or Gentile. To some people it’s important what their identity is but to me it isn’t. Maybe God will make Judaism more important to me in the future but right now I’m just interested in certain parts of it. So, off to try to be at a Judeo-Christian congregation, or something like one. Sorry if my comments were offensive to anyone, I was just really speaking what was on my mind and trying to figure out if this type of Messianic Judaism was for me and I figured out it pretty much isn’t.

    • James says:

      wordmachine, I don’t know if you’ll see this but please believe me, if you were Jewish and you felt someone were trying to take that away from you by forbidding you to practice as a Jew or by burning your Torah scrolls and your Talmud (or marching you off to the ovens), I promise you that issues of Jewish identity would become very important to you.

      In terms of honoring God, we can all do that. What you’re looking for, we all seek; the commonality of people who serve God and what makes us all brothers and sisters “under the skin” so to speak.

      I’m not Jewish but my wife is (she isn’t Messianic, not even a little) and so I’m somewhat sensitized to these issues. I don’t call myself “Messianic” either, but I see the value of seeking Jesus in Jewish learning (strange as that may sound to most Christians). Regardless of what you call yourself or where you choose to worship and fellowship, what matters most is what is says in Micah 6:8:

      “And what does the LORD require of you But to do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God?”

      • wordmachine says:

        James, I’ve never tried to take anybody’s identity away from anybody. I’m just getting burned out on the Jew and Gentile discussions in some of the Messianic synagogues. Can’t we just talk more about Yeshua?

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Wordmachine,

      You are just playing into their hands. they don’t want Gentiles in their midst, unless they are second class participants.

      • wordmachine says:

        Dan, not all Messianic congregations are like this.

        Believe me I can tell when I’m being treated as a second-class participant. I tend to give them more time than I should to include me. I hope you’re not getting treated the same way if you are a Gentile.

        • wordmachine says:

          BTW, I am just talking in general here and not pointing out one specific synagogue. I’m just saying you can tell in some of the synagogues that you’re not getting treated the same as everybody else. Also, I’m just saying different parts of Messianic Judaism are for different kinds of people. This kind of Messianic Judaism I don’t fit into because I’m not enough of an Israelite I guess is what I was trying to say, but there are other parts of Messianic Judaism I do fit into.

          • Derek Leman says:

            The accusation of favoritism toward Jewish attendees is commonly trotted out, but rarely seen. At Tikvat David, for example, which I described in last weeks post (“Types of Messianic Congregations”) as a Blended Messianic Congregation, our leadership is Jewish and non-Jewish and all the people participate together.

      • Rodney Hollingsworth says:

        @ Dan Benzvi,

        I’m a Gentile in the midst of the Messianic movement. I’m aware that not everyone likes me and are questioning my devotion to the movement. However, my devotion is to God in the revelation of Yeshua HaMashiach. Therefore, what can man do to me? NOTHING but gossip. Yet regardless of what they do, my duty is to “do justice, to love kindness, And to walk humbly with your God”, as James pointed out, quoting Micah 6:8. May that be your motivation. Because believe you me, no matter where you go in the world and despite your “followship” whether any community (Christianity, Judaism; traditional or messianic, Islam, etc.), not everyone is going to have the same beliefs. We’re HUMAN!

    • Rodney Hollingsworth says:

      @wordmachine:

      I understand your frustrations quite so. Yet I must tell you to not many any decisions based on frustrations. Not all of the Messianic movement believe the same. Neither are beliefs the same in the Judeo-Christian community. There will be arguments EVERYWHERE. A verse in Proverbs say there is a way that seems right to man, yet it leads to death (paraphasing). The point is, don’t let your frustrations entrap you. What seems difficult for you to understand regarding the teachings of man, may you seek (as we should do first) G-d of His Holy Spirit to counsel you in all truth, bringing forth revelation that is and is not of Him.

      While I may not agree with everything, I hold fast to which is truth as I look to the highest standard, and that’s the Word of G-d. And the revelation that I receive may be what applies for me and no one else, yet it doesn’t contradict G-‘d unadulterated Word.

      May Adonai continue to bless you.

  14. Derek Leman says:

    Dan:

    Thanks for the “fail miserably” comment. That was pertinent, I’m sure, in some universe, to the issue at hand (sarcasm drips).

    You asked four questions. I will address them one at a time:

    1) Can a Gentile woman eat of the Passover, since she is not circumcised?
    I’m glad you raised this issue, Dan. It is a good example of a principle: Torah is case law and much is assumed rather than spelled out in specific detail. What is assumed is that a woman’s status, at the time Torah was written, is determined by her husband or father. I will probably make this another in my Torah Fundamentals series, “Torah leaves much unexplained and requires the student of Torah to make connections between ideas where specific principles are unstated.”

    2) Could a Gentile man eat all other food in the seder beside the meat of the sacrificial lamb?
    Yes. Passover in this context means the sacrificial meat. At the time of Torah, the Seder required only three elements: unleavened bread, bitter herbs, lamb. Only the sacrificial meat was holy and only it was forbidden. Part of the understanding here is from the laws of the Peace (fellowship) offering. Eating the peace offering is a covenant meal between the person and God and the Passover is a peace offering which symbolizes the covenant relationship between God the redeemer of Israel from Egypt and the people as those redeemed. Gentiles were not redeemed from Egypt. They are forbidden to eat.

