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Conversions to Messianic Judaism? Maybe So.


A controversy that I should have seen coming – Conversions from Christianity to Messianic Judaism.

In this blog I am exploring the topic. Your comments and criticisms will be helpful.

The first time I heard of Messianic Jews offering conversion to Messianic Judaism I was completely dismissive. Absolutely crazy. They’ll think we are nuts. Who would recognise a Messianic conversion anyway?

Then I had a chat with my good friend Eleanor, and then I learned some more, read some more, and met my new friend Derek. Derek is sane, believe it or not! A sane prospective convert to Messianic Judaism. Would I tell him he’s all washed up? Do I think he’s driven by an identity crisis? Do I think he woudl discredit us? No.

What do you think? I think we need to keep studying this issue and thinking about it.

We are in danger of being reactionary. Here in the UK there is a group called the Union of British Messianic Jewish Congregations. I believe it is fair to say that they see themselves as more true to the ideals of historic Messianic Judaism than the majority of members of the British Messianic Jewish Alliance (est. 1866!). Maybe in some ways they are right, but BMJA members would counter ‘show us the Jews!’. The UBMJC’s membership is less Jewish in composition than that of the BMJA which requires Jewish parentage of its voting and office-holding members.

I would be very pleased if Rabbi Dr Ruth Fleischer was willing to comment on these observations. I hope that I am being fair and am open to being corrected. However, given that the BMJA sees itself as more Jewish, and the UBMJC sees itself as more Messianic, we have a stand-off in the makings. To BMJA members, the UBMJC conversion process is questionable. The lack of communication between the two groups intesifies the lack of mutual understanding.

I am not alone in being concerned that conversions could become a ‘Trojan horse’ that could turn some Messianic groups into completely Gentile, fraudulent copies of what Messianic Judaism initially set out to be. On the other hand, if Messianic Judaism is truly a Judaism it must have a means of admittance! (Maybe the root of the BMJA’s issue with the UBMJC is that it is seen as non-Jewish and therefore an inappropriate body to offer conversions). A way to keep conversion from being a Trojan horse would be to make the conversion process and expectations as rigorous as those of the orthodox community…

Is Messianic Judaism a form of Christianity or Judaism? Some would assert that we are both 100% Jewish and 100% ‘Christian’, although we might eschew the word Christian. That’s a difficult position to hold – theologically or sociologically.

Our identity in Messiah is distinct from our form and traditions of worship – which are rightly called religion. If we call ourselves Messianic Judaism, and Messianic Jews, then we have to say the latter. It is no wonder that there was such disharmony on the name change from Hebrew Christian Alliance to BMJA in days past. It was appropriate!

Most of us would agree that there are ‘true believers’, the ‘saved’, in both Christianity and Judaism. There is no doubt that these are different religions, but the key issue is whether or not an individual’s heart belongs to God and Messiah Yeshua – it is our relationship to Messiah that matters.

There is and must be a dichotomy between religion and relationship with God. Then it is OK to say that we and Christians have different religions but the same Lord and Messiah. Then it is OK to provide conversions, too – with the proviso that people clearly understand that there is nothing soteriological about the conversion’s meaning!

Last rambling thought… for the BMJA the question is whether toaccept conversions in general, and whose it should not accept (e.g. what if we accept UMJC conversions but not UBMJC?). For the BMJAF, the BMJA’s congregational network, the question is both that and whether we should consider offering a conversion path ourselves, and I don’t think we can even think about doing so at this point!

Shalom,

Daniel

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178 Responses

  1. Quote: “Is Messianic Judaism a form of Christianity or Judaism? “

    “(le-havdil), A analysis (found here: http://www.netzarim.co.il (that is the only legitimate Netzarim)) of all extant source documents and archaeology using a rational and logical methodology proves that the historical Ribi Yehosuha ha-Mashiakh (the Messiah) from Nazareth and his talmidim (apprentice-students), called the Netzarim, taught and lived Torah all of their lives; and that Netzarim and Christianity were always antithetical.

    The mitzwot (directives or military-style orders) in Torah (claimed in Tan’’kh (the Jewish Bible) to be the instructions of the Creator), the core of the Judaism, are an indivisible whole. Rejecting any one constitutes rejecting of the whole… and the Church rejected many mitzwot, for example rejecting to observe the Shabat on the seventh day in the Jewish week. Examples are endless. Devarim (“Deuteronomy”) 13.1-6 explicitly precludes the Christian “NT”. Devarim 13:1-6 forbids the addition of mitzwot and subtraction of mitzwot from Torah.

    Ribi Yehoshuas talmidim Netzarim still observes Torah non-selectively to their utmost today and the research in the previous mentioned Netzarim-website implies that becoming one of Ribi Yehoshuas Netzarim-followers is the only way to follow him.

    “The gospels” contains anti-Torah statements that the first century Ribi Yehoshua impossibly could have said. Since observers of “Messianic Judaism” don’t practise all of the mitzwot in Torah non-selectively, it is not proper to describe it as Judaism.

    It is possible to be a Jew and believe that Ribi Yehoshua was the Mashiakh (the Netzarim Jews does that), but le-havdil to stick to Christian doctrines is not compatible with practising Judaism.

    Anders Branderud

  2. I must say I am very very skeptical of the so-called ‘Netzarim’ and not happy to have my blog used as an advertising forum… but whatever, go to their website and see for yourself.

  3. It’s a good question, Daniel. I, too, am uneasy when it comes to conversions. After all, Paul did say to the Galatians, “if you become circumcised, then Christ is of no use to you!”

    Another matter to consider is the purpose of Messianic Judaism: is it merely to house Jewish believers in Jesus? Or is it something greater?

    Personally, I see Messianic Judaism as an extension of the Reformation.

    Interesting post, anyways. I’ll send some traffic your way soon.

  4. Nice to see you blogging, Reb Miracles! I highly enjoyed this post, and I look forward to hearing more from the UK MJ perspective.
    One little bit of nitpicking: IMO, “conversions from Christianity to Messianic Judaism” is a bit misleading. As I understand it, the conversion process is meant to be understood as a conversion from being Gentile (i.e. non-Jewish) to being Jewish. The “flavor” of your conversion comes out not in the destination (which is always “Jewish”), but rather in who performed it. In other words you don’t convert to Orthodox, Reform, or Messianic Judaism; rather, you convert to Judaism (or to being Jewish) through a Reform, Orthodox, or in this case, Messianic Jewish, conversion process.
    Keep the posts coming!

    • Very right. The conversion is from being Gentile to being Jewish. In our case, though, so far these are invariably Christian Gentiles. Good point.

    • Yahnatan, you are right to state that conversion is from being a pagan (gentile – the two are synonymous in Jewish thinking) to being a Jew. It is anachronistic to assume that as gentiles were being born again (a Jewish term for conversion to Judaism anyway) they were becoming ‘Christians’. Judaism’s central calling was to reach out and bring those from the nations INTO Judaism, the one true faith given at Sinai. Corruptions of Judaism (current non-Messianic forms) should not deter us from establishing what Judaism SHOULD look like, and one of the driving forces of that is outreach! It is precisely because Shaul was so successful in this endeavour that he caused his brethren to be jealous of his ministry. Judaism knows that an eschatological in-gathering of those not born Jewish to the Jewish fold IS a sign of God’s blessing and good favour. Other forms of Judaism have largely failed in this, and some even don’t want to proselytise. Well, the UBMJC does want to and will do so. This is part of our call to renew Judaism from the roots up through Messiah Yeshua.

  5. Daniel:

    I appreciate you vouching for my sanity. What a great time we had after Hashivenu while waiting at LAX.

    Yes, conversion is controversial. Part of the problem is the terms have changed over the centuries. Conversion actually means joining a people in this case, not changing religions. Our modern context views religion as individual choice about belief and practice. But Judaism is tribal, not individualistic. And so, properly understood, is Christianity.

    Derek

  6. While the practice of Messianic Judaism has a decidedly Jewish flavor (depending on the congregation you happen to visit), the theology of Messianic Judaism is, for lack of a better term, Christian. If you peel away the layers of the onion and compare the two, Messianics and Christians are more alike than unalike. If you accept Christ as Lord and Savior, have you not accepted the Messiah?

    • Well James – yes and no. In reality, the converse is true. Although Messianic Judaism is miniscule against the background of billions and billions (sorry, Carl Sagan) of Christians, it is the Christians who have come to acknowledge the Jewish Messiah, and as Jews we are merely recognising our own.
      The ‘yes’ – where I agree with you – is that in the mind of most Messianic Jews they are actually Messianic Christians. They view themselves as a sect of the church rather than a sect of Judaism.

    • Yep, I agree. It’s all about Jesus, Yeshua, if you prefer. The
      rest you may call “religion” if you like.

    • Surely therein lies the Christian perspective on Messianics, because they see Jewish people who are focussed on Torah and mitzvot as ‘religious’ which is a derogatory term in common usage. Those Jews see themselves surely as ‘being Jewish’, ie expressing identification with the Jewish people, through Jewish life and spirituality. Spirituality seen in common usage now as being more authentic and acceptable than ‘religious’, which is often taken to mean something humans have manufactured rather than what God has given.
      Jews who are committed to being the best Jews they can possibly be often do so through Torah and mitzvot, and Jewish believers like myself may see Torah and mitzvot (in the simplest way of putting it) as how we follow Yeshua. How else would Yeshua want me to live but as a good Jew?
      So for me, my life is about Jewish life, and nothing to do with the church. I may have been part of the local church for a few years – I’ve now left and won’t be joining another Christian congregation – but I found that when you have any observance at all in Jewish time, and once you have any commitment to learning Torah as an orthodox person would, you have decisively become a Yeshua follower in Judaism and not a Jewish-flavoured Christian. Those, to me, are the two boundary lines that tell whether someone is identifying with the Jewish community or the church – Jewish time and the presence of Torah learning.
      The challenge for the Messianic community is surely now to make sure it enables all Messianics to come together warmly as a community around Yeshua, enabling and resourcing a community life regardless of the fact some recognise Jewish time with observance and some do not, and some learn Torah and some do not. Or are the differences irreconcilable?

  7. Dr Rabbi Ruth Fleischer has kindly responded to my blog with the following comments. I think they are important as they clarify some matters.

    Dear Daniel,
    In your blog, you raised questions in regard to the Union of British Messianic Jewish Congregations. You suggested that while the UBMJC might be “more Messianic” than the BMJA, it is “less Jewish”. What does it mean to be a Jew? If it means living a Jewish life, identifying with the nation and people of Israel, and yes, going through a rigorous conversion experience, then the UBMJC would win on both counts, hands down. Firstly, let me say that this has nothing to do with salvation which is through the blood atonement of Mashiach Yeshua for any and all who will be redeemed. But we believe it was G-d’s plan for one OLIVE TREE–not two; for one sheepfold, not two. And that Olive Tree/sheepfold is Jewish–it is Israel. We have an intensive year long course, Gateway to Messianic Judaism, created by several from our community on the basis of scholarship, study, and learning (Jewish, biblical, and otherwise). This course of study provides a background more extensive than that received by most Jews by birth, and certainly more extensive than that of those raised in average Hebrew Christian homes. Having grown up as a “Hebrew Christian” I know that most of my Jewish friends did not consider me really Jewish. None of my Jewish acquaintances or friends today consider me anything but Jewish because that is what I am–not only by blood but by lifestyle. If one worships on Sunday and celebrates Christmas and Easter, one is a Christian. If one worships on Shabbat and celebrates Passover and Rosh Hashana, one is a Jew. Yes–it is as simple as that. Furthermore, looking at my own congregation, two thirds of its members are Jewish by blood. Conversion for us is a life-cycle marker confirming a Jewish way of life within the Jewish community, following in the path of Avraham our father who was circumcised before he could become the father of our people. Traditional Jews I know respect what we are doing and most recognize those who are Jews by choice and conversion as Jews. Will that get them citizenship in Israel? No. But neither can converts from Liberal or Reform synagogues hope for recognition on that basis (nor can most Hebrew Christians). As for those who live as Christians but call themselves Jews, well, there is really nothing to say as that is their choice.

    I am really not a blog person but I did want to do you the courtesy of answering your queries, so I hope this is helpful.

    Wishing you a blessed Pesach.

    Ruth

  8. Daniel wrote: “Very right. The conversion is from being Gentile to being Jewish. In our case, though, so far these are invariably Christian Gentiles. Good point.”

    Daniel, you would cry “racist” if someone told you to stop being Jewish and become Gentile. If you told the the Chinese, The Indians or the Arabs that they should drop their own identity and culture is that any less racist, and how do you think they would react?

  9. Great discussion, thanks for bringing this up. The conversion process, I think it needs to be said, is akin to discipleship, a Jewish discipleship if you like. It’s not just study, though study forms a vital part in as much as the person is able to do that. It is experiential through observance, and it is about assuming a Jewish identity, living relationally with others as a Jew, and demonstrably being accepted by others as Jewish – ie integration into the Jewish community – in practice this will be the Messianic congregation/network in our situation, though many converts will have wider networks. Without this acceptance, there will be hurt and rejection, and the test of trying to do the mitzvah of ahavat Yisroel in that setting can be too much. Mission, namely a thoroughly internalised understanding of our shared mission of following Yeshua as Jews, Tikkun Olam, etc is fundamental to it. We need to know not just in our heads but in every fibre of our being not just who we are, and whose we are, but our purpose in life both individually and together. I would suggest that that is what creates soundness in a conversion process and a good direction to move in as MJs explore and develop this together.

  10. Eleanor

    I am Jewish by birth (dad AND mom).
    I was brought up Jewish. At university I converted to Christ.
    Since then, I haven’t felt the need to follow the “Messianic”
    path. Further, I don’t think the mizvot and all the other Jewish practices are essential for ME.

    You said:
    “Conversion for us is a life-cycle marker confirming a Jewish way of life within the Jewish community, following in the path of Avraham our father who was circumcised before he could become the father of our people.”

    In Romans 4, it says that Abraham is the father of the crcumcised (the Jews) as well as the uncircumcised, the gentile. The crucial point is that he is he father of faith (which, of course includes faith in Christ.

    Here are the relevant verses:

    9 Is this blessedness only for the circumcised, or also for the uncircumcised? We have been saying that Abraham’s faith was credited to him as righteousness. 10 Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! 1 1And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. 12 And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.”

    But hey, I’ll always be loudly Jewish, but not in the mizvot way.

    • Hi, Good to meet you.

      Would you choose Torah and mitzvot if you thought they were not essential, but of value to yourself and others?

      What value do you think Torah and mitzvot have to those who keep them?

      Warmest blessings and shalom,
      E.

  11. Eleanor
    to answer your first question: there is so much of value in what I already have that I find no need for anything else.

    Your second question: If Jewish believers in Jesus/Yeshua feel the need to keep the mitzvot, that’s their choice.

    Raphael

  12. I am a convert to Judaism from Catholicism as well as a psychotherapist in the US.

    I find one essential piece missing in the above discussions: Membership, and qualifications for membership, in a tribe, nation, culture, religion is defined by the admitting group.

    Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Jews differ among themselves about the definition of a Jew. Everyone accepts matrilineal descent, only Reform and Reconstructionists accept patrilineal descent. Orthodox individuals do not accept the conversions of other groups and other groups vary on what they expect. But I don’t know of any figures in any of these groups who would accept that Messianic Judaism is Judaism or accept their conversions as valid.

    Paul, as the most successful proponents of what became Christianity, makes it clear that performing the mitzvot is not needed when one believes in Jesus as Mashiach and actively discourages it. He states that Jesus came to fulfill the law, making Jewish observance unnecessary.

    I know born Jews who believe in Jesus as Mashiach; those are Messianic Jews, in my opinion.

    However, why do gentiles try to create a clumsy hybrid for themselves? If you believe in Jesus, great! Be a Christian. If not, consider converting to Judaism.

    Psychically, the Christian who becomes a Messianic Jew is neither Jewish nor Christian, but rather some strange hybrid (and hybrids themselves are forbidden by Jewish law). I have to wonder if they are not certain enough in their Judaism to cut that umbilical cord to Christianity. Is there some residual fear they will ‘go to hell’ if they say that Jesus is not the Mashiach?

    I have heard several converts voice an experience similar to mine; at some point, we all realized that we were not Christians–that we did not believe in Jesus as savior. But not all of us could honestly identify as Jews. Some of us went on to convert, some didn’t.

    Where are gentile Messianic Jews on this continuum?

    • Neora,

      I pick out three bits of your post.

      “born Jews who believe in Jesus as Mashiach; those are Messianic Jews, in my opinion.”

      I agree.

      “However, why do gentiles try to create a clumsy hybrid for themselves? If you believe in Jesus, great! Be a Christian. If not, consider converting to Judaism.”

      Yep.

      “Psychically, the Christian who becomes a Messianic Jew is neither Jewish nor Christian, but rather some strange hybrid (and hybrids themselves are forbidden by Jewish law). ”

      Exactement.

      Let me say a little more, if not as exact or exacting.

      There is a distinction between “Jewish” and “Judaism;” the former is a cultural/racial/ethnic concept, while the latter is a religious concept.

