Conflict, it is "a serious disagreement," says The Oxford English Dictionary. You might imagine that after reading Ephesians 2:14, the unsettling differences between Messianic Jews and Orthodox Jews would have been settled at the cross some two thousand years ago! Unfortunately, this is not the case; at least, not yet. So long as Messianic Jews continue to debate Jews of other spiritual convictions (e.g., Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and such), Messianic Jews demonstrate rather simply a biblical untruth. Firstly, such a Messianic Jew demonstrates that the wall of hostility continues to separate the two from one another, a false sense of what Scriptures emphasizes: "But the person who is joined to Hashem is one spirit with Hashem" (1 Corinthians 6:17, NLT). Secondly, the Messianic Jews demonstrate to unbelievers that what Yeshua did on the cross was to no avail.
Prior to explaining how many Messianic Jews can adjust their cultural sensitivity to the point that they're a better witness of Messiah Yeshua, this study will first discuss an accepted cultural practice among Jews.
Quite often than not, Jews will question, "How Jewish am I?" To Jews, this is a very important question. It's quite similar to Christians asking themselves, "How spiritual am I? Am I praying as I should? Am I fasting as I should? Am I seeking the Heavenly Father frequently, or am I just caught up with the routine while living comfortable in worldly affairs?" Just as much as many Christians question their level of spiritual commitment and make the necessary adjustments to live in accordance to the biblical standard as they understand it, so too Jews question their own self-identity with, "How Jewish am I?"
Whenever someone questions himself as being Jewish, he's questioning several things. Firstly, he's questioning the origins of his existence. Then, he ponders upon wether or not he's obeying the Heavenly Father's righteous standards as established in Torah. Similarly, he's curious enough to know what corrections need to be made in his personal life so that he possesses that sense of cultural connection to the ancient past. Such a person is wondering if they're truly loving the Heavenly Father and cleaving unto Him (reference Exodus 20:6, Deuteronomy 5:10, 7:9, 11:1, 11:22-5).
Does this mean that he is questioning whether or not he should continue on being Jewish? Does this mean that he's wondering as to whether or not Yeshua is Lord? Of course not! He's simply trying assess his personal relationship with the Heavenly Father. He's also trying to make the necessary adjustments so that his inner, passionate love for the Creator may have more meaning. To Messianic Jews, we easily relate to this when we meditate on Messiah's instruction of "When you obey my commandments, you remain in my love, just as I obey my Father’s commandments and remain in his love" (John 15:10, NLT).
So, what if a Jew says, "I don't think that you're Jewish;" what does that mean? Well, it can mean several different things. Firstly, it can mean that your ethnic background as one of Abraham's seed is held in question; at least, that how many Messianic Jews tend to understand it. However, it's deeper than that. For a Torah observant Jew to state "I don't think that you're Jewish" is to state that he holds your level of commitment to keeping the Heavenly Father's commandments. Why? This is so because plenty of Torah observant Jews are concerned about being Jewische, a man (i.e., ische) who has an adequate understanding (dah, a variant of da'at as in knowing) our G-d (Yehu[...]). It is as if though without knowing Elohim and keeping his commandments, the person is truly not a man (i.e., -ish): "Then the L-RD asked Satan, “Have you noticed my servant Job? He is the finest man in all the earth. He is blameless—a man of complete integrity. He fears G-d and stays away from evil. And he has maintained his integrity, even though you urged me to harm him without cause" (Job 2:3, NLT).
In essence, asking oneself if we're Jewish is like asking oneself if we're fine men in the earth, walking blamelessly with complete integrity, fearing Elohim by keeping His commandment while shunning evil.
After discussing some cultural practices among Jews, this study will now focus on how Messianic Jews tend to view themselves.
Among Messianic Jewish scholars, the consensus is that we do not condone spiritualizing the Jewish identity like those in Christendom do. Unfortunately, there are those who are coming out Christendom that do not fully understand what Messianic Judaism is all about. If anything, they bring with them anti-semitic views and try to share these views with the other Jewish counterparts while simultaneous giving this false representation of what Messianic Judaism is all about. To recent converts practicing Messianic Judaism, they tend to portray a very false impression such as the one depicted in the drawing. Let's refer to a verse that many misquote.