    3) What about a gentile man who is circumcised just because he wants to eat the Passover but does not want to accept “conversion?
    Anyone who dwells with Israel and has all their males circumcised is joining Israel (i.e., converting). You do not think so, I realize that. But this is, in fact, what happened to people like Caleb and his clan. It is also what happened to the mixed multitude (except that some may have left or joined the Canaanites).

    4) Deut. 14:21. See Leviticus 17:15. Is this a seeming contradiction, or that your definition of a “stranger” is wrong?
    Leviticus 17:15 does not forbid eaten meat found dead, but specifies the required rites of purification. Putting Deuteronomy 14:21 and Leviticus 17:15 together is not difficult: a stranger (resident alien) who eats the meat found dead must undergo ritual purification afterward or he is sinning (see Numb 19:20).

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Derek,

      1) You are not adrresing the issue of a gentile woman that her husband is not a part of the community. You cannot have the cake and eat it too. It raises another issue: within the wider Jewish community, would a Gentile God-fearing woman have been excluded from eating the Pesach sacrifice on the grounds that all Gentiles were considered ceremonially unclean?
      2) Again, Would not the Gentile man be considered ceremonially unclean and therefore will defile the whole table?
      3) Is this what will happen to the Gentiles in your congregation? will they all convert? you seem to talk from two sides of your mouth…
      4) So where is the distinction in Lev. 17:5?

  15. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    My comment about your inexperience with study of Torah stands. You find it insulting. I find it insulting when people talk like experts when they display little or no knowledge of a topic. If you feel that the comments you have shared here reveal your expertise in the Pentateuch, then I advise you to take a closer look at how you have been studying.

    It seems that people think the Bible is different from every other kind of learning. No one would let someone perform surgery based on reading some websites and a small amount of literature. But when it comes to the Bible, everybody is an expert. Well I’m saying it’s not true.

    Your stance so far in this conversation has been one of attack. You have indicated repeatedly that I need to verify my statements about specific points of Torah. When I do verify them, you make simplistic arguments and then tell me you are insulted I don’t think you are an expert.

    You cannot explain Exodus 12:48 or the change in status which Caleb experienced. All you can do is argue that I am wrong because a ceremony is not specified. Torah only sometimes gives the details for ceremony or the practical way commands are to be followed. If you have studied Torah for years and if your study has been productive, you would know this.

    • Schalk says:

      Derek:

      If you cannot discuss your theology with other people without being sarcastic or personal, you are no scholar in my eyes! You are an opinionated elitist with something you are trying to protect. You make statements that you cannot justify in scripture and then get upset when people point that out to you. You build your “special priviledges” purely on man made laws.

      My opinion of you no longer stands! You are not somebody to be respected, but rather to be avoided due to the fact that you are trying to lead people away from the Torah.
      I really tried to have this discussion with you based on love and mutual respect, but I can see that this is not the same from your side.

      I would thus end this discussion now with a simple statement – you have not convinced me of your opinion and I consider you as a dangerous teacher! I will stop following your teachings.

  16. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    You started an argument and now you are calling foul and leaving? I have to say, I never heard any love or mutual respect in your comments. I heard questioning and attempting to put me on the defensive. Me? A dangerous teacher? If you think so.

  17. Schalk says:

    He who claims must proof. I simply asked you to proof, but you cannot. You rather choose to get personal, not only with me!
    Anybody who tells people not to follow the Torah is dangerous!

  18. Derek Leman says:

    Schalk:

    You say, “Anybody who tells people not to follow Torah is dangerous!”

    So, based on Exodus 12:48, if the Temple were standing, I would tell a gentile, “You cannot eat the Passover.” According to you this would be dangerous. According to God, it would be dangerous for the gentile to eat the Passover!

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Derek,

      You talk like that because you wrongly believe that circumcision is the entry ticket. It is not, and you know it.

  19. Cliff says:

    The waters have certainly muddied. I think I see what Derek is trying to say and I also see what Schalk is asking. But sadly with limited time and complex issues it is difficult to put words around. *sigh* I know these issues are tough. There were some questions asked above, and I’ll make a meager attempt to provide a little clarity. And yes I am ignoring questions 1 and 2 on purpose because I wasn’t sure what they are referring to.

