"In respect of Messianic Jews it seems that that most (all?) Jews see them as no longer Jews, is that correct? But why do religious Jews not say the same about Secular Jews? I have always thought that being a Jew is passed down through havinf a Jewish mother, so if you can inherit it (unlike Christianity), how do you lose it?"
Wednesday, 31 December 2014
Why the difficulty with messianic Jews and not secular Jews?
A reader asked me the following questions:
Firstly you are correct that a Jew is Jewish if your mother is Jewish, also if you convert to Judaism you are considered to be Jewish as anyone born Jewish. We follow this because it is part of the Oral Torah which Moses received at the same time as the written Torah of the Bible. I appreciate that Christianity rejects the notion of the Oral Torah, but Jesus (being a good Jew) did not c.f. Matthew 23:1-3 ,Mark 2: 23-27& Matthew 5: 17-20. Also we see that this law was already in practice in other parts of the Bible: in Ezra the Jewish men were told to send their wives and children back to Babylon because they were considered to be non jewish, not Jewish women being told to send back their husbands and children.
Secondly. I also understand secular Jewish atheists who are observant for cultural or family reasons. That's a distinctive feature of Judaism, a nation and a community, fused into a religion which permeates every aspect of oneself and life. We are more than a group of religious believers, but a global family. And to me family and community are key aspects of Judaism. We don't turn our back on family and therefore we shouldn't turn our backs or force them out, that those who struggle with God, with beliefs, but who wish to still be in the tent, however, it is quite clear that messianic Jews don't fit into this category.
Thirdly. A Jew who believes in Jesus as his/her “Lord and Saviour" has become a Christian. Even if not a formal member of a church group that person is a Christian theologically. The halacha (B.T. Sanhedrin 44a) recognizes the biologic link to the Jewish people as inviolate, but also recognizes that as long as one remains an apostate one is not considered to be part of the Jewish community. A willing convert to Christianity, whether formally or informally, forfeits his/her legal and social rights, which express a Jew’s belonging to the Jewish people. A Jew must meet, actively or inactively (e.g. a secular Jew), the fundamental biblical stipulation: “You shall have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3, Deuteronomy 5:7). God declares: “I am the first, and I am the last, and beside Me there is no God” (Isaiah 44:6).
I've come to appreciate that one can never fully understand God, I believe a rabbi one said "if I knew him, I would be him"(Judah ha Levi) and as it is written:
"As you do not know the path of the wind, or how life enters the body being formed in the mother's womb, so you cannot understand the works of God, the maker of all things"(Ecclesiastes 11:5).
But follow God and his commandments are nonetheless the thing for a Jew to do. A concluding thought to ponder. Does God prefer the most pious person, who observes the rituals and believes with dogmatic precision, but acts in a shameful fashion or the one who just tries with all of their heart? That to me is the difference between secular Jews and messianic Jews. But for all we are to bring them ALL back to the fold and help them become observant of the Torah. It is incumbent to hear the words of Ezekiel when he lamented "Those who went astray you did not return and the lost you did not seek "(Ezekiel 34:4).