25 The Jewish ceremony of circumcision has value only if you obey Elohim’s Torah. But if you don’t obey Elohim’sTorah, you are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile. 26 And if the Gentiles obey Elohim’s Torah, won’t Elohim declare them to be his own people? 27 In fact, uncircumcised Gentiles who keep Elohim’s Torah will condemn you Jews who are circumcised and possess Elohim’s Torah but don’t obey it. 28 For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. 29 No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with Elohim. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by Elohim’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from Elohim, not from people. (Romans 2:25-9, NLT)
From these verses, we can deduct Paul’s reasoning.
1. The value that Torah plays among Gentiles who observe the commandments contained within.
2. The role that Torah observant gentiles will have among Jews who do NOT keep the commandments. Note: plenty of Messianic Jews tend to misidentify Orthodox Jews as those who do not keep the commandments; as opposed to focusing their attention to Orthodox Jews as not complying to Elohim’s righteous standards, many need to focus their attention in instructing secular Jews who identify themselves as being agnostic with being faithful to the Heavenly Father’s commandments as contained in Torah- the true application of this verse.
3. The true Jewish identity depends on the personal attitude that the person has in keeping the Heavenly Father’s commandments and not just that they’re born of a particular group of people.
Anyone who carefully read these verses can easily understand what Paul was saying. Oddly enough, many are under the false impression that Orthodox Jews do not keep the Heavenly Father’s commandments. The fact is that they do study Torah, contemplate in applying the commandments to several different degrees, and try to assist other Jews in keeping the Heavenly Father’s commandments. Being that Orthodox Jews do make every attempt in being Torah Observant, that then means that Paul truly wasn’t talking about Orthodox Jews as afore mentioned in Romans 2:25-9.
Who, then, was Paul talking about? Paul was talking about secular Jews who are not Torah observant. In fact, a careful rereading of these very same verses leads us to understand that Paul was pleading with secular Jews to not rely on their birthright, but to rely on returning to the ways of Elohim as prescribed in Torah: “[…] if you (secular Jews) don’t obey Elohim’s Torah, you (secular Jews) are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile” (Romans 2:25, NLT). Unfortunately, this is not the way in which many in Christendom understand this particular verse. If anything, they misread this verse as if it read, “Orthodox Jews don’t obey Elohim’s Torah; thus, Orthodox Jews are no better off than an uncircumcised Gentile.” In reading the verse in this second manner, those who misrepresent Messianic Judaism completely violate Paul’s later instruction: “[…] you must not brag about being grafted in to replace the branches that were broken off. You are just a branch, not the root” (Romans 11:18, NLT).
So, what’s the conflict? Let’s go back to the original verses that this study began with. Paul stated, “12 In those days[,] you (gentiles) were living apart from Messiah. You were excluded from Israeli citizenship among the [Jewish] people, and you did not know the covenant promises Elohim had made to the Israeli people. You lived in this world without Elohim and without hope. 13 But now[,] you have been united with Messiah Yeshua. Once you were far away from Elohim, but now you have been brought near to Elohim through the blood of Messiah” (Ephesians 2:12-3, NLT).