    3. What is the covenental difference between a Christian and a Messianic Gentile?
    There isn’t one. Unless the Christian is Jewish. In that case, they’re not a Gentile. 🙂
    4. If I meet a person who wants to follow Y’Shua, how do I determine if he must keep Torah or not? Purely his/her parents’ religion?
    If you mean Genesis – Deuteronomy, we are all subject as believers to the Torah and all of the Bible. It is our job to study it and live it the best we know how. The Bible defines sin as transgressing of the Torah, so the more we learn what sin is, the more we realize we are breaking it. Now, Israel was chosen as a physical nation to be a priestly people to the rest of the nations. There are covenant signs that they must comply with, as well as they entire Temple service if we had one, and those signs can certainly be practiced by those from the nations if they so choose. The Torah itself makes room for “strangers” and “aliens” to participate as well provided they follow the protocols in the exact same manner. As Derek has noted this requires circumcision in the case of the Passover. I would encourage you, as a Gentile, to practice as much of the Torah’s external rituals as you can because they lead toward a holy life, a sanctified existence so to speak, and real physical blessing. I mean, how is taking a day off to worship and learn about God going to hurt you. It will only be good for you. Have respect for the historical nation of Israel, and don’t dog on their customs. Traditions are like glue, keeping people together. If Israel were only made up of people who “felt called” from a spiritual standpoint throughout history, there would be no Israel. Being chosen is also a great responsibility, one paid for with blood too many times unfortunately. But there needed to be an example. Check out Deuteronomy 4, beautiful.
    5. Are the instructions of the apostle James only for Jews?
    James wrote to scattered Jewish congregations, because he was head of the Jerusalem believing community, but that doesn’t mean his wonderful teachings cannot benefit all those who read them.

    I have no problem if you see things differently and I am certainly open to being wrong on some things. I wouldn’t have gotten where I am today without being wrong 1000 times before. Peace..

  20. James says:

    The multiple conversation streams are getting too hard to follow, but I’ll try to respond to a few items.

    @Dan, the assimilation argument you present seems like a red herring. I’m talking about how, although without intent, certain versions of the movement such as One Law can create a condition that ends up deleting anything that makes a Jewish believer distinctly Jewish. That is what the larger Christian church as done historically, but instead of doing so by requiring that the Jew stop practicing anything Jewish as the church as done, OL (again, without intent or malace) does so by having all of the Gentile believers practice everything Jewish, too.

    It’s like the line from the film “The Incredibles”: “When everyone is super, no one will be.”

    @wordmachine, yes you can talk about Yeshua, but this particular comment thread probably isn’t the best place, since we’ve once again gone off on a tangent. There are plenty of other blogs Derek has written where the conversation is more focused on the “weightier matter of the law” such as doing good to others, and plenty of blogs where these things are also discussed, both in the Messianic and the traditional Christian blog space.

    In a way, today’s conversation here has contributed to the “morning meditation” I’ll be posting on my own blog tomorrow. I’m calling it “The Conundrum Religion”. We’ll still have different points of view about which covenant can be applied to which population and we won’t be able to fix that until the Messiah comes. We apparently like to converse this way since so many of our “chats” are on this topic.

  21. Derek Leman says:

    Somewhere way up there in a reply comment, Andrew T asks: “Here’s a test question to see if you practice what you preach: Would you prevent gentiles from eating of the Passover meal, or is this one of the things that has been changed when Messiah heralded the New Covenant?”

    Andrew, somewhere else in this long list of comments I said that “Passover” in Exodus 12:48 refers to the sacrificial meat of the goat/lamb which is a peace offering and the meat is a covenant meal between the offerer and God.

  22. Andrew T. says:

    What troubles me is that not one single person has so far deferred to what the rabbis had to say on Jewish identity. Hmm, gee, don’t you think they had a legitimate thing or two to say on the subject of who is a Jew?

    The Jewish sages are so distrusted in this movement that they are deferred to as a last resort, if that. This seems to be the norm in Messianic “Judaism.” Derek is right: each one thinks himself an expert in the Bible, with none of the rigor that is associated with any other discipline. For the record, medieval Karaites actually deferred to rabbinic interpretations (or at least engaged with them) much more than most Messianics today.

    As Jewish comedian Lewis Black said about the Hebrew Bible: “that’s our book!”

    Schalk, according to the rabbis, even one who has long studied Torah is an ignoramus if he had no proper teacher. Go ahead and totally gut their teachings and naively discount them as “man-made,” but I do believe they were on to something. Wink wink.

    • Andrew T. says:

      P.S.: I am well aware that the Talmud often takes on a chauvanistic attitude toward non-Jews (which means me). When you consider how terribly persecuted the Jewish people were in those days, and compare this to the easily more terrible things the Church Fathers wrote about the Jews, it becomes easier to forgive.

      The answer, then, is to take the rabbinic world with a grain of salt, not to throw baby out with bathwater. Likewise, Augustine was a flawed human being that got it wrong quite often, but had many beautiful things to say about God that Christians ought not dismiss. He, like the rabbis, is a valuable and relevant reference point on the path to establishing the Kingdom.

    • Dan Benzvi says:

      Actually, Andrew, the Rabbis were somewhat lenient in some cases. For example on Gentiles offer sacrifices at the temple (see Mishnah Shekalim 7.6 and Mishnah Zevachim 4.5). (See also Mishnah Zevachim 5.3; 5.5; 6.1)

  23. Cliff says:

    If this were FB I would like this. Judaism and Jews in general get little respect from anyone. Period. If anyone should be sympathetic it should be us. And I certainly am.

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