Please let me share with you, for a few moments, an effort to clarify what has been a greatly misunderstood term...Messianic Judaism. We Jews have always had a Messianic consciousness, because the promise and prophecy was born in Genesis and woven through almost every book in the Tenach, (Old Testament). Throughout the centuries, history records at least 40 so called "Messiahs", but none fully met the criteria and prophecies of the Tenach totally. Throughout centuries of exile, dispersion, deprivation and discrimination, the hope and concept of a redeeming Messiah remained alive within the hearts and minds of many Jews, however, there are Jews who, today, no longer hold such belief or hope, based on their disbelief in the validity of the Tenach. They view this to be a book of historical value only, while others view the Messianic prophecies as symbolic or rhetorical. There is even a present day segment of Jews, the Lubavitch, who have proclaimed a revered Rabbi as their Messiah, (who has since died.) And so, we have on the contemporary scene, various views and concepts of Messianic beliefs within the framework of Judaism, just as we have non-religious, atheistic and agnostic Jews, practicing whatever it is that makes them feel good about their "Jewishness". Can there be so many approaches and practices and everyone be right? What could possibly serve as the criteria for "correct" Judaism when there are so many opinions concerning the Torah? Who has the right to judge which concept is correct? Yet, with all the diversity of Judiastic concepts, there seems to be a thread of cohesiveness that allows a coexistence of individual preference without discord or discrimination under the bond of our "Jewishness"..no questions asked, to all factions, with one exception.... the Jew who believes the concept of Messianic Judaism that teaches the Messiah was a Jewish rabbi, called Yeshua, Who believed and practiced Torah, venerated the Patriarchs and the prophets, taught the Jewish people, and totally fulfilled all criteria and prophecy concerning the Messiah, from birth to death, as written in the Torah and the Prophets! The respect that is extended to all the other Jewish philosophies, (unfounded or valid as they might be), is intolerant to that Messianic Jew, and he is regarded as a rebel, trader, or, even worse, non-existent as a Jew! This intolerance may be based on a misunderstanding and a stereotyped prejudice toward a gentile belief system that seemingly fostered heinous crimes toward Jewry for generations. The number of gentiles who saw and reverenced the intellectual and spiritual values of the Messiah/Rabbi's teachings were overwhelming, and history tells us that this faction of gentiles or foreigners adopted these Jewish doctrines, and they were known as followers of the Anointed, (Gr.: Christos), or, commonly, "Christians." They were distinct and apart from unbelieving gentiles, and yet practiced their new belief system separated from, and unhindered by the Jewish rites and rituals that were still being observed by the thousands of Jewish Messianic believers at that time. These gentile "Christians" were beaten, tortured and martyred, along with Jewish believers for their common faith in this Messiah, Yeshua. To the Jewish mind set, there doesn't seem to be a distinction between gentiles; they have all been "glumped" into one catagory..anything that is non-Jewish is "Christian", and the blame for all the atrocities that have happened to the Jews by non-Jews have been laid at the "Christian's" door step! Any belief system that claimed to be associated with Jesus, regardless of whether they really identified with His teaching, came under the banner of "Christianity", and so all the crimes in the name of religion were blamed on Christians, be they or not! So much for the stereotyping of people who actually practiced, in true worship, the belief system of the One God believers, proselytes to Judaism and followers of the only Rabbi who met all the criteria and prophecy of the promise anointed. I've written all of the above to shed some light on why those Jews who believe Yeshua, (Jesus), met all the Biblical criteria and proclaim Him Messiah, are shunned by main line Jewry. While all other forms of Judaism are acceptable, because of the negative connotations by non-practicing "Christians", the Messiah or Christ of the believing Jew is rejected!Having said all this, let me now define what Messianic Judaism really embraces. It's an answer to all those questions we've had about our heritage, our existence, and our purpose as Jews in today's world. We were handed this great heritage when we were born, but it came pre-packaged with a hundred unanswered questions about ourselves, our relationship to our ancient heritage, as well as to the God of our fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Judaism, in our generation, has been reduced to a system of rites and rituals, kosher kitchens and trees in Israel. We are attentive to Israel's politics, but deaf to Israel's Provider! We repeat the words of the Shema, " hear O Israel", (but we don't listen), "the LORD, our God , is One LORD," but we have set up a multiplicity of "gods" in our lives...ambition, security, education, fame, etc., and we never come to the