Let’s be honest with ourselves: there are plenty of people who are embracing Messianic Judaism. Many of them do not have a clue on how to speak Hebrew or read Torah. Out the many who do not have a mastery of living a Torah Observant lifestyle, there are those who truly believe that they can convert the world into what they “think” to be spiritually true, a reflection of the church that they themselves left but with different applications, when their lives are totally in a complete disaster. Whenever any of these people try to sever the connection that the Heavenly Father himself created among the Gentiles into the children of Israel, these contenders are simply not adopted children into the household of Israel. They neither have a basic understanding of the covenantal promises that the Heavenly Father made with the children of Israel the day he delivered us from bondage nor do they understand what it is to be a member of Elohim’s Kingdom during the appointed times and seasons as we commemorate Messiah Yeshua. The Bible puts it like this,
18 The way of the righteous is like the first gleam of dawn, which shines ever brighter until the full light of day. 19 But the way of the wicked is like total darkness. They have no idea what they are stumbling over. 20 My child, pay attention to what I say. Listen carefully to my words. 21 Don’t lose sight of them. Let them penetrate deep into your heart, 22 for they bring life to those who find them, and healing to their whole body. 23 Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life. (Proverbs 4:18-23, NLT)
It is the Bible that identifies these contenders as invaders conspiring within our sacred assemblies. It is the Bible that defines them as fault finders who exclude themselves from Israeli citizenship. It is the Bible that identifies them as being unfamiliar with the covenant that the Heavenly Father himself has established. As such, these are simply living life totally disconnected from Messiah as they live in this world without any hope whatsoever. They stumble their way in this life without knowing where they came from or where they're going and discredit the importance of the role that they play.
Want to know the sad part about these contenders? The sad part about these contenders is that we have allowed them to misrepresent our sacred assemblies without escorting them to the true light of world. If anything, we have allowed them to mislead many others into complete utter darkness. Now, we have to clean up the mess for all the mistakes we have allowed them to make.
Here's a true testimony of what's recently going on in Nueremberg, Germany. Some who came out of Christendom have joined themselves to the international body of Messiah. After a short period, they started to contend with Orthodox Jews. Nevermind the history that Germany has with recent holocaust. The fact is that many who faithful followers of Messiah's teachings feel embarrassed with how these contenders have been acting so much so that the true followers of Messiah do not wish to be identified with the anathema. As a result, we ask you to maintain our fellow brothers and sisters in your prayers as they resolve this recent developments.
After discussing the accepted cultural practices among Jews and discussing how Messianic Jews view themselves, this study will now conclude with the following words of advice.
Whenever a Jew questions whether or not a Messianic Jew is truly Jewish, Messianic Jews need to understand some basic concepts. Firstly, the Messianic Jew needs to understand that their ethnic connection is in question. Secondly, their condition of being Torah Observant is in question. Most importantly, their love for the Heavenly Father is being held in question. If anything, this is a great opportunity to shine!
I've personally witnessed Orthodox Jews question Israelis to their condition of being Jewish. The Israelis didn't argue with the Orthodox Jews; they simply asked to speak to the Rabbi. Regardless of how many questions that the Orthodox Jews asked these Israelis, the Israelis gave them little information. They knew where the Orthodox Jews were coming from and didn't want to engage in a verbal altercation.
From this experience, I was able to learn that I can do one of two things: either remain silent or provide them with an adequate answer. For the most part, I too tend to remain silent; however, if I think it's important for them to hear an answer, I tell them something as follows.
Thank you for your concerns. I know that Hashem the true, living Elohim. I know that I'm not perfect, but I make every attempt possible to observe His commandments as I continue to learn them. More importantly, I'm proud of my cultural background and assemble myself as He requires me to do. May you truly experience Shalom.
© 2014 by Nehr HaOlam Publications.
Winslow, New Jersey, USA
All Rights Reserved.
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scriptures were taken from the New Living Translation of the Bible.
For more information, contact NehrHaOlam@gmail.com.
Nehr HaOlam Publications
Here, we discuss biblical insights for modern day disciples of Messiah Yeshua.
Free eBook "My Salvation Is On The Way" prior to print publication.
Keep yourself updated every day by 11:00 am ET.
(No e-mails on Shabbat.)
Now, you can download a FREE pdf file copy of "The 613 Commandments" with biblical references. All you have to do is "click" on the button, and the file will be saved on your computer for you to enjoy.
Nehr HaOlam is fundraising so that we can do further outreach in Israel and Zambia. You can either purchase products available at this site or make a financial contribution at the provided link. We are ever so thankful for understanding that every little bit counts.