Tuesday, April 20, 2010

What are the primary theological differences between Judaism, Conservative Messianic Judaism, and Christianity?

What are the high-level differences?

A brief disclaimer. We do not believe everyone has to believe exactly as we do to have a relationship with G-d.

Theologically, Judaism, Conservative Messianic Judaism, and Christianity can be seen as (in our opinion) having started out as a common road, that around the 70 - 200 ce (AD) time frame split into 3 separate paths.

The primary differences can best be summed up around:

* The role of Torah
* The role of Oral Torah
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret
* The Deity of Yeshua
* The role of Works
* The role of Faith
* The role of Repentance
* The role of Paul (Shaul)

Let's examine each of these at a high level for the 3 groups.

Traditional Judaism

* The role of Torah - The core of Jewish life and thought.
* The role of Oral Torah - along with the teachings of the Sages and Rabbi's Oral Torah has become the dominate force behind Halacha (How you are to walk, Jewish Law). These teachings are summed up in the Talmud, Mishneh Torah, Shulhan Arukh, and other Rabbinic texts
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret - denied by traditional Jews, most now see Yeshua as a good Rabbi who taught Torah.
* The Diety of Yeshua - denied by traditional Jews, previously seen as a form of idolitry.
* The role of works - Important as concrete evidence of following the commandments of G-d.
* The role of Faith - Faith in G-d is the basis for all Torah belief
* Repentance - Key to forgiveness of sins, must be both to G-d and the person wronged. Thus if you steal, to be forgiven you have to make restitution.
* The role of Paul (Shaul) - Seen as a traitor, false teacher and originator of a new religion "Christianity".

Traditional Christianity

* The role of Torah - Little relevance for today as "Jesus freed us from the Law". The Torah is generally seen as a burden.  There is in many denominations a belief in the 10 Commandments.
* The role of Oral Torah - no relevance at all. However, it should be noted that the Church has similar rulings in the form of the Catacism, Works of the Early Church Fathers, and Denominational rulings.
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret - central doctrine of the faith.
* The Diety of Yeshua - central doctrine of the faith. Confusion exists within the Church as to exactly what this means, and the relationship between the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (more on the confusion in the future).
* The role of works - varies depending on denomination, with Catholics putting great weight on works, while many Protestant denominations place little importance on them, with Faith and "acting in the Spirit" seen as superior.
* The role of Faith - Faith is taught as all that is required for a right relationship with G-d by many denominations, while others see a balance between Faith and action.
* Repentance - Key to forgiveness of sins for many denomination, seen as of little importance for others. Repentence is seen as almost entirely between man and G-d.
* The role of Paul (Shaul) - Seen as primary teacher and major authority in Christian doctrine.

Messianic Judaism

* The role of Torah - The core of Jewish life and thought. Central to living a life of obedience to G-d. Does not save us, but shows us how to live a life pleasing to G-d.
* The role of Oral Torah - along with the teachings of the Sages and Rabbi's are viewed as the basis for Halacha. The writings of the Tannim (Teachers prior to 200 CE) are regarded more highly than later rulings.  We subscribe to a Conservative interpretation of Halacha.
* The Messiahship of Yeshua Ha'Nazaret - Belief that Yeshua Ha'Nazaret is the Messiah Ben Yosef spoken of in scripture who will return as Messiah Ben David.
* The Diety of Yeshua - We do not see Yeshua as 1 of 3 "g-ds" running the universe. Instead we view Him as the Shekinah (visible part of G-d) totally subservient to HaShem.
* The role of works - Important as concrete evidence of "loving" G-d and "loving our neighbors as ourselves".
* The role of Faith - Faith in G-d is the basis for all our belief
* Repentance - Key to forgiveness of sins, must be both to G-d and the person wronged. Thus if you steal, to be forgiven you have to make restitution.
* The role of Paul (Shaul) - Seen as having less authority then the Beit Din (Jacov, Yochanan, Kefa), his writings must be carefully read and understood, for as Kefa said "some use them to their own destruction".  His writings cannot overrode Torah, Messiah, or the Beit Din.

Do you agree?  What are your thoughts?

Rabbi Gavri'el

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Counting the Omer


The counting of the Omer is an important ramp up to the Feast of Shavuot (First Fruits). Beginning the Day after Pesach, we count up to 49 days then the next day is Shavuot.