      I am a racial /ethnic – and hopefully ethic – Jew (dad AND mom – whoopee). I also used to be one culturally, but have since moved away from that, becoming fully occupied with being a Christian (Greek for “Messianic” – so I am a “Messianic Jew”; but I’m quite happy with the Greek appellation, being fond of languages and happily assimilated into Western culture, whose roots are in Greece).

      I distinguish between Judaism and Jewishness. A Jew who follows Judaism is a “Jew for Judaism.” And a Gentile follower of Jesus/Yeshua who also believes in Judaism, what shall we call him/her? Surely not, as you point out Neora, a “Messianic Jew,” because that term should be reserved for Jews who believe in the Messiah (whom they believe is yet to come for the first time).

      I would say to Gentiles wanting to be Messianic JEWS, go and get a life – IN CHRIST, or if you hate Greek, IN MESSIAH. That should keep you occupied from now till eternity. It’s sure keeping me very occupied – and I happen to be JEWISH (Abba AND Ima.).

      What does it mean to be in Christ? It’s clearly explained in Romans and Galatians. And if you say you don’t like Paul, shame on you.

    • Oops. Neora, I said:
      Surely not, as you point out Neora, a “Messianic Jew,” because that term should be reserved for Jews who believe in the Messiah (whom they believe is yet to come for the first time).

      I should not have inlcuded the bit in brackets, namely, “(whom they believe is yet to come for the first time).”

      What I was thinking was that Jews who do NOT believe in Jesus/Yeshua also call themselves “Messianic Jews” (whom they believe is yet to come for the first time). They would say, as we all know, that if you believe in Jesus, you’re no longer a Jew, which, of course – if my definitions (in my former reponse) of “Jew” and “Judaism” hold – is twaddle.

  13. -since the Jewish conversion rite is essentially an adoption into the tribe, I find your distinction between the terms ‘Jewish’ and ‘Judaism’ artificial. At my conversion, I became the daughter of Abraham and Sarah.

    -I expressed no opinion about Paul; I just noted he said it was not necessary to follow the mitzvot if one believes in Jesus.

    -My studies show that a Jew who believes in Jesus is an apostate, but still Jewish. They can be welcomed back. They do not lose their identity in the Jewish community.

    -Where have you ever heard a Jew who does not believe in Jesus identify themselves as Messianic Jews? A Jew who does not believe in Jesus is simply a Jew. The tem ‘Messianic Jew’ is used to Jews who believe in Jesus, but still want to practice the mitzvot and Christians who want to follow Jewish practice while retaining their belief in Jesus. What I am saying is that, while there may be something somewhat adequate about applying the term to the first group, but not to the second. They are not Jews.

    -I was also stating that I did not know of Jewish movements that would accept a Messianic Jewish conversion. Messianic Judaism is no Judaism.

  14. “If one worships on Shabbat and celebrates Passover and Rosh Hashana, one is a Jew”

    I can show you many non-Jews who do these things. yours is a wrong premise.

  15. Because the theology of Christianity and Messianic Judaism are essentially the same – ie you are supposed to believe that the death of Jesus/Yeshua atoned for your sins allowing you to have a relationship through him with the Creator – then frankly Messianic Judaism, however many Jewish customs and holidays you may observe, is not Judaism but a form of Christianity.

    In order to become a Jew if you were not born of a Jewish mother, the only way to do so is by an orthodox conversion, a hard and huge spiritual journey that you should only undertake if you simply HAVE to be Jewish no matter what it takes, at the end of which G-d Himself gives you your Jewish soul directly. Essentially you have to be called by the Jewish spark in your soul, once it comes alive, and ultimately by G-d Himself into Judaism, and are committed thereby to all the commandments that an orthodox Jew is supposed to keep for the rest of your life.

    As a halachic orthodox conversion is incompatible with Christian theology, then I would suggest that those of you who are gentiles who believe in Jesus/Yeshua aim to be satisfied with the way that you were born. So long you do not fulfill every single mitzvah that a Jew is supposed to fulfill, in particular keeping Shabbat completely according to halacha – which is rather unlikely if you are in a Christian or Messianic congregation – then you can keep as many Jewish traditions as you wish. Isn’t that what Paul urged in the New Testament, to be content with how you were, Jew or gentile, when you came to faith in Jesus/Yeshua?

    • First, there is no mandate in the Tanach for conversion. It is an invented halacha.

      Secondly, halacha has no binding authority, despite what the rabbis told you….

    • Gia your “In order to become a Jew if you were not born of a Jewish mother, the only way to do so is by an orthodox conversion, a hard and huge spiritual journey that you should only undertake if you simply HAVE to be Jewish no matter what it takes, at the end of which G-d Himself gives you your Jewish soul directly.”

      Please explain “G-d Himself gives you your Jewish soul directly.”

    • How can any human explain how G-d does what He does? As it says in Isaiah, “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, and your ways are not My ways – the word of Hashem. As high as the heavens over the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55 v8-9).

      All I can say, from my own experience as well as other people’s who have gone through it, that after usually a prolonged and deeply painful fight to come home as the Jew you have found you NEED to be with all your heart and soul, during which time G-d can test you to the limit, when every single moment can be unbelievable agony as you long with all your soul and might to reach the mikvah (you have no idea unless you have been through it), you really do receive a higher soul at the mikvah and know the difference once it has happened (personally I felt like I was taking off and almost panicked). Then the agonizing longing stops, you feel more whole than you have ever been in your life before, and you know you are home. There is no going back. While you have to be accepted by a beit din of three shomer shabbat Jewish men first, and they have to witness the actual dunking in the mikvah, the soul is given directly by G-d, whom I have found clearly respects the halachic procedure involved.

      In a sense, a person who genuinely converts to Judaism has a Jewish spark and feels Jewish already, once it has been lit. In my case, G-d brought it to life – I remember distinctly when – and then I found myself drawn to do more and more Jewish things, read more and more about Judaism, found more and more amazing spiritual things happening, all clearly Jewish in nature, and it became an unescapable need and compulsion. At the same time I was fighting G-d because I didn’t want to have my life turned upside down and I was terrified of what was happening to me. However, G-d won the argument and made it abundantly clear what His will was for me. Once I surrendered totally to G-d, I was committed, come what may.

      Jewish understanding is that Jews have a higher soul than that of gentiles, essentially a part of G-d Himself which connects us to Him directly. To be one of the “chosen people” does not somehow make you better, G-d forbid, but means you have more responsibilities as a Jew than as a gentile, the 613 commandments that G-d gave the Israelites at Sinai and thereafter. Whereas non-Jews are required to keep the 7 Noachide laws and do not sin if they eat pork or shellfish amongst keeping many other mitzvot, as Jews would do.

      To be born a Jew is a tremendous privilege as well as a great responsibility. Not to have to go through the tremendous suffering of the conversion process simply to become the person you have found you are supposed to be can save a person a great deal of trauma. However, at the same time, Hashem can help a person who needs to convert in unimaginable and tremendous ways to find the right path for them – He certainly did me – and it was an unbelievably amazing, exciting but also at the time a deeply frightening and uncomfortable privilege how He intervened in my own life so clearly and directly. Everyone has their path in life, and whether born Jewish or not, usually has their own particular testing to go through.

      As to why G-d chose me and chose the various other people nowadays that He is calling out of Christianity into Judaism, I have no real idea. I was certainly willing to put G-d first in my life and I had asked Him for the relationship He truly wanted with me. However I was descended from a Jewish family directly on my father’s side, but that was several generations back so it was all rather a shock. Certainly the clearest answer I received from Hashem as to why, is that He is bringing the descendants of Jacob back to Israel, as prophesied in the Tanach.

    • I have to say I found Dayan [ ] very kind!

      I had holy and inspiring teachers, and while patience was required, I felt the suffering came afterwards, when you realise that no conversion is really accepted by the community until three generations later. I believe this is in great part why they are so careful.

      The longing, yearning and preparation for mikvah and what happens in that time I agree is something holy, and profoundly transformational. This is one reason I suggest we need to approach MJ conversion very, very carefully and with much yiras shomayim.

    • Ilana, your “we need to approach MJ conversion very, very carefully and with much yiras shomayim.”

      How does MJ conversion sync with the Apostle Paul’s description of conversion?

    • Galatians 5.3 I believe shows us exactly what Paul thinks of it. Warm shalom

    • Ilana

      I asked about your “we need to approach MJ conversion very, very carefully and with much yiras shomayim.” How does MJ conversion sync with the Apostle Paul’s description of conversion?

      You replied
      Galatians 5.3 I believe shows us exactly what Paul thinks of it.

      Here is Gal 5:3

      “I testify again to every man that receiveth circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law.”

      I can’t see what you mean by giving this verse as an example of conversion. How is “justification” related to “conversion.” How do you understand Gal 5:3 to relate to Chapter 3 as a whole?

    • I don’t really understand your question. I understand Paul as writing to a church which is in danger of being misled by wrong teaching. There’s a variety of possibilities (was it the non-Messianic Jewish communities pressuring them to convert properly to Judaism or not at all, or a specific teacher or teachers within the church telling them Judaism was some kind of ‘higher way’), but it’s clear the Gentile believers were being told they have to convert to Judaism. Paul is pointing out that if they convert to Judaism (ie through circumcision) they have to keep the whole law (I mean how else should a Jew live but with a holy Jewish life?). His point is that Gentiles ‘belong’ already, fully, adequately, as Gentiles, to the blessing of the covenant through Christ. They don’t need to also become Jews and take on Jewish law. He’s coming from a place (surely) of grasping that the Kingdom is both here and also not yet fully here, and therefore that to bring about the ultimate redemption the Gentiles need to turn en masse to HaShem. He sees Jesus as ushering this long-prophesied stage of history in, and hence he goes to the Gentiles with the good news, because he knows that when the Gentiles have responded, so will the rest of Israel – and history will be fulfilled, Jesus will return. I don’t read this as being a letter about ‘how to get saved’, I read this as a letter about ‘how then do we live’ in this great time of the approaching return of Jesus. I don’t read it as being a letter about ‘why Judaism is wrong and Christianity is right’, I read it as being about it’s ok to be a Gentile or a Jew, you don’t have to all become Jews, because God has a plan for humanity and you are fully part of it already as Gentiles – just look to Jesus, turn to worship and obey God and be saved through Jesus.

      This: http://www.marknanos.com/Resnik-Review-of-Irony.pdf makes the point that if Paul hadn’t been basically (at least to some extent, or as far as he was able under difficult circumstances) a frum guy, then he couldn’t have written 5.3, because they could have countered that they also could go through a notional conversion and like him, give up the path of Torah/mitzvot, a halachic/ethical life.

      That’s where I’m at in trying to make sense of Paul at the moment. The key is, I think, that he thought not like a rabbi but like a dayan. I found when I put aside the assumption he thought like a rabbi and saw him as thinking more like a dayan, a lot of loose ends fall into place. Just my thoughts. Warmest shalom

    • Ilana I am replying to your post about Galatians,
      (Ilana Abraham, on 29 November, 2011 at 18:49 said:
      I don’t really understand your question. I understand Paul as writing to a church which is in danger of being misled by wrong teaching).

      In connection with Galatians 5:2, ”Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”

      Do you agree that Paul is saying that circumcision for both Jew and Gentile is no longer relevant (to salvation, and if not relevant to salvation, not relevant at all).

      If Paul is saying this, then verse 3 must mean that if you accept something as irrelevant as circumcision you will have to “keep the whole law” as well.

      [3] I testify again to every man who accepts circumcision that he is obligated to keep the whole law.

      But if a man accepts circumcision (which implies that he must keep the whole law) he will be cut off from Christ.

      [4] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.

      There is, of course, the distinction between 1. justification, which occurs without circumcision and the law, which is Paul’s emphasis above, and sanctification through the law, which Paul says elsewhere is necessary. The issue in the latter is the kind of laws he means.

    • Hello, re Galatians, no I don’t read the text that way at all.

    • When you have time I’d be very happy to read your interpretation.

    • I’d point out though that Paul here isn’t most probably intending to make a formal announcement – there’s no clearing of throat, tapping of mic, and beginning the shiur with now chaverim I’ve something very important to tell you about becoming a Jew. He’s actually having a (presumably justified) rant against some false teaching that everyone has to become a Jew to follow Jesus. But he states in the heat of the moment exactly what he believes. In my opinion, that is. Shalom

    • Gila, your “Jewish understanding is that Jews have a higher soul than that of gentiles.”

      The Haredi Jews agree with you, but there are many other kinds of Jews who would disagree with you. Would you say they are not faithful to Torah? See http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/love-your-neighbour-as-long-as-hes-jewish/

      The style of your poignant testimony, usual for a Christian, would be extremely rare for a Jew. I’m wondering whether that Christian side of you will ever wash out. But then, you may say, why should that be necessary when you can just baptise (mikveh) the positive remains of your previous Christian soul.

      I can’t fault your heartfelt sincerity for your newfound faith.

  16. I don’t see that a conversion and lifestyle which is comparable to orthodox practice is in any way incompatible with Christian theology. How can it possibly be? Jesus was Jewish. Paul certainly made clear that Gentiles do not need to convert to Judaism to optimally follow Jesus/Yeshua, but I don’t read the text as forbidding genuine conversion either! I would argue an applicant for Messianic conversion should go through as searching and rigorous a process as any orthodox Beth Din would require, and also that to refuse a genuine applicant the opportunity to do this is unjustifiably refusing someone’s traditional right in Jewish Law, to become a Jew, (and it also surely denies them a basic human right of self-determination in conjunction with the community they are joining). In fact, it’s racism. It’s saying, sorry you can’t be a (M)Jew unless you have the right DNA. and Judaism has never done this. Messianic Judaism I don’t see has any authority to take that position. The issue, perhaps, is the lack of available teachers and beth din.

    I spent many years in the orthodox world and wouldn’t be concerned by the fact conversions are not recognised outside their own community, that’s pretty much usual for all conversions. It’s not an issue, unless someone converted by route A wants to marry someone whose community only recognises people from route B, in which case if they are genuine there is no issue, they simply convert again. It just delays the wedding. I think on balance it is more respectful to the orthodox Beth Din if there is a credible Messianic Beth Din giving conversions recognised in the MJ world, because it will mean there is absolutely no reason for anyone, God forbid, to try to deceive the orthodox authorities to gain a recognised conversion. It is the sensible and orderly way to do things, and far better than having people out there in a kind of no-mans-land who observe but don’t identify fully with the Jewish people as Jews. I think their difficulty is they get the worst of both worlds – they are definitely not accepted as Jews even by other Messianic Jews, and also laying themselves open to misunderstanding and harassment from Gentile believers.

    I agree with what you say here, ‘In order to become a Jew if you were not born of a Jewish mother, the only way to do so is by an orthodox conversion, a hard and huge spiritual journey that you should only undertake if you simply HAVE to be Jewish no matter what it takes, at the end of which G-d Himself gives you your Jewish soul directly. ‘ That is always how conversion should ideally be approached. We need to give sensitive, gentle and kind accompaniment to those considering this journey.

    • I appreciate your sensitive and thoughtful comment. If you have spent years in orthodoxy, you will understand that from an orthodox Jewish perspective it is impossible to convert to Judaism if you believe that accepting and worshipping Jesus/Yeshua is the only way to have a relationship with G-d. The Jewish relationship with G-d is direct, no intermediary necessary. The very spirituality of Judaism is different from that of Christianity/Messianic Judaism. G-d Himself gives you your Jewish soul at the mikvah on conversion, and it is my experience and understanding and that of many other people, that the only true way to receive this is through a halachic conversion, accepting all the commandments that G-d gave the Jewish to keep for eternity. Once Jewish, there is no going back, and spiritually you are far worse off if you backslide than if you had never converted in the first place. That is why orthodox rabbis usually make it so hard to convert in the first place and do their best to dissuade a potential convert from taking on the yoke of a Jew.

      From a Christian perspective (I used to be a Christian) one would have to ask what exactly does one mean by a Jew? If Jew and gentile are one in Christ as Paul argues, then what benefit would it bestow on the person “converting”? I can understand a desire to feel a part of the Jewish people, but there is nothing preventing anyone keeping as many Jewish holidays and traditions as they want and identifying with Israel and the Jewish people as a Christian or if they prefer, as a “Messianic Believer”.

      There are more than enough difficulties in Judaism itself with the present systems of Reform and Conservative “conversions” (I knew someone who first “converted” Conservative and later on orthodox: she knew the difference when she truly converted and at last truly received her Jewish soul at her orthodox mikvah), causing unnecessary pain and heartache to people who genuinely think they are Jewish and later on find out that they are not. To those of you in the Messianic Movement, then I would suggest that everyone calls themselves “Messianic Believers”, causing offence and difficulties to no-one, allowing you to keep as many Jewish customs, holidays and traditions as you wish (although of course an orthodox understanding for a Jew is that you are still bound by the eternal covenants that G-d made with Abraham and Moses), and allowing both Jews and gentiles to follow the vision of Paul of being “one in Christ”.

    • Hello Gila, it’s good to have this conversation. I am rather puzzled by your comment that Jesus is the ‘intermediary’ through whom people have to pray – it may be an expression which describes an experience people have because we can understand better who God is through encountering Jesus? We do pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit if you want to look at it through that Trinitarian lens, but God is also one, and directly hears all our prayers. Jesus is our intermediary in the sense that he brings us the certainty of God’s outpouring of grace on the final day.

