Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Who is a Real "Messianic Jew"? - Guest Post by Yosef Hakohen


As we know, Christianity deifies Yeshu and also views him as the promised Messiah; thus, some Jews who have adopted Christian beliefs in recent years have begun to call themselves “Messianic” Jews. We need to remind ourselves, however, that they are not entitled to this title, for it belongs to the Jews who have remained faithful to Judaism and who are therefore awaiting the true Messiah. One major reason why Jews that have adopted Christian beliefs, including the deification of Yeshu, should not be called “Messianic” Jews is because our Sacred Scriptures define the Messiah as a human being. For example, the Prophet Isaiah describes the Messiah as a man who descends from Jesse, the father of David, and he states:

“A staff will emerge from the stump of Jesse, and a shoot will sprout from his roots. The spirit of God will rest upon him – a spirit of wisdom and understanding, a spirit of counsel and strength, a spirit of knowledge and awe of God.” (Isaiah 11:1,2)

The above passage clearly indicates that the Messiah is an enlightened human being who is in awe of God, but who is not God. The Christians, however, call the man they view as the Messiah, “God and Savior” – a belief which contradicts the following Divine proclamation:

“I, only I, am God, and there is no Savior aside from Me.” (Isaiah 43:11).

Another major reason why Jews who have adopted Christian beliefs should not be called “Messianic” Jews is because Isaiah reveals in the following passage that the Messiah will inaugurate an age of world peace and spiritual enlightenment when he comes; moreover; in the age of the Messiah, God will also gather in all the exiles of Israel:

“They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain; for the earth will be filled with knowledge of God as water covering the sea bed. It shall be on that day that the descendant of Jesse – who stands as a rallying banner for the peoples – to him shall the nations inquire, and his peace shall be with honor. It shall be on that day that the Master of All will once again show His hand, to acquire the remnant of His people who will have remained, from Assyria, Egypt, Pathros, Cush, Elam, Shinar, Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. He will raise a banner for the nations, and assemble the castaways of Israel; and He will gather in the dispersed ones of Judah from the four corners of the earth.” (Isaiah 11:9-12)

The above prophecies were not fulfilled during the life of Jesus; thus, to view him as the Messiah is a betrayal of the prophetic tradition. The real Messianic Jews are those who await the true Messiah who will inaugurate the age of peace and spiritual enlightenment for Israel and the world. In this spirit, they proclaim the following principle of our faith:

“I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless, I wait every day for his coming.”

In this spirit, HERE IS an mp3 recording of the Hebrew words of the above proclamation sung to a Chassidic nigun (melody). When I was a boy, I heard this nigun on a record put out by the Gerrer Chassidim.

May all of our lost brothers and sisters who have adopted Christian beliefs return to the pure faith of Israel and join us in singing, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah, and even though he may delay, nevertheless, I wait every day for his coming.”

Shalom,
Yosef Ben Shlomo Hakohen

P.S. There is another, well-known nigun to, “I believe with complete faith in the coming of the Messiah,” and it is often sung at Holocaust memorials. My friend, Reb Yitzchak Dorfman, told me that the composer was Reb Azriel David Fastag, a Modzitzer Chassid. He composed it during the Holocaust. Above is a video of Modzitzer Chassidim singing this nigun at a special celebration which is held at the end of Simchas Torah.

Reb Yitzchak Dorfman translated the Chassidic story about how this nigun came about for the Modzitz website. You can find it HERE.

-Dixie Yid

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3 comments:

Yirmeyahu said...

I understand, agree with, and appreciate the overall thrust of this piece. Nevertheless I think of number of issues should be raised about the particulars.

Regarding who can rightly be called "Messianic". Entitled or not this is how the term is used. I can appreciate the fact that the term is a misnomer in light of their theology, but the same is equally true of the term "Christian" which is merely adapted from a Greek word meaning anointed rather than a Hebrew word meaning anointed. I can hardly think of a more futile effort than to fight such a battle. Terminology can have an important role or give one side of an argument a rhetorical advantage but I do not think that is particularly the case with the term (Messianic). If anything the use of the term "Jewish" provides much more rhetorical advantage and is much more objectionable.