This Shabbat (IYYAR 3) will be the 18th Omer. Try to begin remembering to count the Omer in anticipation of the day that Adonai gave His Torah and the Day He poured out His Ruach Ha'Kodesh on His Children.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Is it time for Messianic Judaism to define observance levels?


Is it time for Messianic Judaism to define observance levels similar to the Traditional Community?

Several levels are evident in Messianic Judaism:
  • Orthodox
  • Conservative
  • Reformed
  • Hebrew Roots
These parallel the tradition definitions seen in Main Stream Judaism.  How is each defined?  Here are the major differences:

Orthodox - follow both Torah & Oral Torah, Halacha as defined by the Shulkhan Aruch using traditional understandings of meanings.  Practice includes Mikvah.

Conservative - follow both Torah & Oral Torah, Halacha as defined by the Shulkhan Aruch using traditional understandings of meanings with changes allowed for modern circumstances such as driving.  Practice includes Mikvah.

Reformed - maintains that Judaism and Jewish traditions should be modernized and should be compatible with participation in the surrounding culture. Many branches of Reform Judaism hold that Jewish law should be interpreted as a set of general guidelines rather than as a list of restrictions whose literal observance is required of all Jews.

Hebrew Roots - generally not part of Messianic Judaism, looks at Hebrew root of Christian Faith.

Is it time for our Synagogues to reflect belief and practices using widely understood definitions in the Jewish Community?  What minimum qualifications should be required for each?  Share your thoughts.


Monday, April 12, 2010

Has the Church replaced Isra'el


Derek Leman's blog on supersessionism (link: Messianic Musings), or the view that the Church replaced Israel, has some excellent discussion.  He brings up the point that many Messianic Jewish groups even adopt a supersessionalist attitude, and that in the Church the view is dominate among even those who say G-d still has a plan for Isra'el.

Our view (CMJ) is that HaShem grafted the nations into Israel (see Romans).  Isra'el has been, and always will be, G-d's Chosen People whose role is to be the priestly nation for the world.  It is no accident that HaShem will rule through His Messiah from Yerusalem.  In the future kingdom the levitical system will be restored, the feasts will be celebrated, the daily sacrifices will be made and all nations will have to travel to Yerusalem for Succot.

So where does this leave Gentile believers and G-d fearers (Gentiles who hold to Torah and see themselves as grafted-in to Israel)?  Exactly where HaShem intended, grafted into Isra'el, redeemed by trusting HaShem and His Messiah.  Not Jews but part of HaShems family, for the prophets in the Tanakh clearly say HaShem will send a banner to the Gentiles, a light that will draw them to Himself.  We believe Messiah is that light, and that through Him Isra'el is not replaced; but elevated, fulfilling her call to be a light and priest for all the world.

Do you see supersessionism still today in your experience?  What do see as Israels role?

Feel free to respond.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

CMJ (Conservative Messianic Judaism) Principles of Faith


Here is our rendering of the CMJ Principles of Faith:
1. I believe in the 13 principles of Faith as stated by RAMBAM
2. I believe Yeshua Ha'Nazaret is the Messiah of Israel.
3. I believe Yeshua was filled by Adonai with His Shekinah (visible presence of G-d) and was totally subservient to Adonai in all things.
4. I believe Yeshua came to keep Torah and to rightly interpret Torah.
5. I believe Yeshua came to call Israel to do T'Shuvah (come back to Adonai and His Torah).
6. I believe Yeshua led a righteous life as a prophet of Israel.
7. I believe Yeshua died on the execution stake at the hand of the Romans.
8. I believe His death (similar to Isaac's bindings) reconciled us to Elohim and undid the seed of rebellion sowed by our forefather Adam (the righteous dying in place of the unrighteous).
9. I believe Yeshua was physically resurrected on the third day by Adonai to openly show that His death had reconciled Israel to Adonai.
10. I believe Yeshua is the Son of Man picture in Dani'el 7:13, whom Adonai gave all power and Authority.
11. I believe Yeshua will return physically to earth as the promised King of Israel.
12. I believe He will defeat all of Israel's enemies, usher in the Kingdom of Elohim, and rule by Adonai's will from Jerusalem as the descendant of David.
13. I believe that all of B'nai Israel will be redeemed.

Your thoughts?