      But Jesus does far, far more. Through our knowing him, he has brought us depths of knowing the Father we would otherwise not have had. He cleared up ambiguities to do with legalism, and the place of the marginalised in a society where people are acutely conscious of their ‘social standing’. He sheds so much light on what the Kingdom of God looks like – what God envisages if you like. There is so much more to him than any formulaic ‘sinner’s prayer’.

      I understand you believe that it’s impossible for someone to convert to (orthodox) Judaism if they are following Jesus. But I can’t see it from that perspective. To Jesus, Judaism was natural and seamlessly consistent with how to be a good Jew, and so it is for us as Messianics, and for those who desire to convert. I believe conversion is important for a person who feels deeply called to follow Yeshua as a Jew, because I trust completely that they acquire a Jewish soul at conversion just as any other genuine Jewish convert does. It’s more than ‘joining in festivals’ or loving the Jewish people, it is who you are at a deep spiritual level, and the people to whom they are bound with a truly shared soul. It is assuming that very serious responsibility, taking upon oneself the yoke of Torah. The difference between a Gentile Christian who lives a Jewish lifestyle and one who has gone through a searching and responsible process of conversion is that the Gentile can abandon it when they get bored or it becomes inconvenient, or when the experience no longer ‘delivers’ what it once did. They do not have that serious calling and responsibility, and what they do in terms of learning Torah and keeping Shabbat will not impact spiritually in the same way on the life and destiny of the rest of the Jewish people.

      I can beat that number of conversions, I know someone who converted liberal, then went to Israel and had what she thought was an orthodox conversion to marry her boyfriend, found it wasn’t recognised when she got back to the UK and then converted orthodox. Just to round it off his parents never really accepted her, but I don’t think they would have accepted anybody’s conversion as valid! She’d had three conversions and four weddings by the end of it all, and still a struggle with her in-laws. Once the children were going to Jewish schools things settled down. (I understand, by the way, Paul’s ‘one in Christ’ to mean that our differences, male and female, slave and free, Jew and Gentile, etc, are transcended by our unity in Christ, not that those differences are negated or obliterated.) Warmest shalom, and blessings on your spiritual journey.

  17. My own views on conversion to Messianic Judaism are evolving. I am becoming increasingly skeptical of the validity of it. I absolutely respect the opinion of those who promote it, and don’t doubt that formalised conversions will one day become a feature of Messianic Jewish life. However, I have many caveats. One of these is an article by David Rudolph regarding Rav Shaul’s ‘rule for all the churches’ which is available for download at http://ejournals.bc.edu/ojs/index.php/scjr/article/view/1556/ and is commented on in Yahnatan’s blog at http://gatherthesparks.blogspot.com/

  18. In response to Dan Benzi, the whole point of the Oral Torah is to clarify the commandments that G-d gave the Jewish people to keep. The arguments contained in the Talmud are hair-splitting in order to make sure that the Torah system is completely accurate and consistent. Without it, for instance in the Shema when Jews are told to “tie them (ie G-d’s commandments) as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” (Deuteronomy 6 v 8), what exactly does G-d mean by this? How are they tied, what is meant by symbols, and how and where does binding them on your foreheads mean? The Oral Torah is required to explain clearly what is meant.

    I don’t know what you mean by “the rabbis”. There are slight differences in halachic rulings according to the circumstances of the person seeking rabbinic guidance, and according to the tradition of the rabbi concerned, for instance there are differences between Ashkenazi and Sephardic traditions for instance in tying on tefillin, and further differences as to how precisely the tefillin are put together. On the one hand these differences of understanding are not necessarily important in the overall scheme of things – the commandment to “tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads” is clearly kept whatever tradition you follow and whichever rabbi you consult if you need clarification. But on the other hand, the Jewish desire to keep the commandments as fully as possible out of their love for the Creator and their commitment to the closest possible relationship with Him, connecting with Him ever more strongly with each mitzvah we keep, lies behind the hair-splitting desire to get things as right as possible. For instance, my husband puts on two slightly different tefillin each day because of a slight difference in understanding between two different rabbinical authorities several centuries ago. That way, he covers both understandings of this particular commandment.

    • When a Person walk with a tzitzit that don’t have a blue thread because the blue has to come from a certain chilazon, that is breaking the Law of God (Numb. 15:37) not a “heir-splitting thing.

  19. To Ilana: Thank you for your reply. Actually I have already had a deep and lengthy spiritual journey: G-d Himself took me out of Christianity and into Judaism, rather unexpectedly. Coming as I did from Christianity and with a brief foray into the Messianic movement, I needed a lot of convincing, which amazingly G-d Himself provided when I truly needed it, as I was putting His will and integrity first before all else. Of course I agree life is a journey, and as a Jew following the commandments G-d gave to the Jewish people for eternity, I am seeking to deepen my relationship with the One infinite G-d who created everything.

    The essential belief in Judaism is that the infinite G-d who created everything in the whole universe, evil as well as good, is One, He is not a man and there is no Savior or Redeemer besides Him. See Deuteronomy 6v4, 4v35, Numbers 23v19, Isaiah chapters 43 to 45, especially 43v11, 44v8, 45v5,v6,v7,v17, v18,v21,v22. The NIV translates the Hebrew word “ra” in Isaiah 45v6 as “disaster” in order to try to avoid the theological implications of its true meaning of “evil”. However this whole verse, starting near the end of Isaiah 45v6 to the end of verse 7 states that “I am Hashem, and there is no other. (I am the One) Who forms light and creates darkness; Who makes peace and creates evil; I am Hashem, Maker of all these.” (NB all references are according to the numbering system in Jewish Bibles which can sometimes be one verse different from the system in Christian Bibles.)

    If you truly believe that G-d is One, then logically it makes no sense to pray to or feel the need for any other being. If Jesus/Yeshua were really divine, then it would be perfectly fine just to speak to G-d directly, to accept His love and forgiveness directly, and not to use the name of Jesus/Yeshua at all. If, as I have no doubt, he was not, then it goes completely against all that the Torah tells us time and again about G-d for us to revere his name in any way.

    The infinite G-d who created absolutely everything is more than capable of forgiving sin directly, no blood sacrifices necessary, as for instance He did in the case of King Hezekiah, of King David and of the inhabitants of Nineveh in the book of Jonah. Indeed the sacrificial system was in place only for unintentional sins. The very word, “korban” meaning sacrifice comes from the same root as the word “karov”, meaning to bring close. The Jewish concept of sin and repentance is about turning back to whom we truly are, sin is conceived as “missing the mark” and we do not believe that sin can ever separate G-d from man. It can only separate man from G-d until he does teshuva, repents. For sins between man and man it is necessary to ask the person wronged directly to forgive. For intentional sins, the only remedy, including during the time of the Jewish Temples, has always been to ask G-d to forgive sin directly which He assures us He does if we sincerely repent. I hope this explanation makes a little clearer why orthodox, or indeed any other Jews who do not follow Christian/Messianic theology, will never accept someone who was not originally Jewish according to halacha who has undergone a Messianic Jewish “conversion” as being anything other than a gentile, however hard, sincere and fulfilling the process for the person involved.

    I don’t doubt your sincere belief and your spiritual experiences, and I appreciate your thoughtfulness, but my own belief, experiences and desires are also deeply real and sincere. May G-d lead you in the path He has for you to come truly closer to Him and to His will for your life.

    • Hello Gila,
      I appreciate your sharing your perspective. For me, the mystery of the Almighty is that he is both one; truly and entirely one, and yet also trinity. This is a profound concept, a mystery which cannot be explained, but at its heart lies an understanding of God ‘himself’ being community as well as singularity. In that loving communion that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so powerful they are also truly one, I catch a small glimpse of how God longs for us all to live and love one another.

      I would personally encourage Gentiles who have sincerely converted to Messianic Judaism (or any other form of Judaism) to be at peace and secure in their identity as Jews, and not to be concerned that this lot or that don’t recognise their Jewishness. In practice it only seems to crop up in very few areas of Jewish life, and there is often a way forward and a way we can respond with grace. If a person has truly taken upon themselves the yoke of Torah, and with their eyes ever on Yeshua Jesus live as beautifully and holy a life of Torah and mitzvot as they can (and I don’t mean taking on every strictness), everything else will fall into place. God will care for his people. Warmest blessings and shalom, Ilana.

  20. To bography: Thanks for your response. The Jewish soul is a reality, whatever different people may think (actually all Jews are connected spiritually whether they recognise it or not). As for how I described my journey, firstly I was a Christian at the time and G-d helped me in the particular way I needed and understood back then. Things are different now I’m Jewish with a greater and deeper understanding than I had then. And secondly I wrote in a way that I thought would make sense to someone in a Christian/Messianic theological conceptual universe. There is certainly a considerable difference between Jewish and Christian understandings of particular concepts and ways of describing things. Guess I’ll go back to the Rashi for this week’s parshah Vayetzei now….

    • I find your testimony resonates with many others I’ve heard from people who are ba’alei teshuva as well as geirim. And thinking about it, I met some very special people who were FFB, in some cases, frum for generations, who conveyed that sense of how life-giving Jewish life is. Jesus must have faced the full weight of social prejudice because of how the circumstances of his conception looked – and yet, even so, the gospels don’t portray a negative attitude to Jewish life, only to legalism and that which was so oppressive.

    • Gila
      Your “I wrote in a way that I thought would make sense to someone in a Christian/Messianic theological conceptual universe.”

      So, I shouldn’t have described your response as “heartfelt,” then. It sure came across as deep roilings within your previously Gentile soul. With your new understanding – since you have been given, you say, a higher soul – I understand why you think that you now inhabit a higher “theological conceptual universe.”

      The way I see it, the only reason Israel was a elected by God was because God wanted it that way. Your view of the Jew being a “piece of God above,” as a Kabbalist would say, is identical to the Hindu conceptual universe.

    • I’m getting the impression that whatever I say, you are going to see something else in it. Yes, of course what I said came from the heart. And as for my soul, it was never truly gentile, though I had no idea when I was younger why I had such a strong drive to explore spiritually. I needed to convert to become the Jew I was supposed to be, but there was already a Jewish spark, or the potential there, that Hashem had given me.

      I could have said far more, but I think I already said more than enough on a public forum to people I don’t know. Having said that, I was concurring that orthodox Jews and Christians/Messianics usually inhabit rather different conceptual universes. What one may say, may be interpreted very differently from what is meant. If this interests you, I would refer you to the book “Heart of a People” and for more theological differences “The Teacher and the Preacher”, both obtainable from http://www.shorashim.com/shop/#ecwid:category=286261&mode=category&offset=0&sort=normal

      At the end of the day, whatever our theological understandings, experiences and differences, I would like to suggest that we all seek to put G-d first and to ask Him to help us come closer to Him and to help us to become better, kinder, humbler people on whatever path He chooses for us to follow. The differences that divide us are far smaller than those that bring us together.

      To Ilana: why I don’t really understand why you have embraced an essentially Christian/Messianic theology after everything else, I am very impressed with your deep thoughtfulness and sensitivity in what you have to say.

    • Forgot to say, that I entirely agree that the reason that Israel was elected by G-d is because G-d wanted it that way.

  21. “Jewish understanding is that Jews have a higher soul than that of gentiles, essentially a part of G-d Himself which connects us to Him directly. ”

    this is not Jewish understanding. This is simple racism. Jews should not talk like this, especially after the holocaust.

    • I see it as a specific calling, not a ‘higher’ one. Otherwise I agree it conveys something potentially racist ( though you can convert into it).

      We can’t argue with the fact there have been strands of thought in Jewish tradition we would find disturbingly racist, just as there have been strands of thought in Christianity we would find disturbingly antisemitic. Time for all of us to stop and think, perhaps, and look to the overwhelming nature of the love of God for all his children. That sounds to me like a good starting point for a fresh beginning.

    • There was nothing racist implied. Apologies if you understood it that way. Being Jewish is not fundamentally a racial difference, but a soul difference. Hashem made us all different, with different talents, different levels of intelligence and with different souls. We are all unique, we are all infinitely loved by Him and we are all His children. We can all contribute something special to the world to make it a better place.

      Having a soul that can reach higher – I don’t know how else to describe it – does not make you better or worse as a person, just as having a particular talent as a scientist or as an artist doesn’t either. It actually means that Hashem has given you particular responsibilities to fulfill – the commandments He gave the Jewish people in the Torah – and will judge a person accordingly. Observant Jews recognise that every person, Jewish or non-Jewish, has their own potential for their own unique relationship with the One Creator of us all. As G-d created everything we have and that we see and feel around us, and even every breath we take is because He has given it to us, hasn’t He the right to create as He sees fit, rather than as we with our limited finite minds might imagine?

  22. Ilana

    I am responding to an earlier comment where you replied to Gila. You said:

    “Hello Gila, it’s good to have this conversation. I am rather puzzled by your comment that Jesus is the ‘intermediary’ through whom people have to pray – it may be an expression which describes an experience people have because we can understand better who God is through encountering Jesus? We do pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus, and in the power of the Holy Spirit if you want to look at it through that Trinitarian lens, but God is also one, and directly hears all our prayers. Jesus is our intermediary in the sense that he brings us the certainty of God’s outpouring of grace on the final day.
    But Jesus does far, far more. Through our knowing him, he has brought us depths of knowing the Father we would otherwise not have had. He cleared up ambiguities to do with legalism, and the place of the marginalised in a society where people are acutely conscious of their ‘social standing’. He sheds so much light on what the Kingdom of God looks like – what God envisages if you like. There is so much more to him than any formulaic ‘sinner’s prayer’.”

    END OF QUOTE

    Surely, if you say you pray in the name of Jesus but also insist that this does not mean that he (or “his name” – same thing as “he,” surely) is an intermediary, a Jew will not buy that. Especially as you believe (as I do) in a trinity of persons within the Godhead.

    Furthermore, you say much about Jesus as a great teacher and example. I think you know that the crucial (literally) thing about Jesus was not his life but his death (crucifixion) as a ransom for many – a concept alien to halachic Judaism.

    • Hi, I’m baffled. How can the crucifixion and resurrection leave the the rest of Jesus’ ministry eclipsed or diminished? We follow the whole counsel of God, his life is hugely significant – and I recall learning that in fact there was a long strand of thought in Judaism through the centuries that the death of a tzaddik (or an innocent, or someone who died al kiddush Hashem) for example could help atone for the sins of the rest of the community – this teaching was only neglected when the rabbis became concerned it might lead Jewish people toward Yeshua. Would this concept of us praying in the name of Jesus be alien to Jews, who already pray (as many of us Messianics do also) in the merit of our forefathers/mothers.

      I can’t help but wonder if just as arguments over halachic details can go off into ridiculous and impractical realms, Christian theology can ‘overwork’ things which would have remained simple and far easier if the early church had not gone off on an antisemitic tangent. Does that make sense? :0) I’m no theologian and certainly no expert in Jewish thought or law, so dialogue is most warmly welcomed. Shalom

    • Ilana, your “I’m baffled. How can the crucifixion and resurrection leave the the rest of Jesus’ ministry eclipsed or diminished?”

      Perhaps, I wasn’t clear.

      Let me sum up what I intended to mean in a few questions:

      1. Do you consider the propitiatory sacrifice of the second person of the tri-une God as THE reason for the incarnation? In other words, is the fulcrum of the tri-une God’s plan of redemption that the Son would take on flesh and die for the sins of the world.
      2. What do you understand by these two verses, or are they self-explanatory:
      a. For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Tim 2:5).
      b. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

      What I am getting at is that it seems to me that your focus is off centre when you said:
      ”Through our knowing him, he has brought us depths of knowing the Father we would otherwise not have had. He cleared up ambiguities to do with legalism, and the place of the marginalised in a society where people are acutely conscious of their ‘social standing’. He sheds so much light on what the Kingdom of God looks like – what God envisages if you like. There is so much more to him than any formulaic ‘sinner’s prayer’.”

      The way I see it is thus: the door to knowing God is Jesus’/Yeshua’s (physical) death – and our death to our sin nature through faith in His finished work (Ephesians 2:1-10). Only then does all the other things you said in the above paragraph apply.

      Lehitraot

    • Hi, yes I think they are self-explanatory. I take as read that the death and resurrection of Jesus are key to our knowing we are saved, as death was vanquished, and through the cross the full depth and breadth of God’s grace known – as far as it can be in our human minds. I think the death and resurrection are far more than formulaic solutions to our dilemma of sinfulness – in any case Judaism has always had repentance, and even grace covered! They are mysteries, as is the amazing blessing of the incarnation. But Jesus is MORE than just the person who enables the sinners prayer to ‘work’. He is more than just the reason we don’t have to live in fear of the scales showing our sins eclipse hope on the Day of Judgement. He is bigger than all of that – he brings so much more, including pointing to and demonstrating the Kingdom of God in a clear way. Challenging legalism and the rule of merciless social prejudice is only a bit of it. What I’m saying, as a Messianic Jew, is that we can make Jesus too ‘small’ when we reduce the good news to a formula for personal salvation.

    • Ilana, glad we cleared that up. And as you said, the good news is not a FORMULA for personal salvation. But I would say that it is ultimately about personal salvation. there is a strong movement today that contends that the emphasis on personal salvation is selfish, and that salvation is mainly about relationships – human relationships. The next step is chuck out penal substitution and eternal punishment. In with the lovey dovey stuff.

