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Jews for Jesus are Jews Too--Right?

Rabbi Rafi RankDear Cyber Rav,

Why are Jews so afraid of Messianic Jews? I found out that the only difference between them and me is that they believe that Yeshua (Jesus’ Hebrew name) is the hamoshiah (the Messiah). Have we not also believed that others after him were the Messiah and we did not treat them as being bad, like we do with the Messianic Jews. They are good Jews.  They observe the High Holy Days, and sabbath;  they don’t celebrate Christmas, or Easter because they are Catholic holidays.
Please shed some light on this subject for me. Thank you

Let’s be Kind to Jews for Jesus

 

Dear Let’s be Kind,

I am always very happy when a person is able to find a path to God and if messianic Jews are able to do that via Jesus, I am happy for them.  I have no reason to fear them nor do I know of any Jew who does.  But every tradition must have its boundaries and when it comes to Judaism, a belief in Jesus as the messiah places you outside the sacred boundaries of Judaism.

When Jesus became the messiah in the minds of his followers, they called him Christ.  Christ is simply Latin for messiah.  A Christian is one who believes that Jesus is the messiah.  Once you become a Christian you are no longer a Jew.

One may argue that creed doesn't matter in Judaism as much as deed, but that is inaccurate.  You really can't believe in two gods and be Jewish.  You really can't reject Torah and be Jewish.  You really can't actively work against the State of Israel and be Jewish either.  We have lots of beliefs and they are very important.  It is very nice when Christians observe Shabbat, keep kosher, and study Torah.  They are living a life closer to how Jesus lived than many of their co-religionists.  Messianic Jews may have the term "Jew" in their name, but as faithful believers in Jesus as the christ, they are by definition bona fide Christians and have therefore crossed the boundaries of normative Judaism.

Messianic Jews are said not to observe Christmas or Easter but a quick look at some of their websites will indicate their sympathies for those holidays.  See for example:  http://www.familybible.org/FAQ/WhatIsMJ.htm#4D It is a well known fact that messianic churches welcome non-Jews as members, interfaith couples, etc.,  and those Christian members are likely to observe Christmas and Easter; it would be downright rude for their Jewish partners not to participate. 

Jews do believe in the coming of the messiah, but it is an unfortunate evolutionary step in our religious history, largely unsupported by the Bible itself.  As history has shown us, every so-called coming of the messiah was accompanied by tremendous pain for the Jewish people.  Whether Jesus, Shabbtai Tzvi or Jacob Frank, each one split the Jewish community, as the belief in Menachem Mendel Schneerson as the messiah divides the Lubavitch.  The messiah idea is probably one of the saddest evolutions in Jewish history.  It emanates from a world in which the only political reality is monarchy.  Salvation is viewed via that lens and so the source of salvation is naturally thought to be an individual--a god-like individual--who will save us.  But democracy has overthrown monarchies forever.  We are democratic to the very core precisely because we have lost faith that any one person can bring salvation.  We now believe in the power of the people, and even that power has the potential to disappoint and deceive.

I do not fault anyone for believing that a messiah will someday come.  That is a question of faith.  But I am equally convinced that anyone who has discovered the messiah is misguided.  There never was a messiah and there most likely never will be.  There has never been an explanation as to what a messiah could do that God cannot.  Messiah is thus a gratuitous religious phenomenon.  Place your trust in God, and God alone, and that is the essence of pure faith.

CyberRav,

Rabbi Rafi Rank


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