The Nicene Creed and Conservative Messianic Judaism

The Nicene Creed is often seen by many as the defacto statement about belief in Messiah.  For a Conservative Messianic Jew or G-d Fearer (Gentile keeping Torah and practicing Judaism without conversion) this presents several issues we would like to discuss.

Traditional Nicene Creed has 2 points which demand special attention:
1.  Messiah as G-d (3 persons) - While we can trace the origins of the creed to see that what this means today to most people was not what was intended (originally language stressed coming from G-d, emanating from Ha'Shem), this 3 person language defies the central belief as expressed in Torah and repeated by the Messiah "Hear O Yisrael, the L-rd is God, the L-rd is One".  There is only One G-d, period!  Just as Judaism teaches, the Shekinak & Ruach eminate from G-d and are expressions are part of G-d.

2.  Equality with G-d (totally equal) - As above the 3 persons shapes this statement also.  Scripture teaches clearly Messiah emanates from G-d and does whatever G-d directs.  Messiah himself said "I only do the works my father shows me".

For our view in the Statement of belief (which is patterned after the RAMBAM 13 principles is posted as a separate blog entry) which replaces the Nicene Creed for CMJ (Conservative Messianic Jews) go to this blog entry: http://ucmjs.blogspot.com/2010/04/cmj-conservative-messianic-judaism.html

Derek Leman, whom is a personal friend and has greatly influenced my growth in Messianic Judaism, has some in depth discussion on his site Messianic Musings (http://derek4messiah.wordpress.com/2010/02/01/the-nicene-creed-and-mj/)


To the Traditional Jewish Community - Who we seek to be


We have been working on a statement to address our beliefs to the tradition community.  Below is the result, let us know if it sets the proper tone.


To The Traditional Jewish Community

Our purpose is:
to call assimilated Jews back to their Torah, Community, and Culture
to restore non-Jews to a correct Scriptural understanding & practice

We strive to function as part of the Community and work with both Rabbi’s and other Jewish groups to present a valid Jewish expression and worship.

To that end, we:
  • believe the Torah is G-d’s expression of how we are to live
  • practice as a Synagogue using traditional liturgy
  • believe the percepts of Oral Torah were given by Ha’Shem to Moshe and seek wisdom and understanding from the Talmud and later Jewish writings
  • follow Halacha as expressed in the Shulkan Aruch
  • honor the teachings of the Rabbi’s and Sages
  • provide instruction in lifestyle including kosher, ritual immersion (mikvah) and other Jewish practices
  • keep the appointed Holy days and feasts of Israel
  • seek to be part of the greater Jewish Community
  • agree with the 13 principles of the Rambam

We realize some Jews accept us, and many do not. This is understandable and we trust in Ha’Shem to allow reconciliation.

As a Synagogue we:
  • are not part of any Church affiliation, nor do we receive any funds from Christians groups
  • are not in any way affiliated with or support ‘Jews for Jesus’ and do not agree with their methods
  • do not adhere to the Nicene Creed and do not teach the Trinity.
  • do not believe that Yeshua is equal to G-d; but is he is the Shekinah of G-d sent to earth to call Jews back to Torah
  • do not believe that Yeshua taught against Torah or desired Jews to renounce Judaism and become Christians
  • do not engage in evangelism, nor do we encourage Jews to turn from Judaism

To believe that Yeshua renounced Torah and taught others to do so is contrary to Ha’Shem’s word and would automatically make him a heretic and eliminate any Messianic claim he would have.

Our position on Non-Jewish members:
  • they are G-d Fearers who strive to live Torah observant lifestyles
  • we follow Conservative Halacha regarding conversion for those desiring to become B’nei Israel including: extensive preparation, circumcision, mikvah, and Beit Din

Our organization provides many levels of Jewish education including Bar / Bat Mitzvah, Torah School, and Yeshiva. We also adhere to belief that only Jews who are Yeshiva trained should use the title Rabbi.

New Beginning


Our blog has been neglected for far too long.  We are in the process of making it active again while changing the focus.  We would like to discuss central issues in Conservative Messianic Judaism and how they impact our relationship to the traditional Jewish Community. 

Feel free to join in and comment.  All we ask is that all comments be civil.  We will also address issues and comments by other Messianic Jewish & Traditional Jewish leaders and blogs to encourage cross discussion.