  23. How about you guys go back to the OP subject?

  24. Just popped back into this blog discussion after a few months away… yes the UBMJC (which by the way for anyone interested has now become the Union of British Messianic Synagogues – http://www.ubmsonline.org) does offer conversions. I include here the ‘conversions’ tab from my own synagogue’s website for you to read:http://www.ubmsonline.org/home/congregations/adat-yeshua/conversion/
    I’m sure the questions will continue to come, but this issue must be addressed for the movement to go forward.

    • As someone briefly involved in the messianic movement some years ago, I can actually understand why some gentile believers in Yeshua would want to “convert” in order to be considered Jewish. I did check your site and saw you offer a one year “conversion” course.

      However this will only muddy the waters of Jewish identity further, already confusing thanks to Reform and Conservative “conversions” to Judaism. There is only one true conversion to Judaism: a halachic one accepting all the commandments of the Torah given by G-d to the Jewish people for all time ie orthodox (and even within orthodox Judaism some people find themselves in a position that it is a good idea to do a further “chumrah” conversion later on so there will be no problems in being accepted by a different and possibly stricter community: actually I did this myself as well). Not only is it the only kind recognised by halachically observant Jews, it is the only kind that appears to be recognised by Hashem Himself because it is He alone who gives you your new Jewish soul at the mikvah. I knew a lady who first “converted” Conservative and later on undertook a halachic orthodox conversion. She definitely knew the spiritual difference at her real orthodox mikvah and only after that could she recognise that at last she was truly a Jew.

      Messianic Judaism will never be recognised by Jewish non-believers in Yeshua as anything but a version of Christianity. It doesn’t matter how many Jewish customs you may keep, the problem is the Christian theology which for a Jew entails idol worship.

      While the government of Israel presently recognises all Jewish “conversions” done overseas, whether orthodox or non-orthodox, for the purposes of making aliyah, it will never recognize Messianic “conversions” as bestowing any kind of Jewish status on the person undergoing it. Wasn’t it Paul himself who told believers to be content with the status that G-d gave you at birth? Aren’t you all supposed to be part of one body in Yeshua, whether Jew or gentile?

      By offering a Messianic “conversion” to the supposed status of a Jew, I believe that you are setting up good people to be disillusioned and hurt later on when they discover that in reality they are no more Jewish after their “conversion” than they were before.

    • For a believer in Jesus/Yeshua, the nerve of the Gospel is to be – as Paul says umpteen times – in Christ. The nerve of the Gospel! And of Paul. The rest is “extra” (in both senses of the word).

    • Thank you gila8 for your comments. I personally believe that MJ is and should be far more radical than to date. I am sure that you too have been following the developments in the Jewish academic world (Boyarin, S Cohen to name just a couple) where Yeshua is increasingly being seen as not only ‘one of us’ but also far deeper research being done on the issues of His deity. Yeshua Mashichanu has always been the JEWISH Messiah and nothing else; G-d has only ever called one body into existence to represent Him to this world: the Jewish people, Israel. I simply do not see that the Torah predicts or prophesies any other ‘vehicle’ to spread the Good news of the G-d of Israel and His salvation to the nations. Gentiles don’t keep Torah (in that the critics of the OLM are right), so the issue is what does ‘conversion’ mean? As you know, conversion in Judaism means leaving the pagan gentile world and joining yourself to Israel through study, circumcision for men and immersion. When one is born again in Mashiach those from the nations come out from them and join to.. what? To the G-d of Israel and His Mashiach but then apparently refuse to follow Him? (I’m speaking simply here for brevity, so forgive the lack of nuances). I know the verses that everyone will quote at this point, but we currently have a situation in the MJ movement that is logically and theologically untenable and to my mind undermines the very message we speak, we insist on making divides between those born Jewish keeping Torah in Mashiach and those not. Our position on this is clear: Jewish people in the covenant established by G-d through Abraham’s faith (Gal et al) are the bride through whom the righteousness of G-d shines out. We are not trying to confuse people, nor do we accept ‘identity-seekers’ into the programme. This is about the purely logical and and dare I say teleological development of what Judaism is all about.
      On one other note, you say Hashem accepts the Orthodox conversions. I find this an odd comment. Rabbinic Judaism was established and predicated on the basis that Yeshua was not and is not the Messiah. Such a fundamental values base will skew any theological development and has for 2000 years. Rav Shaul, while accepting that his kinsmen were Jewish regardless of how they expressed their faith, nevertheless critiqued the prevailing form of Judaism in his day (you know the verses) and described it as a perversion of Torah’. I find it difficult to believe that G-d ‘accepts’ that in the way you describe, especially on such subjective grounds that you quote.
      Will the Orthodox accept us? No. But we’re not doing this to be accepted. Will wider Judaism eventually have to deal with us? Yes. This is a renewed form of Judaism, the form of Judaism that should have existed for the last 2000 years. I believe that in the UK the UBMS is unique in this calling to establish MJ as a Judaism and nothing else.

    • I have already commented extensively elsewhere as to why Christian theology is incompatible with Judaism. However, it will not hurt to retiterate some of the main points.

      Many truthseekers like myself, a Christian for a long time but helped by Hashem to come out of Christianity and to become the Jew Hashem made it clear I was supposed to be, or some others who do not convert to Judaism but become Noachides, rejecting the idolatry of worshipping any created being, include jc, as divine, have found that it is in fact Christianity, especially the writings of Paul, that has perverted the Torah and the word of G-d.

      Time and again Hashem tells us that He alone is G-d and there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him (eg Isaiah chapters 43 to 45). We are told in the Torah that G-d is not a man (Numbers 23 v 19) and also that the commandments of the Torah are for all time and that they are not too difficult to keep (Deuteronomy 30 v 11-14).

      jc did not fulfill the requirements of the Moshiach, in particular gathering in the exiles, rebuilding the Temple (which still stood in his lifetime) or heralding an era of world peace. As Jews, we are explicitly warned against prophets or dreamers performing miracles who may take us away from keeping the commandments of the Torah (Deuteronomy 13 v 1 – 6).

      Observant Jews HAVE a relationship with G-d – directly – which is far deeper and far more real than the shallower instant spirituality of Christianity/Messianic Judaism, which actually belongs to the spirituality of tumah, the good side of Christian spirituality as well as the bad. For a gentile leaving the pagan world, Christianity can potentially bring him or her closer to G-d, but for a Jew who has a higher soul that is essentially part of G-d and is already directly connected to Hashem, it actually moves him or her away from G-d – by worshipping jc/Yeshua in any form, by considering him as an intermediary (John 14 v 6) between man and G-d, by believing him to be an atoning blood sacrifice for his sins, this for a Jew is idol worship which ultimately bears the most serious punishment.

      The rabbinic system is simply one that allows us to keep all G-d’s commandments as lovingly and as carefully as possible. G-d’s commandments have nothing to do with salvation in a Christian understanding, but simply to fulfill the will of our Beloved, whom we are commanded to love with all our hearts and our souls – Hashem. Everything we do as Jews, every mitzvah we fulfill, connects us ever more deeply and strongly to the One unique Source of us all.

      I did what I did, in leaving Christianity behind and embracing the path to G-d of my Jewish ancestors – directly back some generations on my father’s side – not only because it became clear that the quotes Christian missionaries tend to use to support their claims regarding jc (eg Isaiah 53, Isaiah 7 v 14 and others) are usually mistranslated from the Hebrew or taken out of context, but also, and for me most importantly, because G-d clearly showed me that this was His will for me and He even showed me – directly – that the reality behind the smokescreen is that ultimately all there is is G-d, with whom I can have a relationship directly, no intermediary necessary.

      Obviously you will not agree with me, but I did want to explain something of an orthodox Jewish understanding of our path to G-d, that we are not blindly and rigidly following our rabbis, but instead have an ongoing deeply fulfilling as well as deeply demanding relationship with the One Creator of us all.

      In this context, I hope you will understand why we will never accept Messianic Judaism as being anything other than part of Christianity. Any “conversion” you may perform will therefore be completely meaningless and will according to Jewish understanding have no effect whatsoever on the status of that person before G-d, however deeply committed that person may be. It will however cause your “converts” and their families and descendants much potential hurt and disillusionment later on.

  25. Gila,
    What about a Jewish MJ? Is he no longer a Jew?

    • If you are Jewish ie born from a Jewish mother or have previously converted halachically ie through an orthodox conversion to Judaism, you can never undo your Jewishness.

      That is why orthodox rabbis make it so difficult to convert to Judaism: they want to be sure that you truly understand what you are taking on before G-d. If you convert, in essence there has to be a Jewish spark within you already, put there by G-d, which when it comes alive usually through exposure to Jewish life, simply HAS to come home, whatever the obstacles or hardships along the way, to become fully the Jew you have found you have to be.

      That is what happened to me. Frankly if there had been any way NOT to convert I would have found it as, apart from my soul which was longing to come home as a Jew, the rest of me really did not want to go through such massive changes and suffering in my life. However, I reached a place where not only did G-d make it clear to me that this is how He saw me, but I simply had to surrender to Him and to accept His will for my life, to become an observant orthodox Jew. I have to say, that as this is the right path for me (NB observant Jews believe that although Judaism is the Jewish path to G-d, for non-Jews there are other paths and that is between them and G-d) I have found over time that G-d was right as I am so much more whole, happy and fulfilled than I ever was as a Christian. But I certainly fought hard and went through a very confusing and difficult time before I surrendered to G-d. Then fighting to convert took literally all my emotional strength to get through; G-d tested me to my limit along the way. It was worth it in the end, but I certainly went through a lot before I could come home and gain true peace in my soul.

      So a Jewish person who accepts Yeshua as his messiah, according to Christian/Messianic understanding (NB the Jewish and Christian concepts of the Moshiach are very different; it is not just a question of whether he has come in the past and is returning, or whether he has not come for the first time) as a blood atoning sacrifice for his sins, accepts Yeshua as divine and believes that he has to believe in Yeshua in order to be acceptable to G-d (John 14 v 6) is still a Jew. However, his path to G-d is definitely NOT Jewish; in fact as I have already explained, by embracing Christian/Messianic theology he is in fact moving further AWAY from G-d and from his true Jewish path to G-d, and he is committing the grave sin of idol worship.

      That is why people like Tovia Singer and members of organizations such as Jews for Judaism are so concerned about Christian/Messianic missionizing to Jews: they care about their fellow Jews’ very souls and standing before G-d. That is also why those of us who have suffered so much in order to convert to Judaism feel so sad that those who have been born Jewish and turn to Christianity/Messianic Judaism, however many Jewish customs they still keep, are throwing away their true heritage and path to G-d usually without any real understanding of the fullness and depth of all they are leaving behind.

    • I think there is Jewish gene or two, but, as for a Jewish spark in a Jew’s soul, THAT is, at best, a Kabbalistic figment.

    • As someone who has experienced exactly that – the Jewish spark – and the fulfillment of at long last receiving my complete Jewish soul from G-d directly at the mikvah and the difference of truly being Jewish once I stepped out – and who knows other converts who have done so also, I beg to differ. While I know that I am directly descended from a Jewish family on my father’s side (though several generations back so genetically any “Jewishness” would have been very diluted!), there are other people without any known Jewish ancestry who also have found themselves in a similar situation eg Ahuva Gray who wrote a book about her own journey from Christianity to Judaism.

      There literally is a soul difference in being Jewish.

    • Besides the spark of God in the Jewish soul, do you believe there can be non-Jewish “sparks of God?”

    • My understanding as a Jew is that everyone, Jewish or non-Jewish, has a pure soul, given to them by G-d. Jews do not believe in original sin. Beyond that, I cannot comment. I was describing how it is for someone converting and coming home to being a Jew. In the Talmud I believe there is a discussion, not about when a gentile converts to Judaism, but specifically about when a “convert” converts. In other words our sages recognised that there is something Jewish – a Jewish spark – inside a convert’s soul to begin with.

      As for why Hashem arranged things this way, I really don’t know. It was certainly a deeply confusing and difficult surprise to me, as I found myself literally having to do more and more Jewish things in my life and was being led by Hashem on an unexpected, deeply uncomfortable but also pretty amazing spiritual journey into Judaism. The only kind of answer I personally found from Hashem as to why, was that He is fulfilling prophecy from the Tanach by bringing descendants of Jacob back to Israel.

    • Gila, your “The only kind of answer… He is fulfilling prophecy from the Tanach by bringing descendants of Jacob back to Israel.” You must mean physical (genetic) descendants. How do you qualify?

      You seem to imply that when Gentiles became Jewish in the Tanach, they never became a “piece of God above.”

    • This was personal help to me in my own particular situation from G-d. I have already explained that I am directly descended from a Jewish ancestor and therefore physically, although not born halachically Jewish, was already a descendant of Jacob.

  26. Observant Jews believe that the souls of everyone who is Jewish – those of gentiles who convert as well as those born halachically Jewish – stood at Sinai. This was the understanding and experience of Ahuva Gray – a black American Christian preacher who converted and became an orthodox Jew – as described in her book “My Sister the Jew”. I have met her and talked to her in Jerusalem in the past.

  27. While there is a particular Jewish path to G-d, Judaism, and an understanding that the Jewish people are in essence one soul, nevertheless we are all unique individuals with the potential for our own individual relationship with the One infinite Creator of us all. In the Amidah, the prayer that observant Jewish men pray three times a day, the first blessing describes G-d as the G-d of Abraham, the G-d of Isaac and the G-d of Jacob. Why not simply address Him as the G-d of Abraham, Isaac and of Jacob? There is only One G-d after all. Jewish understanding is that each of the patriarchs had their own unique relationship with Hashem as do we all, and the formation of this prayer reminds us of this fact.

    I suspect – but doubt I will ever know during my physical lifetime – that my own return to the path of my Jewish ancestors is some kind of tikkun – reparation – for my Jewish ancestor who left Judaism and assimilated by marrying a non-Jewish woman in a church, embracing Christianity.

  28. “gila8, on 12 May, 2012 at 19:21 said:
    As someone who has experienced exactly that – the Jewish spark – and the fulfillment of at long last receiving my complete Jewish soul from G-d directly at the mikvah and the difference of truly being Jewish once I stepped out – and who knows other converts who have done so also, I beg to differ. While I know that I am directly descended from a Jewish family on my father’s side (though several generations back so genetically any “Jewishness” would have been very diluted!), there are other people without any known Jewish ancestry who also have found themselves in a similar situation eg Ahuva Gray who wrote a book about her own journey from Christianity to Judaism.
    There literally is a soul difference in being Jewish.”

    So let me understand this Gila, you were Jewish, then became MJ and then converted back to Judaism.

    What gives you the right to decide what a Jewish soul is? After zig-zaging like that, what credibility you have to preach to us? Only a convert can receive a “Jewish soul,” but not a born Jew like me who believes Yeshua is messiah?

    • You misunderstand me. I was born a gentile. As I am descended from a Jewish family, physically I always was a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob but not halachically Jewish. However, G-d had given me a Jewish spark and I remember distinctly when He brought it alive. In order to become Jewish and to gain my whole Jewish soul, I converted to Judaism. On my journey out of Christianity I did spend a short time involved in Messianic Judaism, which for me helped me to bridge the gap before I began meeting orthodox Jews, eventually finding where G-d truly wanted me to be.

      If you are born Jewish then you already have your full Jewish soul which was given to you by G-d before you had any awareness. A friend of mine, who suspected she was halachically Jewish but couldn’t prove it and hence had to convert, did not feel a soul difference as I did at the mikvah when she “converted” apart from a sense of peace.

  29. I have no right to decide what a Jewish soul is. Only G-d does, and the Jewish halacha which has established that anyone born of a Jewish mother is Jewish. However, for those people who find they need to convert to Judaism, once three shomer shabbat Jewish men have accepted that person into the Jewish people, at the mikvah in their presence, it is G-d and G-d alone who gives that person the full Jewish soul. Once given, whether originally born that way or through a halachic conversion, that person is irrevocably Jewish, whatever life decisions he or she may subsequently make.

    Beyond what I and others have experienced, which I have attempted to explain as best I can – and I do apologise for any misunderstandings or offence caused – as an observant Jew I accept that everything is up to G-d and that there is much that I do not understand.

  30. Very interesting.I was born to a Catholic mother and Jewish father. At 12 yo I was forbidden to take Holy Communion, confession or attend Mass in the Catholic Church. This was because I questioned and challenged certain doctrines, repeatedly. Namely Purgatory, Limbo and G-d requiring me to forgive unconditionally – yet He did not. I started studying Judaism. I converted to Orthodox Judaism at the age of 20, after studying intensively for 2 years under the guidance of the Beth Din.
    10 years later I met the Messiah. I became a believer, was baptised and continue to worship as a Christian. I am not sure how I fit into your understanding of things. All I know is that I believe G-d took me on this journey for His purpose.
    I was called to teach in a Bible School for years. I was able to bring my knowledge of Judaism, the Old Testament Hebraic Faith and Christianity into focus and teach from what some called a “different” perspective, but I consider an understanding perspective.
    Regards,
    Charlene

    • While I don’t personally understand why you chose to accept Christianity, I do agree that Hashem takes us on a journey for a purpose. He actually took me into Christianity and then later on out of it into Judaism. What I do also know is that there is a growing interest amongst some Christians in Hebrew roots and that eyes are being opened to a greater understanding of the role of the Jewish people.