knowledge of Who that "One LORD" is! Apart from the Tenach, the Old Testament, Jews have no identity, for it is in those Scriptures that we find the history of our origins. Apart from the LORD, Jews have no purpose to our existence, yet, we relegate God to the Heavens, and never involve Him in our personal lives. Those of us that are honest enough to admit it, we question our emptiness, and continue to search for our answers within cults, astrology, the mystics, drugs, gurus, and horoscopes....all forbidden territory by the teaching of our own Torah, the very foundation of Judaism! So where, then, do we turn for real down-to-earth answers to our questions? I, for one, went through enough formal Jewish education to be bas mitvahed and confirmed, and sought within this framework for my answers. My father died when I was 15, and this provoked me to question life and death issues and explore the purpose of life and where God fit into the scheme of things. I asked my teachers and my rabbi, but some of the answers only gendered more questions and confusion. I was unsatisfied with empty platitudes and elusive answers , so I decided to divorce myself from man's opinion, which was greatly diversified, and go right to the source...the very roots and origin of our religion, the Tenach. It seemed reasonable, to me, that if it was acceptable for the beginning of man's relationship to God, it should be as valid for today. Armed with various supportive dictionaries, concordances, lexicons, commentaries, etc, I began my search for what I hoped would help me become a responsible, mature, goal oriented person who would be in tune with herself, her world and her God! Within a short time, I became discouraged as I began to see that there was a serious departure from original God given oracles compared to the Judaism practiced today. It became obvious that the original purpose, purity and strengths of Judaism had filtered down to a collection of man made concepts, leaving it unscriptural, weakened, powerless, empty, and worst of all, Godless! I saw it as a collection of now empty rites and rituals, void of offering any kind of personal relationship between God and man. Over the years, the philosophies and concepts of Rabbis, expositors, teachers, scribes and commentators were added and exalted above the Tenach itself, deleting and adding to the Law, in spite of the warning God gave to Moses In " Deuteronomy 4:2, Ye shall not add unto the word I command you, neither shall you diminish ought from it." Many of the teachings of the Mystics, the Mishna and Talmud were paving the way for apostate Judaism, which is the form we know today, rabbinical Judaism..focusing more of man made rules than God given commands.
One of the many unanswered questions concerned the Temple. We were taught that the place God chose would be a place or worship, praise and blood sacrifice. God would place His Name there, and only where His Name had been placed could the priests offer the a blood sacrifice for the atonement of men's souls. This is carefully spelled out in the Torah, in the book of Leviticus, 17th chapter, verse 11: "For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it ..upon the altar..it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul." This is why, every year on Yom Kippur, the blood of bulls and goats were sacrificed at that place God had designated, to cover the sins of the people. The High Priest would bring the blood of the sacrifice into the Holy of Holies, where the sacred Ark was, sprinkle the blood, and it was accepted by God. Based on these instructions, what do we do today to secure atonement and right standing with God? There hasn't been a Temple to sacrifice in since 70 A.D., neither the Aaronic priestly line, so how does a Jew appropriate atonement? According to Jewish Scriptures, no blood, no atonement! Did not God provide another or alternate covenant to replace what we could no longer do? Surely He had not abandoned us in our transgressions!!?
As I read my Jewish Bible, it became evident that, not only did God prepare the circumstances that destroyed the Temple, but He also provided a substitute atonement covenant that would provide not only "coverage" of sin, but take it away. These are the facts that I discovered within the pages of the Tenach:
Fact #1: God is intimately involved with His creation. He did not create us to abandon us to "shift for ourselves". Within the book of Jeremiah, He tells us, "yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love; therefore, with affection, I have drawn thee." (31:3)
Fact #2: We must take responsibility for our own sin/ transgression/ iniquity. Ecclesiastes 7:20 tells us " there is not a righteous man upon the earth that doeth good and sinneth not."
Fact #3: The Jewish prophet Isaiah said our relationship with God was sadly lacking, "...your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you that will not hear."
Fact #4: Leviticus 17:11 tells us that God, Himself, provided the necessary blood to cover the sin that separates us, and provides us with atonement. (atonement...AT-ONE-MENT). The Messiah predicted, 40 years before it happened, that the Temple would be destroyed, removing the only place sacrifices could be made. How does the Jew obtain atonement now?