Now regarding the arguments you have brought, I believe that the Christian idea of the Messiah is demonstrably incompatible with the Tanakh, the Hebrew Bible. I also believe what you have said is correct. But I do not believe that you have sufficiently established your position with these arguments It could be rightly stated that even if the arguments were much more compelling and complete that they would still not be accepted by anyone who doesn't agree already. If so, what is the intent of the post? Why make the argument? Perhaps there is a particular reason unknown to us readers but as it stands I do not think that the readers of Dixie Yid need much chizuk in this matter.

Yosef said...

I sent out the article and the accompanying nigun to people who are on my nigun list, and Dixie Yid is one of them. I did not write the article specifically for his list, but for a diverse list of people with different backgrounds and levels of Torah-commitment, and people on my nigun list are free to share what I send them with their own lists.

While Torah-committed Jews may usually need less chizuk than other Jews regarding the claims of the missionaries, many Torah-committed Jews can also benefit from "some" chizuk in this area. I learned from my rebbes that even those of us who are already committed to Torah can use chizuk in emunah (matters of faith), especially in those areas where we are often publicly challenged. Within the last few months, some major Evangelical organizations have made a major effort to publicly challenge our beliefs. For example, they have started to take out a full-page ad in major newspapers, including the New York Times, which expresses their “friendship” for the Jewish people, and which calls upon the Jewish people to be “saved” through accepting the Christian doctrines; moreover, the ad defends missionary efforts targeted at the Jewish people. The ad was signed by prominent Evangelical academics, clergy, and journalists. In their press release, the World Evangelical Alliance boasted that “a who’s who of evangelical leadership” signed the ad.

The danger of their focusing on the term "Messianic" Jew is discussed by Rabbi Emanuel Feldman, the noted Torah educator and writer, in the Jerusalem Post, and I have attached excerpts from his article which relate to the issues you raised:


How to reply when the doorbell rings
Jul. 2, 2008
Emanuel Feldman , THE JERUSALEM POST
Many years ago, while a rabbi in Atlanta, I answered a knock on my door one Shabbat afternoon. Standing in front of me was a fine-looking couple - obviously non-Jewish.
"Shabbat Shalom, rabbi," they said, and asked to have a word with me.
I sensed that they were missionaries and asked them what the subject was. They replied that they wanted to talk to me about the "Son of God."
I suggested that while I respected their personal beliefs, in Judaism there is no such thing as a son or mother of God, that ours is a very strict monotheistic faith, and that our God is one, not two, and not three. I added that before attempting to convert Jews, they should consider converting Christians to Christian teachings, because throughout history, Jews had seen very little of Christian love and of turning the other cheek.
End of conversation.
WELL, AT least they were honest. Today, missionaries are much more subtle.
For one thing, they often pose as Jews themselves. And, most significantly, they do not initially ask Jews to accept Jesus as the son of God, nor mention that in Christianity, Jesus is worshipped as a divine being.
Contemporary missionaries realize that Jews - even secular, non-religious Jews - have a visceral revulsion at the idea of a human being as divine. They also realize that, for Jews, the figure of Jesus symbolizes a church that has for millennia condemned Jews to purgatory and eternal damnation; that the church, in the name of Christian love, has been responsible for oceans of Jewish blood because of the Jewish refusal to accept Jesus as a divine being; and for the belief that Jews deserve to suffer because of this refusal.
Aware of all this, many contemporary missionaries have apparently altered their strategy. They are now appealing to Jews from a pseudo-Jewish perspective. In order to entrap Jews, in other words, much missionary activity has been Judaized. Jesus is no longer Jesus; he is now "Yeshua," a nice, Jewish-sounding name - as seen in recent missionary ad campaigns on Jerusalem's buses.
A close reading of some of today's missionary material shows that the central belief in the divinity of Jesus and his role as "lord and savior" is hardly mentioned. Today's emphasis is on his supposed role as messiah. Further, many missionaries themselves now refer to themselves not as Christians but as "messianic Jews." They wear yarmulkes, don a tallit, and even have their own "rabbis."
The State of Israel is a crucial target for such missionaries, and many so-called messianic Jews are actually born Christians who have given themselves Jewish names and moved to Israel for one reason: to proselytize Jews.
THIS NEW strategy is illustrated by several recent media articles. The Washington Post ran a news article on June 21, picked up from the Associated Press, about "messianic Jews" who claim that they are discriminated against in Israel - a questionable accusation. The article's description of messianic Jews made not a single reference to the divinity of Jesus. It slavishly followed the news release of the missionary group that issued it - which was careful not to mention the fact that so-called messianic Jews believe Jesus is the son of God.
Even The Jerusalem Post made no mention of the divinity of Jesus in its article last Thursday about the three-day messianic conference taking place that weekend.
An innocent reader comes away from such articles with the impression that "messianic Jews" are simply another group within Judaism. There are Orthodox Jews, hassidic Jews, haredi Jews, and there are messianic Jews - all part of one big, happy Jewish family
WHAT WE see here, in effect, is a renewed assault on the fundamentals of Judaism - not the traditional frontal assault, but, in a shift in tactics, one that attempts to infiltrate through indirect means by blurring the Jesus-as-God aspect of Christianity and stressing the Jesus-as-messiah aspect. Many missionaries feel this roundabout approach is less threatening to Jews, more "Jewish-friendly."
In view of this renewed offensive against the basic beliefs of Judaism, some obvious truths must be reiterated:
First and foremost is the cornerstone belief of Judaism: God is a pure and unadulterated One. He is singular, the unity of all unities, alone, unique, and indivisible. He cannot be transformed into two or into three - and certainly not into statues or figures. He is not and never was human, and he has no physicality, no father or mother.
Millions of Jews have gone to their deaths proclaiming Shema Yisrael - Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One. Over and over again the Hebrew Bible prophetically warns against the inevitable attempts to dilute and distort this unity (see Deut. 13).
Further truths follow from this cardinal principle:
1. It is a distortion to claim that one can be a Jew and at the same time believe in Jesus as a god or as a messiah, or a prophet or savior.
2. It follows, therefore, that terms such as "Jews for Jesus," or "Jewish Christians" are grotesque perversions. Such terms are misleading, misguided, misconceived, and ultimately a miscarriage of truth - for no Jew can believe in any divinity other than the One God, and no Jew can view Jesus as anything other than a teacher of another faith system.
AS FOR the true identity of the Messiah, we have no specific knowledge, as Maimonides states in his Code, in Hilchot Melachim. In Judaism, the Messiah will not be a divine creature but a man born of a man and woman; he will inaugurate an era of universal peace, spirituality and enlightenment, and will gather in all Jewish exiles to the land of Israel, as outlined in Isaiah 11.
Jesus has not fulfilled any of these prophecies. Furthermore, he is worshipped as a deity by another faith. For converts to Christianity to claim that they are "messianic Jews" is thus another pathetic distortion.
.....Jews understand that the conversion of the Jews to Christianity is a central tenet of many Christian sects. We know that missionary societies around the world budget many millions of dollars annually in order to "save" Jews. If this is a basic teaching of evangelicals, so be it. But Jews can learn from them. We too should be budgeting millions to save fellow Jews around the world, and especially in Israel, from ignorance and Jewish illiteracy.
The old secular Zionist order, in its haste to be accepted by the outside world, deprived entire generations of Israeli Jews of even elementary knowledge of our Jewish heritage - with the result that too many Jews have no idea of what Judaism stands for, or of the deep chasms that separate Judaism from Christianity.
We must become missionaries to ourselves. It is long past time for us to deliver serious Jewish learning to our people. This is particularly needed for newcomers to Israel from lands like Russia and Ethiopia, who are particularly vulnerable to the artful blandishments of clever missionaries. They, together with all Jews, need to know how to reply when the doorbell rings.
The writer, a rabbi in Atlanta for 40 years, is the former editor of Tradition magazine. The author of nine books, he presently serves on the editorial committee of the Encyclopedia of Mitzvot.
This article can also be read at http://www.jpost.com /servlet/Satellite?cid=1214726192854&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FShowFull

-Yosef

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