  31. Gila, thank you so much for deciding for me that I, a born Jew have a “Jewish soul” and a “Jewish spark.” I was afraid for a while that only proselytes like you can have a “Jewish soul” and a “Jewish spark.” thank you for clarifying this for us……

  32. Gila is a perfect example of a goy who wants to teach Jews how to be Jews….

    • I’m not a goy, but as Jewish as anyone born to it. It is actually forbidden in Jewish law to remind a convert that they were ever a gentile. Like every other Jew I am part of the covenant that Hashem made with the Jewish people at Sinai.

  33. Really? You are a Jew….I wonder why the Tanach never calls Ruth a Jew? Since you know so much, maybe you can tell us?

  34. Ruth as I’m sure you know is the archetypal convert. If you seriously want to look into Jewish understanding of the book of Ruth I suggest you start by having a look at the following URLs:

    http://www.torah.org/learning/women/class43.html#

    http://judaism.about.com/od/jewishpersonalities/a/Ruth-Women-In-the-Bible.htm

    http://www.jewsforjudaism.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=13:ruth-mother-of-converts&catid=39:inspiration&Itemid=512

    The Torah contains many commandments to love the convert and not to oppress him or her and reminds us that all the Jewish people are descended from non-Jews before the revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah.

    • Ruth, I really appreciate your contribution to my blog. Of course I come from a different perspective regarding the Messianic Jew, but you do give some food for thought. As Messianics, as do reform, liberal, and Masorti Jews, we do have some differences of opinion regarding halacha and how it should be used and interpreted, and conversions are a great case study in that regard. I would simply suggest that it is not a correct approach to consider ‘orthodox’ Judaism as the only true Judaism as you do. Most of the Jewish, and almost all of the Messianic Jewish world would disagree.

  35. “The Torah contains many commandments to love the convert and not to oppress him or her and reminds us that all the Jewish people are descended from non-Jews before the revelation at Sinai and the giving of the Torah.”

    There is no such thing as a convert in the Tanach. GER does not mean a convert, it is a rabbinical invention. Israel was GERS in Egypt, did they convert to Pharaoh”s religion?

    Don’t believe everything the Rabbis tell you…..

    As far as the links, I am not interested…can’t you form an opinion of you own? Unless you want to quote specific paragraphs that I can answer?

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate that many Jewish people including Messianic Jews would disagree as you say. That doesn’t mean of course that they are right! Remember that “orthodox” Judaism was simply normative Judaism for all the Jewish people, whether Sephardi or Ashkenazi, until the Haskalah some 200 years ago. Both Conservative and Reform Judaism are essentially a more watered down version of Judaism, taking some of it and leaving out some, and not following all of halacha.

    • Oh dear…..”Don’t believe everything the Rabbis tell you…..” Heard that one before! Actually I’m married to one…

      I do have a brain of my own, and as a Jew I am encouraged to think, to question and to take responsibility for my own actions. As orthodox Jews we follow the Oral as well as the Written Torah as I am sure you know. The Oral Torah was handed down through the generations long before it was written down in the Mishnah and later the Talmud. The rabbis’ discussions contained in the Gemara are usually of hair-splitting detail often about relatively insignificant matters, and the differences of halachic interpretation between rabbis again are usually small; all orthodox Jews keep shabbat and the chagim, clear their houses of chametz before Pesach, light a Chanukah menorah etc….We seek clarification from a Rav when we are not sure of what we can and can’t do in a specific situation, not because we can’t think for ourselves, but because we love G-d and want to make sure that we do not transgress any of His commandments and therefore seek a more expert knowledgeable and thoroughly objective opinion to be sure.

      If you don’t wish to delve into any part of the depth of exploration that Judaism has to offer, that is your choice. There is much available information about the book of Ruth online and published, if you are actually interested. Studying as a Jew is never-ending: there is so much to learn and to investigate.

  36. Gila,

    It will be really nice if once in a while you Answer the questions directed at you instead of giving a whole drasha on another subject. Are you doing it on purpose because you have no answers?

    One more time, where in the written Torah is conversion appears? Where the Israelites Gerim in Egypt converted to Pharaoe’s religion?

    It is OK to ask your Rabbi husband if you do not know the answer…..

    • I don’t have to answer any of your questions, particularly those put to me in a less than respectful manner. Nor do I pretend to know all the answers. Only G-d has all the answers. There is much discourse about Ruth in Midrash and commentaries. I am sure that you know as well as I do that the word “conversion” is not specifically mentioned in the book of Ruth, but Jewish understanding is that the written Torah is incomplete without the oral Torah. As for Gerim in Egypt I really don’t know to what you are referring.

      I do know from my own and others’s experience that conversion to Judaism according to halacha is a reality, and that it is only G-d who gives each one of us our souls.

    • Gila, your “only G-d.. gives each one of us our souls.”

      Do you mean that God swopped your goyishe soul fo a Jewish one? It seems this is the only way to understand this.

      I’d appreciate a few rabbinical references in this regard.

    • To be honest, we are entering realms I don’t fully understand. I don’t know if Hashem took the soul I started out with and swapped it for a Jewish one, or whether I kept what I already had and He added to it at the mikvah. A few months before I converted, I was going through a very difficult time of coping of having to wait and literally felt in agony. I remember speaking to a rabbi then whom I knew and he told me something along the lines (this was a few years ago so I don’t fully remember) of the goyish part of me was fighting the Jewish part taking me towards Hashem and that I was getting tired of the fight and needed to go forward to the mikvah.

      What I do, is when I finally did reach the mikvah some months later, after more agonised suffering and longing than I could ever have imagined having to go through that took me right to the end of my emotional resources, that at some moment in the mikvah while I was either talking with the rabbis or dunking suddenly something inexplicable happened spiritually that I can’t really describe and then it felt like I was like taking off inside. There was definitely a difference when I came out of the mikvah. After I’d dressed, one of the rabbis asked me how old I was, so I told him. He corrected me and told me that actually I was only a few minutes old. It really was – pardon the choice of words – like being born again. That evening I went with a friend to the Kotel and was still feeling like I was taking off and also panicking inside as to what had I done! I knew I was now Jewish irrevocably, was bound to keep the mitzvot now for life, and there was no going back. But despite the panic, at last I found I was at peace – the agonised longing had at last stopped – and I had come home.

      I happened to bump into a lady I knew – the one who had previously “converted” Conservative and now at last had gone through an orthodox conversion – on the day she had gone to the mikvah (happened?! – when everything is actually from Hashem, so He set it up for us). I could “see” in some way – obviously not physically – that she was shining in a way I had never seen her before and she definitely knew the difference. Only that day was she at last truly Jewish. Ditto with another lady who had converted not long after me.

      I don’t know any particular rabbinical references for what you ask. I do know there is not a huge amount about conversion in the Gemara, though there is definitely some, and also that the Rambam has some things to say. Also I believe there are several different levels of souls, I believe five, but someone with more knowledge of Chassidus than I have could explain that more fully.

  37. “I don’t have to answer any of your questions, particularly those put to me in a less than respectful manner. Nor do I pretend to know all the answers. Only G-d has all the answers. There is much discourse about Ruth in Midrash and commentaries. I am sure that you know as well as I do that the word “conversion” is not specifically mentioned in the book of Ruth, but Jewish understanding is that the written Torah is incomplete without the oral Torah. As for Gerim in Egypt I really don’t know to what you are referring.
    I do know from my own and others’s experience that conversion to Judaism according to halacha is a reality, and that it is only G-d who gives each one of us our souls.”

    Sorry, if you are offended Gila, but you are all over the place so it is easy for us to see that you have no credibility. On one hand you said that you do not know all the answer, and on the other you tell us that you know for sure that conversion according to halacha is reality. we ask you how can someone to change his ethnicity with one stroke of the knife and you tell us that the Rabbis know and that is enough. we ask you about the GERIM in Egypt (Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Levit. 19:34) but you have no idea what we are talking about. Yet you have the chutzpah to come here and lecture to us like you are a big scholar and we are little children. you decide who and who is not getting a Jewish soul or a “Jewish spark” and we are supposed to eat out of your hand because you tell us the Rabbis said so. Get real if you want any of us to take you seriously…..

    • To craftcrazygran: As you had an orthodox conversion to Judaism, you will appreciate that Jews (apart from Christian/Messianic Jews) do not regard the New Testament as having any divine inspiration. We are also not supposed to say the name of idols currently being worshipped. So the names of months and days of the week are fine to say because for instance Janus from whom we derive the name of the first month of the year is no longer actively being worshipped as he was in Roman times. Conversely, the name of the capital of India IS actually actively being worshipped as a goddess. So when saying that name we are required to use a pronunciation that varies from what it is commonly called.

      Most orthodox Jews will not write out or say the name of Jesus or Yeshua for this reason. Personally I prefer to write jc. I am sorry that this offends you, but while I respect and try to be sensitive to other people’s beliefs, nevertheless the bottom line is that I personally find it offensive that there are Jewish people actively worshipping a Jew who lived and died 2000 years ago as their messiah and saviour, against the clear words of the Torah which tells us time and time again that we should worship G-d alone and there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him. Also he did not qualify as the moshiach because he did not fulfill the requirements. Anyone could claim that they could come back a second time and then do so, but until and unless he does so, mainstream Jewry will never accept him as such. The Jewish concept of moshiach is one of someone who will be a man chosen by G-d to bring the exiles back to Israel, to rebuild the Temple, to herald an era of world peace, but who will not be divine, heaven forbid.

      As I have chosen to visit this site, what I find offensive is something I have to live with. However, while I am sorry if you are offended, I hope you understand why I will continue to use jc because according to my belief system it is wrong for me to use either name by which he is normally called. I only did so above out of courtesy to you.

    • I think that however honest I try to be and whatever I say, Dan Benzvi, you will find a reason to believe me not to be credible. I tried to describe my own experiences as best and as honestly as I could. Other genuine gerim would describe something similar. Frankly having lived through what I did, which was also a deeply painful and traumatic time, I didn’t really need to check “chapter and verse” as it were to understand it any better. Also I have studied very little Gemara which as I’m sure you know is absolutely huge and takes 7 years to study one page a day (which has a lot in it!) – plus my Aramaic isn’t too good! – and in fact it is unusual that I have studied any of it at all as most orthodox women don’t study Gemara at all.

      I have also been describing something of normative orthodox understanding of the Jewish path to G-d. You have chosen to reject that. That is your choice and your responsibility before G-d.

      The only reason I have bothered to write all that I have is because I do actually care about my fellow Jews and as someone who suffered a great deal to come home as the Jew that Hashem made it clear to me that I was supposed to be, feel it is very great shame that some born Jews, who never had to go through all that, reject their real path to G-d, usually without realising anything of the fulfillment, beauty, joy and spiritual depth that can be theirs as observant Jews living in an observant community.

  38. Gila I respectfully ask you not to refer to Jesus Christ as jc. That is extremely disrespectful and offensive.

  39. Gila, You described your feeling wonderfully, and I don’t discount that. But what you are failing to understand is that now, you are sitting on your high horse and preaching to Jews that only your experience count. you are saying to us that the experience of a Reform or a Conservative Jew is not real. You drink the rabbis Kool-Ade and you become blind to the fact that there is a world beyond the Gmara. This my dear friend is a sign of ignorance, especially when the written Torah WHICH IS THE ONLY DECIDING FACTOR (and not what Orthodox rabbis say), tell us that Ruth did not Go through an Orthodox conversion and yet was accepted as a covenant member.

    You admitting that you are a novice, and yet you decide for Reform, Conservative and Goyim if they have a Jewish soul or a Jewish spark. This is another bad trait, we call it arrogance. so what I suggest is, that before you come here to preach to us, go work on your short commings first…..

    • In accepting Judaism I did what I did in obedience to G-d. He made it clear to me what He wanted and helped me in so many ways as well as testing me. However you did not have my journey, and here are my words in thin air without you knowing anything else about me.

      I am sorry if you think I am arrogant. Perhaps I am. Whether I am or not, it doesn’t mean I am actually wrong. However, I would point out that that is usually how Christian missionaries come across who arrogantly seem to think that theirs is the only way to G-d. Orthodox Jews normally accept that there are many paths to G-d and orthodox rabbis make it extremely difficult for anyone not born halachically Jewish to convert.

      Actually you are putting many words and thoughts into what I have written that are simply not there. That actually does seem to be pretty arrogant to me! You believe that the written Torah is the only deciding factor. I don’t. However, in the light of what you say about the written Torah, I am copying two paragraphs I wrote earlier:

      “Time and again Hashem tells us that He alone is G-d and there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him (eg Isaiah chapters 43 to 45). We are told in the Torah that G-d is not a man (Numbers 23 v 19) and also that the commandments of the Torah are for all time and that they are not too difficult to keep (Deuteronomy 30 v 11-14).

      jc did not fulfill the requirements of the Moshiach, in particular gathering in the exiles, rebuilding the Temple (which still stood in his lifetime) or heralding an era of world peace. As Jews, we are explicitly warned against prophets or dreamers performing miracles who may take us away from keeping the commandments of the Torah (Deuteronomy 13 v 1 – 6).”

      How can you believe that jc was divine when the Torah explicitly tells us that G-d is not a man, and also makes clear time and again that only Hashem is G-d and there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him? How can you accept Paul saying that no-one can keep all the commandments of the Torah, when the Torah explicitly tells us that we can?

  40. “n accepting Judaism I did what I did in obedience to G-d. He made it clear to me what He wanted and helped me in so many ways as well as testing me. However you did not have my journey, and here are my words in thin air without you knowing anything else about me.”

    It is not about you, it is about God. And I mean the God of the Tanach, not the God you have created for yourself in order that you can control him. FYI, God created every human on earth and he is the God of every human on earth, Having a mindset like yours shows us you are living in a cocoon.

    “Orthodox Jews normally accept that there are many paths to G-d and orthodox rabbis make it extremely difficult for anyone not born halachically Jewish to convert.”

    this is an oxy-moron! If there are many path to God, then why conversion at all? Does a person convert to the true God, or to the true Orthodox Judaism?
    And you mock our belief?…..

    “Actually you are putting many words and thoughts into what I have written that are simply not there. That actually does seem to be pretty arrogant to me! You believe that the written Torah is the only deciding factor. I don’t. However, in the light of what you say about the written Torah, I am copying two paragraphs I wrote earlier:
    “Time and again Hashem tells us that He alone is G-d and there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him (eg Isaiah chapters 43 to 45). We are told in the Torah that G-d is not a man (Numbers 23 v 19) and also that the commandments of the Torah are for all time and that they are not too difficult to keep (Deuteronomy 30 v 11-14).”

    And you point is?

    “jc did not fulfill the requirements of the Moshiach, in particular gathering in the exiles, rebuilding the Temple (which still stood in his lifetime) or heralding an era of world peace. As Jews, we are explicitly warned against prophets or dreamers performing miracles who may take us away from keeping the commandments of the Torah (Deuteronomy 13 v 1 – 6).”

    What does this have to do with the fact that you dismiss Reform and Conservative conversion out of hand? Who gives you the authority? The god you created for yourself? because the God of the Tanach will accept everyone who desired to be under Him WITHOUT a ritual of conversion. There is no such ritual mandated in the Tanach. And yet I believe that the written Torah is the final authority, not the writings of the Rabbis, unless of course you can prove that the Oral Torah comes from God. If the written Torah is not a deciding factor than the exodus is a lie. Is that what you believe?

    “How can you believe that jc was divine when the Torah explicitly tells us that G-d is not a man, and also makes clear time and again that only Hashem is G-d and there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him? How can you accept Paul saying that no-one can keep all the commandments of the Torah, when the Torah explicitly tells us that we can?”

    Read Gen. 18 for starters. And try to understand it. abraham calls a man “Adonai.” and “The Judge of all the earth.” A man?

    • I agree, it’s all about G-d. Had it been all about me, I would never have gone on the journey I did and come home as a Jew. Frankly I had to give up a very great deal that was important to me to do so. G-d made it clear to me that it wasn’t ultimately about what I wanted, but all about what HE wanted.

      Of course everyone can be accepted by G-d whether they are Jewish or not. Conversion to Judaism is all about becoming part of the Jewish people and accepting the yoke of Torah and all the commandments that G-d gave the Jewish people for all time. If you are not Jewish you are not bound by those commandments, only the seven Noachide laws for living a good life. That is why rabbis make it so hard to convert, because you are far better off spiritually as a righteous gentile than as a backsliding Jew.

      As for acceptance of Reform and Conservative “conversions”, orthodox Jews do not accept them, period. As conversion to Judaism is surely about accepting ALL the commandments of G-d and being accepted as a Jew by representatives of the Jewish people who are fully shomer shabbat and who themselves accept all the mitzvot, and Reform and Conservative Judaism are essentially watered down versions of what was normative Judaism until no more than two hundred years ago and do not follow all of G-d’s commandments given in the Torah, then in reality how can such “conversions” actually be valid before G-d? It doesn’t matter ultimately what I think or what you think, but all about what G-d truly accepts.

      You haven’t actually answered any of my questions concerning the clear words of the Torah. As for Genesis 18, normative Jewish understanding is that the three men were actually angels in the guise of men. This does not at all contradict the fact, as we are told elsewhere by Hashem, that G-d is not a man and that there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him.