Fact #5: Jeremiah predicted (31:31)"..behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel",..and He did! No longer the blood of bulls and goats, year after year, but ONE FINAL blood sacrifice, and not for the Jew only, but for all that would come and worship the God of the Jews! There would no longer be a necessity for the Temple altars or for the priests who made the sacrifice! Moses, one of the greatest Jewish leaders and prophets wrote, as the LORD anointed him, "..for the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I, (the LORD), have given it, (the blood), to you upon an altar for your souls". How could God, Who is Spirit, shed blood? The same God, Who manifested Himself to the Jews in the wilderness as a pillar of fire by night and a cloud by day to guide them; the same Spirit that appeared as a man and talked with Abraham at his tent...that same God prepared a human body for Himself, and was born through human channels to a young Jewish teenager. This was not done secretly in a corner...but promised by and through the Old Testament prophets hundred of years before, so that when these events did transpire, they would be recognized and accepted. Proverbs 30:4 told us God would have a son; Isaiah 9:6 described the arrival of that son and a description of His character and attributes: "..unto us a child will be born..a son given..and his name shall be called wonderful, Mighty God, everlasting Father.."Why would a son be called "everlasting Father"? Because, within the body of that son, dwelt the Spirit of God, Who is our Father, and the Mighty God of Israel! Isaiah 63:16 addressed God as "...Thou, O LORD, are our Father, Redeemer...". All of the above Jewish texts have been taken from the Jewish Bible, and point to the truths that only through the vessel of a human body..a.son..could the Eternal Spirit of God shed blood, to fulfill what He said He would do, "I have given it to you upon an altar for your souls'. The "altar" was a tree..the method was crucifixion, when through the body of a 33 year old man, God's son, God shed His blood for our atonement! The name of that son was Joshua, (in Hebrew, Yeshua; anglicized, it is Jesus.) Yeshua became our Atonement, our Redeemer!
Fact #6: We Jews need not compromise our monotheistic belief system in One God to believe Yeshua is the Messiah., for we are forbidden to believe in another God, "Thou shall have no other god before Me.." We need only to expand our understanding to know Who our God is. He is the "One LORD" of the shema, Who says of Himself, " I am the LORD, thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Savior". (Isaiah 43:3) One God, manifested in different roles, yet ONE LORD! Again, still in Isaiah, verse 11, our Father says " I, even I, am the LORD, and beside ME, there is no Savior." He became the fulfillment of His own prophecy, and in doing so, fulfilled yet another prediction by making the new covenant with His people that would end the annual animal blood and the need for a Temple. This is why God allowed Titus to overthrow the Temple, and it was never rebuilt! There was never to be another need for sacrificial blood shed..it was done, once, and for all, in Yeshua! It was a Divine necessity to eliminate the Temple system that had become obsolete through God's provision of the cross. The Temple served the Jews well for hundreds of years, but was only used to point men to an even Greater Provision in Him!
All these facts were under my nose all the time! Even though they were written clearly and explicitly through His prophets, because of my ignorance of the Tenach, I missed these truths and spent years searching elsewhere, stumbling over men's precepts, opinions and concepts.Now, all the pieces were coming together..it was easy now to see all the promises and prophecies being fulfilled and not just dangling , unrelated and unanswered. All the answers seem to "dovetail" in this puzzle of who the Messiah was..now, by God's own inspired word, we had the details as to where He would be born, when He came, what His ministry would be, His purpose in coming, even down to His type death, and subsequent resurrection. It was all right there, in the Tenach, through the ages, obscured only by my failure to read and understand it because I was so involved with empty rites and rituals, and man's teaching!
If you're having difficulty piecing it all together in regards to your identity as a Jew, please let me share more with you. What I can show you will make your heritage in Judaism a real blessing to you, and a reality as never before experienced. There is no need for you to "convert", for converting, according to Webster, is " to turn your back on your religion and start something new". You will NOT have to do that, neither will you have to compromise your Judaism to accept "another God" or concepts that teach a multiplicity of the godhead, nor will you have to "gentilize" your life style. I will be happy to show you how our Jewish Bible, written by great inspired Jewish minds, to Jewish people, can bless you, your life style and your relationship with your God! There are Red Seas that are still parting today..there are healings, physical, emotional and spiritual, that are still happening today by the same Power God used in the wilderness with the children of srael, and yours, just for the asking! Your relationship, as a Jew, with your God can be real and vital. Jeremiah invites us to"...call unto Me, and I will answer thee, and tell thee great things that are hidden. which thou knowest not." I will be happy to share these GREAT things with you.
The Happy Hebrew