I’m writing this blog while sitting in the annual meetings for the Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (MJRC). We are discussing some really exciting and important topics.
The MJRC “consists of a group of ordained Messianic Jewish Rabbis and associated leaders who share a common vision for Messianic Jewish practice rooted in Torah, instructed by Tradition, and faithful to Messiah Yeshua in the twenty-first century.”
Our core mission is to define, clarify, and foster normative standards of faith and halachic practice for our membership and for those in the Messianic Jewish community who look to the MJRC for leadership.
The MJRC also exists to serve the professional and personal needs of our membership by ensuring high standards of professional competence, ethical behavior, and halachic conduct; and by facilitating the professional placement of members into the growing number of congregations seeking new leaders.
Origins of the MJRC
The MJRC was officially formed in 2006, but had its beginnings in a smaller group of like-minded leaders in the North East who had a desire to create a common set of halakhic standards for themselves and their congregations. Others of us with a similar vision for Jewish life were included, leading the group to expand and become the MJRC.
In the last 5-10 years the MJRC has been working on a number of standards and issues, from Shabbat and holiday observance to kashrut and nidddah. Many people often critique that there is not enough standards posted on the website, however, people need to keep in mind the process. Because the MJRC is a very young organization we have not had all the years other rabbinical councils have had to wrestle with halachic standards and observances. After all, the standards the MJRC has put forward have not been arrived at lightly. What is presented on the website includes many years of discussion, study, and committees working on practical application in a modern, Yeshua-centered context.
Why a Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council?
There are some out there who feel we do not need such a council. So why bother?
We bother because Messianic Judaism is a growing movement in the world. As we slowly mature, we find ourselves facing a number of different needs and decisions. And like any other movement within Judaism, questions constantly arise in relation to Jewish practice, theology, and practical matters. As such, our growing Movement needs a Rabbinical Council to help develop standards for our wider community.
What we are NOT doing is telling people what to do. While the MJRC commends these standards for the consideration of the entire Messianic Jewish movement, it recognizes the limits of its own authority. The decisions of the MJRC are binding only on the members of the MJRC. Nevertheless, we hope that others in the Messianic Jewish world will benefit from the work being done.
And that is actually what is happening!
Many congregations now consult these standards as they develop their own practice, and many individuals from around the world seek the advice of the MJRC as they wrestle with their own personal observance. The MJRC website receives numerous hits a day, and the standards of observance currently posted on the website are only the beginning of continued work that is happening on matters of practice and halachah relevant to a Yeshua centered Jewish life.
Standards of Observance
The MJRC currently does not seek to necessarily establish “halachah” in its strictest sense, but rather proposes basic standards of observance. The currently established standards cover two different categories – a “basic practice” and an “expanded practice.”
“Basic practice” refers to standards of observance that members of the MJRC are themselves committed to follow in their own lives. They will also seek to order communal events of their congregations in accordance with these standards, and will employ them in instructing those preparing for conversion. While members of the MJRC commend these standards of basic practice to all members of their congregations, they are not imposed as requirements for congregational membership.
The second term is “expanded practice.” This refers to a more demanding level of observance, beyond basic practice, that includes a fuller expression of traditional forms of Jewish life. An expanded practice is one that is explicitly commended by the MJRC, but is not required of its Rabbis or those converted under their auspices. The practices so listed do not exhaust the range of worthy expressions of Torah observance that a Messianic Jew might adopt, but provide concrete examples of the shape such observance could take.
It is an honor to be a part of the MJRC and serve with such a broad range of worthy colleagues as we seek to bring further maturity to the future of our Movement. With HaShem’s help, the inspiration of the Ruach, and clear commitment to our Messiah, we hope to continue to serve our Movement in this important way.
I would greatly encourage you to look over the MJRC website. And before jumping straight to the standards, look over the introduction to get an idea of how the process was arrived at for deciding these standards, the sources used, and ‘pastoral’ considerations in their implementation.