      Another question: as most people are not Jewish and therefore were never given the 613 commandments of the Torah that Jews are required by G-d to follow, then why according to Christian theology was any blood sacrifice needed in the first place for the atonement of non-Jewish sins? Does it really make sense? After all, G-d accepted the repentance of the people of Nineveh at the time of Jonah and forgave their sins, no sacrifices necessary. There are also passages of the Tanach that make it clear that the infinite G-d who created absolutely everything in the whole universe can forgive sins without sacrifices for Jews as well (and in fact the whole sacrificial system is about making atonement for unintentional sins; intentional sins were never part of it), but that is going further than the point I am actually raising.

  41. “Of course everyone can be accepted by G-d whether they are Jewish or not. Conversion to Judaism is all about becoming part of the Jewish people and accepting the yoke of Torah and all the commandments that G-d gave the Jewish people for all time. If you are not Jewish you are not bound by those commandments, only the seven Noachide laws for living a good life. That is why rabbis make it so hard to convert, because you are far better off spiritually as a righteous gentile than as a backsliding Jew.”

    again, you are drinking the rabbis kool-ade, If conversion is to Judaism, then millions of Muslims are Jews since they are all circumcised at age 13. And Reform are not Jews because they do not accept all the yoke of the Torah. Nice logic….

    ” It doesn’t matter ultimately what I think or what you think, but all about what G-d truly accepts”

    And you of course believe that He accepts only you and not a reform convert, or me, or a Gentile that wants to be under the yoke of the Torah without a fakakte Orthodox ceremony…OY!

    “You haven’t actually answered any of my questions concerning the clear words of the Torah. As for Genesis 18, normative Jewish understanding is that the three men were actually angels in the guise of men. This does not at all contradict the fact, as we are told elsewhere by Hashem, that G-d is not a man and that there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him.”

    You have no idea what normative Judaism really say about Gen 18, do you? Check the Consico Chumas and see what it says about Abraham calling the man Adonai with a Quamatz under the nun? also check the notes of the Mesorah and see the Tiquney Sofrim about verse 22. you have a lot to learn, you are just a novice.

    “Another question: as most people are not Jewish and therefore were never given the 613 commandments of the Torah that Jews are required by G-d to follow, then why according to Christian theology was any blood sacrifice needed in the first place for the atonement of non-Jewish sins? Does it really make sense? After all, G-d accepted the repentance of the people of Nineveh at the time of Jonah and forgave their sins, no sacrifices necessary. There are also passages of the Tanach that make it clear that the infinite G-d who created absolutely everything in the whole universe can forgive sins without sacrifices for Jews as well (and in fact the whole sacrificial system is about making atonement for unintentional sins; intentional sins were never part of it), but that is going further than the point I am actually raising.”

    Ever read Ex. 12:49? How about Numb. 15:15-16 and 29? the Torah is the inheritance of ALL God’s people, not just a couple of Orthodox rabbis and their kool-ade drinkers. BTW, Nineveh was not a covenant community. Only people who accept His covenant conditions He counts. God grants atonement with out sacrifice? so shall I tear Levit. 17:11 out of my Tanach?

    Now, since you want me to answer your questions, are you ever going to answer mine? How about when Israel was Gerim in Egypt? Were they converts to the Egyptian religion? shall i hold my breath waiting for your reply?

    • Again you are putting thoughts and words into what I said that I did not say. We are ALL G-d’s children, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, and we are ALL loved and accepted by Him. So how on earth can you extrapolate from the very first sentence of mine that you quote at the beginning of your last post that I believe that non-Jews are somehow not accepted by G-d?!!

      Jews are required to keep the covenant that G-d made with our ancestors at Sinai. Non-Jews are not. It doesn’t make Jews better than non-Jews, heaven forbid. Jews simply have more responsibilities given to them by G-d than do non-Jews.

      Being circumcised does not make Muslims Jewish because they and their imams do not accept the covenant G-d made with the Jewish people.

      Exodus 12 v 49 and Numbers 15 v 15-16 and 29 are all about G-d making it clear that proselytes ie converts are on an equal footing with other Jews. Indeed there are other places where G-d makes it clear that Jews are required especially to love the convert who is normally more vulnerable, being without the support of a Jewish family. Sometimes the word “ger” can indeed mean stranger, but here the meaning clearly is that of a “ger tzedek” ie convert.

      Nineveh not being a convenant community was exactly the point I was making. Bearing in mind that most Christians are not Jewish, how on earth did non-Jews need a blood atonement for their sins in the first place, as Christian theology postulates?

      If you really want to look at Leviticus 17 v 11 then it needs to be looked at in context. Leviticus 17 v 10 – 14 refers to the prohibition of eating blood. In this context 17 v 11 tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you UPON THE ALTAR to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for your souls.” In bringing a sacrifice, not only was the blood important but also the altar. The altar is clearly missing in the Christian theological construct.

      However, it is the Christian book of Hebrews which makes the assumption following from this verse that without blood there can be no atonement. While the writer of Hebrews believes this to be the logical next step, Leviticus does not.

      For instance, if one does not have the money to buy two turtledoves or two pigeons, the Leviticus 5 v 11 tells us…”then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an efah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil on it neither shall he put any frankincense upon it, for it is a sin offering.” There is no blood involved here, and yet this offering achieves atonement.

      Indeed, G-d does not need an offering, but rather He judges our hearts and our desire to come close to Him as is made clear in the Tanach. When David sinned with Bathsheba, after Nathan had admonished him, then David turned to Hashem in prayer and asked for forgiveness. Without any sacrifice or any shedding of blood, G-d accepted David’s prayer. In this context, David wrote Psalm 51 which says: “My Master, open my lips and my mouth shall declare Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifices, other wise I would give it; nor do you wish burnt offerings. The offerings (desirable) to G-d are a contrite spirit; a contrite and broken heart oh G-d you do not disdain.” (Psalm 51 v 17-19).

      There is a similar situation with Hezekiah. He is distraught when he discovers that it is decreed that he should die. He prays to G-d with a broken heart and G-d rescinds the decree. Hezekiah atones for his sins and continues to live, without a single blood atonement sacrifice (Isaiah 38).

      There are other references in the Tanach to Hashem forgiving our sins directly and no sacrifices necessary, but this is already becoming a very long post.

      However, I will mention that the very word sacrifice “korban” is related to the Hebrew word “karov” implying coming closer to G-d. And crucially, the sacrificial system was only in place for unintentional sins. For intentional sins, sacrifices were powerless. The only remedy was repentance and making right the wrong. Only once that was achieved, was the repentant sinner was allowed to bring a free will offering. Therefore using the whole sacrificial system as a model for the Christian theological understanding of salvation is definitely flawed.

      Dan, I think we could go on and on, but never get anywhere. What is becoming clear, is that you understand little of the belief system of orthodox Judaism and its practices. No, I am not the best expert there is by far on orthodox Judaism and I never claimed to be, but I do know enough to have a meaningful discussion, if that is what you truly want.

      While your path to G-d is between Him and you, if you have never really learned how orthodox Jews understand the Tanach nor lived an observant Jewish life, then I feel it is a shame as a Jew that you have embraced the theology of Christianity/Messianic Judaism without really understanding or making an informed choice as to what you are truly rejecting.

  42. […] why is he called “Saviour,” and why does he speak and act like THE Saviour? Here is the Jewish view expressed by one of the most passionate converts to Judaism I’ve ever come across: “we are told… by Hashem, that G-d is not a man and that there is no saviour or […]

    • I read your blog. You use – understandably for a Christian – quotes from the New Testament to support your argument, which as a Torah observant orthodox Jew I do not accept as having any divine validity. Most of the time you quote from Revelation, which was written, at the earliest, near the end of the 1st century CE, long after the life and death of jc. This book also barely made it into the accepted Christian canon at all on account of its eschatological and visionary writing.

      Interestingly, though it appears that jc thought he was the moshiach, even though he did not fulfill the relevant prophecies of the Tanach that have yet to be fulfilled by the true moshiach, he also claimed that he had not come to change even one iota (probably said yud rather than a Greek letter) of the commandments of the Torah. Yet Paul – who never even met let alone knew jc personally as did James, Peter and other disciples with whom it appears clear from the available evidence that Paul was in some disagreeement, does exactly that, claiming that belief in jc as the supposedly sinless sacrifice frees us from the commandments of the Torah. Also jc clearly said that the Father ie G-d knew things that he did not when referring to his supposed second coming. If jc was truly divine, then how come he did not know all that G-d knew? And furthermore, why on the cross did cry out, “My G-d, my G-d, why have you forsaken me?” Wouldn’t he at least have appealed to his Father?

      Christian mainstream beliefs were only properly established at the Council of Nicea in the 4th century CE. Before then, there were various different Christian sects, various different accepted Christain writings and various different understandings about the nature of jc, ranging from him being a man with no divine nature at all to being fully spiritual with no human nature. Frankly, if he really were to come back, not only am I sure he would head for a synagogue and not a church when he wanted to pray, but that he would have been horrified, as an observant albeit arguably misguided Jew, at having been deified at all.

      I guess I should be flattered that you consider me to be “one of the most passionate converts to Judaism I’ve ever come across”!

    • Thanks Gila for your understandable objections. It would be nice if you post this reply again on my “bog” blog, where it will find a suitable respectful heim. That is not to say that I can ever have enough of the marzipan.

    • OK, I have, thank you. Actually I am good friends with some wonderful Christians who are also into marzipan, but also respect, acknowledge and have been supportive of my own path as being of G-d. They were delighted to come and experience a shabbat meal during a visit with my husband back home. Respect and sensitivity and an honest attempt to understand where the other is coming from may never convince, but is surely what true dialogue and a desire to put G-d first above all should really be all about.

    • Gila, according to your Jewish view, Christians are idolators. How do you justify sharing the holy sabbath table with idolators?

    • To bography: Good question. There is a view that Christianity is idolatry for non-Jews as well as Jews. However there is also a more commonly held view – which I share – that while it is idolatry for Jews it is not for non-Jews. Certainly I know from my years of being a Christian there are some wonderful loving people in the church. No-one had ever told me that I did not have to believe in jc to have a relationship with G-d, so how would I have known any differently at that time?

      My Christian friends aren’t Jewish and they are deeply good and spiritual people who love G-d. When I invited them for a shabbat meal, my husband wasn’t so keen on the idea, but after they had come he could see how sensitive and respectful they were and was glad they had come after all.

    • Fir Gila.

      In ancient Israel, if there were Baal, Moloch and Chemosh worshippers who, like your Christian friends, were wonderful loving people who loved their god, would it have been ok for Isaiah to have them to lunch.

      You say your Christian friends loved God. Surely, you wouldn’t consider a Trinitarian to love God as in “Hashem?” in other words it can’t be the Holy One of Israel they love. And if not, they must in reality hate G-d. Chollile.

    • To bography: G-d loves all people, whether Jews or non-Jews. Abraham opened his tent to people, welcoming them, allowing them the opportunity to come closer to G-d. Don’t Christians want to be embraced by G-d and to do His will, just as Jews do? There is certainly an important difference in understanding as to the nature of our path to G-d, but ultimately surely we are trying to reach the same destination: G-d Himself. Maybe the belief that G-d came into the world as a man can help Christians to come closer to the One infinite G-d of us all. Certainly as deeply thoughtful, loving and good people, I enjoy the company of the particular friends I invited for a shabbat meal, and they were definitely interested in experiencing it which was why I asked them in the first place.

      There is a Jewish understanding that both Christianity and Islam, neither of which would have been possible without their parent or grandparent Judaism, actually have spread the concept monotheism to a large proportion of the world’s population and hence brought many non-Jews closer to the day when Hashem “will destroy in this mountain (ie the Temple Mount, site of the Jewish Temples) the covering that is cast over all people, and the veil that is spread over all the nations” [Isaiah 25 v 6-7]. True, from a Jewish perspective, both Christianity and Islam are somewhat skewed theologically, but while for Jews worshipping anything or anyone but Hashem Himself would be idol worship, the same cannot be said for non-Jews. And we are all on our own journey of discovery; for me personally spending some time as a Christian was part of my own journey towards G-d. Maybe some Jews presently involved in Christianity/Messianic Judaism will find later on that it was part of their path towards Judaism itself. G-d is so much greater than any of our limited conceptions of what He can do.

      As an aside, I have one or two friends who are gay. While if pressed I would have to say that I believe that actual homosexual relations are wrong and are forbidden in the Torah, as fellow human beings with an eternal soul and made in the image of G-d, I can be sensitive towards and respect them and enjoy their company. They have to find their own path in life, make their own choices and take responsibility for them, just as I do.

      I would also be happy to have a fellow Jew come to a shabbat meal if he or she were caught up in the Messianic movement. In such a situation I would certainly be open to explaining why I cannot accept jc as being divine or the moshiach, if it seemed appropriate to do so. If someone were actually to missionize to me, then I would be far more forthright in my words. On this site I have felt it appropriate to be very clear where I stand, for what I hope are understandable reasons.

      As G-d loves us all, whoever we are and whatever our understanding, interest or lack of it in coming closer to Him, and as a Jew I am supposed to work on myself in order to come closer to emulating Him in what I do, then inviting people to my home is surely part of expressing love to my fellow human beings.

    • To Gila, so then you do think it would ave been a godly gesture for Isaiah to invite a friendly Baal worshipper to his table.
      Talking tables, you know, of course, that the meal table is the modern Orthodox Jew’s altar.

    • To bography: I don’t think it’s for me to judge what the prophet Isaiah should or should have done in such a hypothetical situation. What I can tell you is that the rabbi of my shul at the time happily invited my mother, who was a practising Christian, to a shabbat meal along with me.

    • Gila, your gila8, on 17 May, 2012 at 00:08 said:
      “To bography: I don’t think it’s for me to judge what the prophet Isaiah should or should have done in such a hypothetical situation. What I can tell you is that the rabbi of my shul at the time happily invited my mother, who was a practising Christian, to a shabbat meal along with me.”

      For the rabbinical Jew, the idea of God taking on flesh is an idolatry of the worst kind. The peoples around ancient Israel had their own gods, but the Christians – I’m talking as the rabbi’s advocate – stole the Holy One of Israel and dressed Him in flesh. Scandalous beyond words. Don’t even say that abominable name. Even his initials poison the lips. Say “Baal,” say “Moloch,” say “Chemosh,” say “Astarte,” but reserve “Yoske” for that other ——

      You indicated that you were familiar with the Talmud. Hopefully with the unexpurgated (Soncino) edition. Surely you’re aware of what it says about Christians.

    • To Bography: I said earlier that I had only studied the Gemara a little, so I am not very familiar with it, though I have certainly been to many shiurim over the years, studied part time in a seminary and done lots of reading.

      Bear in mind that centuries of oppression, persecution and murder of Jews by Christians hardly endeared Christians to the Jewish people. So what the Amoraim discussed that was redacted into the Talmud and later Jewish writings have to say about Christians and Christianity should also be read with that context in mind. The famous discussions about Christianity and Judaism involving the Ramban were, unusually for the time, allowed to take place in a situation where the Ramban could speak his mind freely as a respected advocate of Judaism, although he was still forced to pay for his boldness later on. Nowadays, the only oppression Jews have to contend with from some Christians is aggressive proselytizing. From some Muslims, it is a different story…

      It is up to Hashem what He chooses to reveal or to hide. He is far far bigger than any of our expectations and boxes that we can try to put Him in. He judges our hearts and our actions according to where we are at and where we are coming from. There are many good people in the world of every religion.

      As a Christian, I did not know that belief in jc was not necessary for a relationship with G-d. G-d met me where I was holding and according to what I understood and needed at the time. As He clearly revealed to me, when I truly needed to know for sure, that all there is is G-d, no intermediary necessary, that I am supposed to be a Jew and that I can never be apart from G-d who loves me more than I can begin to comprehend, then it would not only be completely senseless for me ever to consider going back to Christianity/Messianic Judaism, personally I would also be going against what G-d has clearly revealed to me and would have to answer to Him for my disobedience. Anyone I certainly wouldn’t want to, as I feel much more whole and happy as an observant Jew than I ever was as a Christian. But this is my path….we can all ask G-d for what He wants from us, He sees the bigger picture and His ways our not our ways, as Isaiah tells us.

      For a non-Jew belief in jc is not considered to be idol worship by the majority of orthodox Jews. Every Jew has a “pintele”, a Yiddish neshama, and if it is sleeping or misguided only G-d knows what can awaken it and when….

  43. Gila,

    “Again you are putting thoughts and words into what I said that I did not say. We are ALL G-d’s children, whether Jewish or non-Jewish, and we are ALL loved and accepted by Him. So how on earth can you extrapolate from the very first sentence of mine that you quote at the beginning of your last post that I believe that non-Jews are somehow not accepted by G-d?!!”

    Is conversion to Judaism like you seem to think or to God which Scriptures tell us again and again? You are right if conversion is to Judaism…

    “Jews are required to keep the covenant that G-d made with our ancestors at Sinai. Non-Jews are not. It doesn’t make Jews better than non-Jews, heaven forbid. Jews simply have more responsibilities given to them by G-d than do non-Jews.”

    So all the multitudes that stood with the Jews at mount Sinai were not required to keep the covenant…Oh, well…..

    “Being circumcised does not make Muslims Jewish because they and their imams do not accept the covenant G-d made with the Jewish people.”

    So let us take circumcision out of the ritual of conversion, why do we need it, it only made us look like Muslims……

    “Exodus 12 v 49 and Numbers 15 v 15-16 and 29 are all about G-d making it clear that proselytes ie converts are on an equal footing with other Jews. Indeed there are other places where G-d makes it clear that Jews are required especially to love the convert who is normally more vulnerable, being without the support of a Jewish family. Sometimes the word “ger” can indeed mean stranger, but here the meaning clearly is that of a “ger tzedek” ie convert.”

    The term “Ger Tzedek” is an invention of the Rabbis, because they came to the dilemma that you are facing…There is no term “Ger tzedek” in the Tanach. Brush up on your studies…..

    “Nineveh not being a convenant community was exactly the point I was making. Bearing in mind that most Christians are not Jewish, how on earth did non-Jews need a blood atonement for their sins in the first place, as Christian theology postulates?”

    Sorry, but you are not making any point…Christians who believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (unlike the people of Nineveh) are coming under the covenant, just like the people in Abraham household (the first covenant community) who were not of his immediate family. What kind of a ritual of conversion does the Torah ascribed to them? They need a blood atonement just like you do.

    “If you really want to look at Leviticus 17 v 11 then it needs to be looked at in context. Leviticus 17 v 10 – 14 refers to the prohibition of eating blood. In this context 17 v 11 tells us that “the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you UPON THE ALTAR to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement for your souls.” In bringing a sacrifice, not only was the blood important but also the altar. The altar is clearly missing in the Christian theological construct.”

    Really? where was the altar at the time between the Tabernacle was lost and the Temple was built? where did Samuel sacrificed on what altar?

    “However, it is the Christian book of Hebrews which makes the assumption following from this verse that without blood there can be no atonement. While the writer of Hebrews believes this to be the logical next step, Leviticus does not.”

    Well, the writer of Hebrews also wrote” For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. (10:4). Do you think that we all are fools and we are going to eat out of you hand?

    “For instance, if one does not have the money to buy two turtledoves or two pigeons, the Leviticus 5 v 11 tells us…”then he that sinned shall bring for his offering the tenth part of an efah of fine flour for a sin offering; he shall put no oil on it neither shall he put any frankincense upon it, for it is a sin offering.” There is no blood involved here, and yet this offering achieves atonement.”

    You are really speaking from ignorance. Check out the sins in this context. the atonement required is for purification for touching unclean animals (to bring that person to the state of purity so he/she can get back to the community. It was a temporal atonement) and to purify the altar. Read Hebrews 10:1-4.

    “Indeed, G-d does not need an offering, but rather He judges our hearts and our desire to come close to Him as is made clear in the Tanach. ”

    So why do you insist that a Gentile who has a desire in his heart to come close to God needs first to become an Orthodox Jew? Confused?

    “ndeed, G-d does not need an offering, but rather He judges our hearts and our desire to come close to Him as is made clear in the Tanach. When David sinned with Bathsheba, after Nathan had admonished him, then David turned to Hashem in prayer and asked for forgiveness. Without any sacrifice or any shedding of blood, G-d accepted David’s prayer. In this context, David wrote Psalm 51 which says: “My Master, open my lips and my mouth shall declare Your praise. For You do not desire sacrifices, other wise I would give it; nor do you wish burnt offerings. The offerings (desirable) to G-d are a contrite spirit; a contrite and broken heart oh G-d you do not disdain.” (Psalm 51 v 17-19).”

    If i lost a son after I have sinned i would have considered it a BIG sacrifice. Do you even understand what you are talking about?

    “Dan, I think we could go on and on, but never get anywhere. What is becoming clear, is that you understand little of the belief system of orthodox Judaism and its practices. No, I am not the best expert there is by far on orthodox Judaism and I never claimed to be, but I do know enough to have a meaningful discussion, if that is what you truly want.
    While your path to G-d is between Him and you, if you have never really learned how orthodox Jews understand the Tanach nor lived an observant Jewish life, then I feel it is a shame as a Jew that you have embraced the theology of Christianity/Messianic Judaism without really understanding or making an informed choice as to what you are truly rejecting.”

    Of course you will say the same thing to a Reform or a conservative Jew, since hey, it is all about Orthodox Judaism, we know everything. So what if we decided that the blue on the tzitzit should be kosher and since we don’t have it anymore let’s just wear the tzitzit without a thread of blue like the Torah required, we are OJ and we have the right to negate the written Torah…How arrogant, and sad….

    If you want to write shorter posts, why don’t you concentrate on the OP, CONVERSION? I guess, since you do not have any answers pertaining that topic, you are trying to throw anything against the wall hoping something would stick….Is this what you are trying to do?

    • I have argued cogently and logically and I hope, bearing in mind the subject matter and the obvious differences in theological understanding and interpretation, respectfully. You are twisting my words to interpret me as saying things that I am not actually implying.

      You don’t have to agree with me, obviously, but I have posted on this forum in the reasonable expectation that any responses and disagreements of interpretation would also be made logically, clearly and respectfully. I have persisted in responding to your posts even though this did not necessarily seem to be the case, but I am ending this here and do not intend to respond to you further if you post again. Not because I don’t have answers or good points to make, but because it appears to me that you cannot hear or respect what I am actually saying.

  44. Oh, I respect you all right, but I also understand the fact that one does not enter a Volkswagen into the Indy 500. You are a novice and you are way overmatched. Just to let you know, wherever I see your posts on our blogs coming to “challenge” us I will deal with your ignorance. If you want to avoid it, then stay on Orthodox Jewish blogs.

    • Dan: You have not answered questions, have rambled, completely misunderstood and misinterpreted points being made, and seem more bent on trying to attack and to invalidate where I am coming from. I am afraid your responses only add evidence to the fact that the foundations of Christian belief are not based on logic.

      A Jewish approach to the Torah is to look hard at what every word and nuance means, in the original Hebrew and in context, with the help of commentaries written by brilliant and informed Jewish minds from the past in order to find the deepest truths. We do not see what Christians see in the Tanach because of this approach.

      However, if you are starting from the New Testament belief that jc was the moshiach, then Christians/Messianic Jews and anyone accepting Christian theology tend to view everything from this lens. Christianity may seem to make sense and can be very helpful psychologically, but is not actually supported by the clear words of the Tanach when you look at them in Hebrew and in context. G-d is not a man, there is no saviour or redeemer besides Him, His commandments are not too difficult to keep and were given to the Jewish people for all time, and G-d can and does forgive sins directly. And, however many miracles he may have performed, jc simply did not fulfill the requirements for the moshiach. You have never given good answers to any of the objections to Christian theology contained in the Tanach.

  45. Gila,

    Maybe you do not remember, but in this thread we discuss conversions, not Christianity…

    Now, be a good girl and show all of Us where in the Tanach a ritual of conversion is mandated?

    Derailing the topic will not help your case……

    • It’s in the Oral Law and there are hints in the written Torah. There is also much midrashic comment on Ruth. if you are actually interested, there is much available information on the internet and elsewhere.

      You don’t need to patronize me by calling me a “good girl”; would you like to be called a “good boy”?

      You can avoid the subject of the clear words of the Tanach contradicting Christian theology all you like, but they are still there….

  46. So you are admitting that there is no mention of a ritual conversion in the Torah…Thank you for you honesty.

    If you want to talk on another subject, then start a new thread.

    • No I’m not. The written Torah is impossible to understand fully without the Oral Torah. As you don’t accept the Oral Torah I can understand your position, but it is certainly not a mainstream Jewish understanding.

  47. This is the problem Gila, Orthodox like you hold the OT, the word of man, above the written word of God.

    How sad…..

    • We believe the Oral Torah DID come from G-d. Everything we do as Jews is to fulfill G-d’s commandments. And you have no answers for the clear words of the Tanach contradicting Christian theological beliefs. It’s a pity when Jews leave their heritage behind and do not obey the word of G-d.

    • Gila
      Do you believe that God invites you to cleave to Him?

  48. You can believe in whatever you want, it does not mean that it is true. The majority of Jews do not believe that the OT comes from God. But you do not go to their websites and bug them, do you?

    I told you to start a new thread, and I will show you some answers….Unless of course you are repeating this claim to blow smike into our eyes, so we get of the OT thing?,,,,,

  49. Reply to bography: Everything we do as Jews cleaves us to G-d. I am aware 24/7 that ultimately all there is is G-d, that I am always in His presence and that He knows every thought, every deed that I do. Everything that happens is from Him and He is in control: He tests us in order to help us to grow. He helps us in all sorts of ways. Every mitzvah strengthens our connection. We may not understand everything: after all as Isaiah tells us, His ways are not our ways. It’s all about G-d. Always has been. Always will be.

    • To Gila.

      So, are you saying that you cannot cleave to God directly but only through the intermediary of what you do for Him?

      You say “all there is, is God.” That is not in the written Torah, and would certainly contradict it, for God is eternal (no beginning and no end) while his creation had a beginning, and much of it will end. I am aware that the Zohar teaches that all is God, and as you know, the Zohar is regarded by the “Oral Torah” proponents as part of Oral Torah. The Zohar, though, in my book, contradicts the Tanach.

      The problem is analogous to the “evolution” of doctrine in the Catholic Church – Assumption of Mary, etc.

    • You misunderstood me. We cleave to G-d directly. We pray to G-d directly. G-d communicates to us directly. G-d forgives our sins directly. G-d has given each Jew a pure soul, which is essentially part of Him. Every mitzvah we do connects us ever more closely to the One Source of us all and elevates the physical to the spiritual.

      The ultimate reality is that all there is is G-d. We can never be apart from Him (see Psalm 139). G-d is the “ain sof”, the infinite and eternal Mind who created absolutely everything. There is a kabbalistic concept of contraction, of “tzimtzum”, of G-d allowing space for His creations.

      Personally, I was privileged, when I really needed to know for sure the truth of what He wanted from me and had run out of emotional strength to continue on with my spiritual dilemma, that G-d showed me directly that the reality behind the smokescreen is that all there is is G-d, in an amazing visionary experience at the holiest place, which I have never got over to this day. That is why personally I am 100% sure of my own path to Him and am always aware of being in His presence.

    • It seems that Rashi disagrees because he says you cannot cleave to God except through his spokesmen, his sages “chochomim” (like Rashi, who is regarded as one). Why can’t you cleave “singly” to God? Rashi answers, because He is a consuming fire.

      I say more here http://onedaringjew.wordpress.com/2011/12/26/can-a-jew-singly-cleave-to-god-in-judaism-it-seems-not/

      I still think you should not say “all there is is God.” That is an unscriptural mystical idea. Not that I am against “mystical” unions, for there is no other way in human language to talk about the communion between man and God.

      “All there is is God” is an “Eastern” idea. The Zohar has an”Eastern” flavour; it is not Siniatic at all.

  50. “sinaitic”

    • From what I can see and have read here and on the blog, Rashi appears to referring to the particular experience at Sinai. But you are extrapolating something from that that Rashi isn’t actually saying.

      Judaism is ALL about cleaving to G-d. And although in one sense we all have a unique soul and hence a unique potential for our individual relationship with the One Source of us all, at the same time all Jews are also in a sense one soul before G-d. But if you want to understand better mainstream Jewish spiritual understanding, I would recommend that you read Moshe Chaim Luzzatto’s classic sefer “Derech Hashem” or “The Way of G-d” (translated by Aryeh Kaplan).

      All there is is G-d is what G-d personally showed me. I had asked Him to take away all my illusions and that is literally what He did. However I cannot really put into words at all adequately what actually happened to me that particular night. Way way way way beyond anything I have ever experienced before or since (and as a Christian I experienced lots of spiritual things, being filled with the “holy spirit”, exorcising demons, enjoying singing and dancing to Christian music and worshipping and praising jc…). But remember also Elijah’s experience: the still small voice of G-d.

  51. Bog,

    Will you stick to the OP? Gila is an expert in derailing the OP. Ask her where in the Torah there is a mandate for ritual conversion? and then you can start a thread on cleaving to God…..

    • But Dan, I am trying to investigate the discrepancies between oral and written Torah.

    • Gila,
      I wrote

      “In Deut 11:22 we read: “For if you keep all these commandments which I command you to do them, to love the Lord, your God, to walk in all His ways, and to cleave to Him…”

      I shall compare the above verse with Rashi’s commentary. With regard to Rashi, traditional Judaism holds that “..it is unthinkable to study Talmud without studying Rashi’s commentary at the same time. Rashi’s explanations and commentaries on the Talmud were so important that for almost a hundred years after his death, Talmud students in France and Germany concentrated their brilliant minds on discussing and elaborating on Rashi’s commentary” (Jewish Virtual Library).

       Here is Rashi’s “Oral Torah” commentary of Deut 11:22:“and to cleave to Him”: Is it possible to say this? Is God not “a consuming fire” (Deut. 4:24)? Rather, it means: Cleave to the disciples and the Sages, and I will consider it as though you cleave to Me. — [Sifrei]

       Rashi says we couldn’t and shouldn’t cleave to the Holy One of Israel because He is a consuming fire. If one believes that words are used to mean, Rashi’s statement means that there are no circumstances where one can cleave to the person of God.”

      How do you arrive at a one-off instance for Sinai.

  52. Bog,

    “But Dan, I am trying to investigate the discrepancies between oral and written Torah.”

    Then start a new thread….

  53. Only if Rashi approves…..

  54. To bography: Yes, Rashi does say that. And yet in the previous chapter we are explicity commanded to cleave to Hashem: “Hashem, your G-d, you shall fear, Him shall you serve, to Him shall you cleave, and with His Name shall you swear.” (Deuteronomy 10 v 20). Rashi does not make the same comment at this earlier verse.

    Don’t forget that commentators frequently disagree with one another with hair-splitting arguments, but what does Rashi actually mean by what he says? I have come across various articles on the internet that discuss or refer to the whole concept of “cleaving to Hashem” and quote excerpts from some of them:

    http://parsha.blogspot.com/2009/08/cleaving-to-hashem.html

    “……Meanwhile, I do not think that Rashi’s midrashic explanation or Ibn Ezra’s philosophical / mystical explanation is peshat. Rather, on a peshat level, cleaving to Hashem is not meant literally but allegorically. It means to have fealty to Hashem, in heart or mind, or perhaps in action. In that way, it is similar to loving Hashem, earlier in the pasuk.

    I came up with this idea independently, Ibn Ezra seems to say as much earlier. For this is not the first time the Torah speaks about devekus to Hashem….”

    http://www.torah.org/learning/dvartorah/5765/reeh.html

    “You shall follow after HASHEM your G-d, and Him you shall fear and His Mitzvos you shall keep and to His voice you should hearken and Him shall you serve and to Him you should cleave. (Devarim 13:5)

    To Him shall you cleave: Cleave to His ways; Acts of Kindliness, burying the dead, visiting the sick, like The Holy One Blessed Be He does. (Rashi)

    Rashi is troubled by the problem of how we are to attach ourselves to HASHEM. Obviously it is not a physical attachment but a matter of emulation. Rashi offers a short list and a general heading that we should do as HASHEM does. Therefore we can look for other areas that are listed as doings and characteristics of The Almighty…..”

    http://tziporahheller.com/one_article.php?id=44

    “CLEAVING

    The next path back enumerated by the GRA is cleaving to Hashem. At the point where the Torah enunciates the mitzvah to cleave to God, Rashi asks the obvious question, “How can a finite human being cleave to the infinite?” Then Rashi brings the answer the Talmud provides: “Attach yourself to Torah scholars.”

    What does that mean practically? Does it mean that you should find the tzaddik of the week in a religious newspaper, find out where he lives, knock on his door, and say, “Rebbe, you don’t know me, but I want a relationship with you!”? How can you even begin to cleave to God by cleaving to Torah scholars?

    Pirkei Avot (The Sayings of the Fathers) provides us a hint when it says that we should drink the words of the sages thirstily. What does it mean to “drink thirstily”? …….

    ….The more aware you are that you are in need, the less finicky you’ll be about from whom you are taking. We are all desperately in need of spiritual guidance and direction. Yet many of us say, “I won’t learn from anyone who’s not on the level of Moshe Rabbeinu or the Baal Shem Tov!”

    Learn from everyone. Look for piety and integrity in people whom you know, and try to learn from them. Look at people who have life experience. Look at Holocaust survivors. Look at people who have had access to the great souls of the previous generation. If you open yourself, you will find people who will show you more than you have already seen. Cleave to them.”

    http://www.ou.org/torah/ti/5763/reeh63.htm

    “….says Rashi (based on Sotah 14a), one “cleaves” to Hashem by emulating His acts of kindness, such as burying the dead and visiting the sick.”

    There is much much more besides. What is at issue is NOT the commandment to cleave to Hashem – obviously it is possible otherwise we would never have been commanded to do so – but a debate about what exactly that means, bearing in mind we have physical bodies and Hashem does not. As Jews, we surely need to ask ourselves whether we are cleaving to Hashem enough in all that we do in our lives.

  55. Gila, for some reason I only received your response in my email bag today. I haven’t been visiting MM for all these months – mea bulka, mea bulka mea maxima bulka.

    First let me say that you have done a fine job. Now, about two things you said:

    1. final paragrap):

    “What is at issue is NOT the commandment to cleave to Hashem – obviously it is possible otherwise we would never have been commanded to do so – but a debate about what exactly that means, bearing in mind we have physical bodies and Hashem does not.”

    2. And what you said about the idea of rocking up to your local rabbi/sage and requesting a personal relationship.

    We don’t only have physical bodies but also spirits/souls, which can certainly commune with God. The issue about cleaving that I am talking about is having a personal relationship with Hashem, which I suggest is what “cleaving” in the Tanach is mainly about. So it is wrong of Rashi to exclude the possibility of cleaving in a personal way to Hashem on the grounds that He is a consuming fire. What is more, “consuming fire” is used in a completely different context to refer to God’s judgment on the wicked. I wish rabbinical commentaries would take into account the context of large chunks of discourse instead of only homing in on isolated sentences.

    My point is NOT that “cleaving” (close respectful attachment) cannot include learning from those who one believes are God’s spokesmen (the sages, in the Jewish scheme), but that “cleaving to God” must involve a close -and intimate – attachment to God Himself, sometimes the “husband,” other times the “Father” of Israel (composed of individual people).

    Because of their special personal intimacy ordained by God, there are two cleavings in the Tanach that stand out above all the others, 1 cleaving (physically and spiritually) to one’s spouse, which Genesis 2:24 makes very clear, and to God (spiritually), where the latter kind of cleaving should be on a higher level than in marriage.

    As for the chochomim (sages), the sages give so many mixed messages, one is often at a loss which one to “cleave” to. As you know, “chochom” in Yiddish is sarcasm for the opposite of “wise.” One of my father’s (Izzy) favourite expletiives was “chochom.”

    • Jews certainly understand cleaving to G-d as a close and intimate attachment to our Creator. We have a personal relationship with G-d directly.

      Indeed, the present month of Elul is a time when we can be particularly intimate with G-d. Our sages note that the name “Elul” is an acronym for the biblical phrase ani ledodi vedodi li —“I am my Beloved’s, and my Beloved is mine.” The intense love between G‑d and the Jewish people comes to the surface during Elul which is when our sages liken G-d to the King walking informally in a field where he is totally available to us if we will just ask Him.

    • Gila, in my book ( if not in most Jews’), you’ve done a far better job than Rashi. But you will probably say/think it is remiss to even suggest that. I say it again, remiss or not, Rashi missed the mark on this one.

      One thing that bothers me; I find it hard to appreciate how one can have a personal relationship (an Abba relationship) with a God called Hashem (the Name). “I am the Name’s and the Name is mine, “The Name is my beloved”; sounds very odd.

    • I understand that there was a secret name of G-d that only the High Priest knew. This name was apparently so holy and so powerful that anyone other than the High Priest who uttered it would die. The pronunciation of the name was lost with the destruction of the Second Temple.

      There is also a kabbalistic concept of 72 secret names of G-d which I don’t really know much about.

      Having said all that, as Hashem is all-powerful and all-knowing He always responds to our honest attempts to come closer to Him. When praying our collective Jewish prayers, Hashem is rendered vocally as “A-d_n-ai” (_representing the sound “o”). When praying my own informal prayers I normally simply call Him G-d.

      Indeed the mistake of the name “Jehovah” comes from the three vowel sounds being written under the 4 letter name given to Hashem of yud – ke – vav – ke. They were not meant to be pronounced with the four letter tetragramaton but were actually referring to the vocalisation of the name given at the end of the last paragraph.

      Hashem is not only our loving intimate Father but also our royal King, and our relationship with Him is highly unequal in that He is the omnipotent Creator of absolutely everything and every breath we take is only because He allows us to take it, while all human beings are finite creations. Hence the immense respect we give Him and the great pains to be very careful with writing or saying His name.

    • I notice you said yud – KE – vav – KE, where the KE is substituted for the original H in YHVH because even the H is regarded too sacred to pronounce. The word ELOHIM is also often written (you know this, of course) ELOKIM.

      As for the rest of what you have said about the holiness of God, yes, we need to be more in awe and so forth of Him.

      (I hate the modern abuse of the adjective “awesome.”
      “How was your trip?” “Awesome, man.”)

  56. Hello, I just wanted to say hi. I grew up in the ubmjc from around the age of 11 . My family background is mixed, my dads family were Jews far back, and I would be able to prove it. My mums is similar. I however was brought up being told “you are a jewish girl” and Judaism has always been in my deepest heart. A close friend once told me if anyone is stupid enough to call themselves a Jew then they must be a Jew. Being a Jew is so entwined in my identity I would never leave it. It has always cut me deeply when my parentage is used against me and when mine and my parents conversions are questioned. I keep kosher and live a jewish life. My partner also converted. My children will be circumcised and raised as Jews. When I say ” when I came out of Egypt” it is with my people in my heart. I live in the sincerest hope my brothers and sisters in other sects of Judaism will accept us for the Jews we are. In these times we need to stand together as one people. Divided we are conquered after all.

    • If your mother is Jewish according to halachah – ie her mother’s mother’s mother’s mother etc. was Jewish – then you are Jewish too. You can never stop being Jewish. However, if your mother was not born Jewish and received a messianic “conversion”, then however sincere she may be, that did not actually alter her status in any way. And that would mean that you are still a gentile yourself. Of course as a gentile, you can keep as many Jewish customs and festivals as you like, so long as you do not keep Shabbat entirely without breaking any of the halachic restrictions as an orthodox Jew would do. If that helps you draw closer to G-d in your life, that is great.

      However, if you are Jewish and if you believe in yeshua/jc as being divine and the son of G-d then it is your actual belief system that is not Jewish. That doesn’t alter your actual Jewish status before G-d, it simply means you are not relating to Him as a Jew. Even though you may keep Shabbat, kosher etc, as a Jew you are actually breaking the very first of the Ten Commandments by worshipping a created being rather than only the One infinite G-d Himself.

      There are no real different “sects” of Judaism. Judaism, the real G-d ordained thing, is the orthodox halachic system. Within that there are subtle differences of understanding of halacha, chumras (stringencies) kept by some and not by others, there are differences between Sephardim and Ashkenazim etc. But all orthodox Jews accept the commandments of the Torah as given by G-d to the Jewish people for all time.

      However, in the overall scheme of things, those differences between Chareidim, Religious Zionists etc. are actually relatively minor in effect. All orthodox Jews keep Shabbat, keep kosher, keep the Chagim, daven three times a day (if they are male), study the Torah and seek advice from a Rav if they need to be sure of the exact halacha in a particular individual situation. Most importantly, all orthodox Jews have a relationship with G-d directly, no intermediary necessary, and know that the infinite G-d who created absolutely everything is certainly capable of forgiving sin directly.

      As an ex-Christian of Jewish descent who received my full Jewish soul at the mikvah with my halachic orthodox conversion, I can certainly testify to the far deeper spirituality of real ie orthodox Judaism, and the far deeper relationship with G-d that I have as a Jew directly, without jc.

      No orthodox Jew will every accept the theology of Christianity, however Jewish it may be dressed up to appear in the Messianic movement, as having any validity to a true Jewish relationship with G-d.

      If you are Jewish and have never experienced a Shabbat at an orthodox Jewish home and the depth of spirituality in an orthodox life, frankly you have no idea what you are missing.

      May Hashem guide you on your personal search for the truth.

  57. Just seen these blogs and read them. I went from being orthodox Christian to messianic then saw the light that JC was not the one, left and went mainstream Jewish and converted by a Beth Din in London. Orthodoxy seem to think they hold the keys to the Jewish faith and no one else. Don’t forget that the Ultra Orthodox don’t look at the US congregations as Jewish either or accept the chief Rabbi as their leader. JC IMHO had his own Yeshiva and students just like many other Rabbis did at that time, and he was a strict follower of the faith, it is only when non Jews got hold of it that it went the other way. You cannot accept JC and be Jewish no matter which way you package it, As for Rabbi Ruth I went to her Shul for a while I did the Gateway course which was very intense and demanding the music was fantastic, and I can vouch that she is a great teacher and devout Jew, I just could not accept the concept of JC otherwise I would still be there.

    Oh and if there is such thing as a strict orthodox service in the messianic denominations Rabbi Ruth has it her services are full of intense worship.

    • Just out of curiosity, Avraham, when you say that one “cannot accept JC and be Jewish no matter which way you package it”, what is your definition of “JC”? Do you perceive a distinction between this “JC” and the “RYbYbD” (i.e., the original historical Rav Yeshua ben Yosef ben David)? It seemed as if you did make such a distinction when you suggested he had his own yeshiva and students like other rabbis, and it seemed I might even infer accurately that you would recognize these students as continuing to be devout Jews. If so, would you similarly recognize modern Hasidim who continue to observe halakhah and all other normal aspects of Jewish life, while recognizing Rav Yeshua as their admor, as continuing to be devout Jews?

    • Hi Proclaim Liberty
      Many thanks for your reply I will try and answer your questions as honestly as I can.
      PL wrote
      Just out of curiosity, Avraham, when you say that one “cannot accept JC and be Jewish no matter which way you package it”, what is your definition of “JC”?

      My definition of JC is a gentile Messiah (Christos) whom was packaged by the Roman emperor Constantine and his close circle of advisors or whatever they called them to form a new Roman religion acceptable to the empire or known civilized world at that time. When a separation of the Jewish believers in Yeshua may possibly have taken place from mainstream Judaism at that time? Some say it was the addition to the daily Amidah of new chapters which one was about “Heretics and May they be cast down” which was about these new believers, before that they lived as Jews together and even fought together.
      As Rabbi Yosef Mizrachi from Divine Information .com said you couldn’t distinguish the difference between Jewish believers in JC back in the temple times and normal Jews.

      PL Wrote
      Do you perceive a distinction between this “JC” and the “RYbYbD” (i.e., the original historical Rav Yeshua ben Yosef ben David)? It seemed as if you did make such a distinction when you suggested he had his own yeshiva and students like other rabbis,

      There is a world of difference between the Orthodox Jewish “RYBYBD” to the hijacked re-packaged Christian JC the two are as different as chalk & Cheese. I would also like to add why in the new covenant they go to great pains to let the reader get the impression that JC is from the line of “King David”?
      He wasn’t, if he was of a Virgin Birth, if it is to be believed Joseph the carpenter was from the line of David.
      I would also like to add that in the Chumash we have several virgin births predicted which came to pass, one of our patriarchs “Isaac” The Prophet “ Samuel” for example stories of virgin births were nothing new to Jews
      PL Wrote
      It seemed I might even infer accurately that you would recognize these students as continuing to be devout Jews.

      They were.

      PL Wrote
      If so, would you similarly recognize modern Hasidim who continue to observe halakhah and all other normal aspects of Jewish life, while recognizing Rav Yeshua as their admor, as continuing to be devout Jews?

      I am not sure what you mean about modern “Hasidim” accepting JC as their admor? The Hasidim I know and live amongst in my area of North London will not even mention JC’s name or stand there listening to you about him. They are a 17th Century religious sect which emerged from Eastern Europe with the
      Baal Shem tov as their religious and spiritual leader, whom I might add was not accepted by the established sages and Jewish leaders of the time, the Vilna Gaon of Lithuania being one of them I believe. One Rabbi said that not all Jews are real Jews he was referring to I think the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe whom he said that when they stand in front of G-d he will say sorry you’re not Jewish i

    • Ok, “vi” — Allow me to clarify two matters.

      One is that the discussion of virgin birth has no impact upon Rav Yeshua’s legal status as an undisputed son of Yosef whose genealogy is traced back to King David. Of course, the second genealogy traced from his mother Miriam the wife of Yosef also shows along a separate line the ancestry from King David. So the “ben-David” identity is not really a matter for dispute; and it was not disputed at any time during his lifetime by even his most vehement detractors.

      The second matter is my use of the term Hasidim in its literal sense rather than that of the 17th-century Eastern European religious movement. In Israel today there are many kinds of hasidim and haredim, most of whom bear a special respect or reverence for a given rabbi who leads (or once led) the movement or community to which they adhere. Similarly, there are Jews in Israel and elsewhere today who adhere to Rav Yeshua (as quite distinct from your definition of “JC”) and the original Jewish form of his teachings, as well as conforming to modern standards of halakhah and Jewish cultural behavior. Now, the conformity of some of them may be criticized for straying into Progressive, Conservative, or even Reform territory in some matters, but the modern movement is still developing and has not fully embraced the updated ancient model upon which it is based. But any Jewish community has its members who are more lax than others, and, as you point out, even 17th-century-European-style Hasidim are sometimes criticized for their departures from “normative” Jewish tradition or doctrine.

    • Yahshua (You call him JC)is a person not a concept. Relate to Him as such and ask him to make Himself known–persevere until you meet Him. It’s not so easy but it’s the way for you…….

  58. Look. Conversion begins when the Spirit works in our hearts and we receive a new birth from above.At this point we should be committed to striving to observe the foundation commandments (10 words)with the support and purification of the Spirit.It continues to broaden in water baptism and the baptism of the Spirit. This is conversion, it is not specifically Christian or Jewish it is carried out by YHWH through His Son by means of His Spirit. Cool it with the identity crises. You may be falling into religion i.e. man made conversion

    • Mike, I’m afraid you cannot merely fall back onto a literal definition of conversion as a personal change impelled by HaShem’s attitudes becoming enlivened in individual hearts. You cannot dismiss the term “conversion” that has been defined culturally (and halakhically) as a change in one’s community of identity and affiliation.

      Because “religion” is by definition a human response to HaShem, it is likewise by definition a man-made set of behaviors. But there is no escape from it, because every human response to HaShem is a man-made religious action, regardless of any individual’s protestations that they are not “religious”. It only remains to be determined if an individual will conform with the agreed behaviors of his or her community of affiliation to identify them with a particular religious system. For Jews, such behaviors extend far beyond “10 words”; in fact, for Jews some 613 have been identified. Non-Jewish disciples of Rav Yeshua were officially exempted from legal responsibility for all but a small subset of these, though it was suggested that they learn the principles of Torah nonetheless.

      Such differences in legal responsibilities define distinct communities of identity and affiliation. Hence, a change from one to the other, if at all possible, may properly be termed a “conversion”.

    • Pl
      The 613 Mitzvahs were dwindled down to ten then to three then to two.
      There is a story when a Gentile wanted to convert he went to two very well respected Rabbis and asked to be taught, the first Rabbi told the potential convert to do things which were nonsense, the 2nd Rabbi said to the Gentile “love the L-rd your god with all your heart and soul and do unto others what you would have them do to you, the rest is commentary go and learn” I won’t name the two Rabbis I am sure you know their names.
      Does the saying above sound familiar? Perhaps taken by the gentile church many years after and used as the words spoken by Yeshua spoken to a Pharisee who came to him at night and asked how one could be born again.

    • Hi, Avi — I don’t think it is quite right to describe the 613 as having dwindled or been reduced in number merely because they can be summarized in as few as two. Nor should it be surprising that Rav Yeshua would re-iterate the same two cited by Hillel to a scribe who was able to recognize them and agree (viz: Mark 12:28-34). Regardless of the number, Hillel’s advice to “go and study” is well taken, and Rav Yeshua’s observation also is valid that one who recognizes their value is not far away from “malchut ha-shamayim”.

    • I agree

    • Mike Maurice
      As a Jew I don’t need to get the Ruach Ha Kodesh / Holy Sprit through a third party, even Yeshua/Jesus told the woman at the well
      ” We Jews Know to whom we pray to” that tells me you go direct to the father not through anybody else. Another point your messiah did not bring about any of the Prophesies that the messiah was supposed to usher in? there was no peace/wars just got worse people were still displaced and killed for being the wrong race or colour nothing changed, the Romans were still around after the event for many years so what changed? Nowhere in the Jewish Texts does it say a Jewish Messiah will come be killed and return again. Also all these dead people that rose from their graves and walked about who were they where did they go and how come they are not here now if they rose from the dead?

    • Kol haKavod to you. As an ex-Christian of Jewish descent who converted halachically to Judaism, I have already written elsewhere on this site about my journey.

      Suffice to say, you are definitely not alone – Hashem is drawing many of us out from Christianity to come home either as a Noachide or as a Jew. Personally I needed a lot of help and persuasion from Hashem to agree to convert to Judaism, but although I know from experience that the spirituality of Christianity is real, the spirituality of Judaism is different – more gentle, more subtle yet more profound. And the spirituality of Christianity belongs to the tamei world – all of it. Which for non-Jews may not necessarily be a bad thing at all, there are many good spiritually refined Christians out there whom I respect, but for Jews, we need the harder, more demanding, more real and yet far more fulfilling path of Judaism to become all that Hashem wants us to be.

      Christian theological teachings are ultimately based, when it comes to the Tanach, on mistranslations, verses taken out of context and simple misunderstanding. Actually, we have free choice and can control our inclination to do evil (Genesis 4v7, Deuteronomy 30v19, Psalm 37v27). Repentance – and this is the week for it with Yom Kippur this coming Shabbat – means returning to Hashem and this is what He wants from us and all he actually requires to atone for our sins (Jeremiah 36v3, Isaiah 55v7, Hosea 14v3). In any case, the sacrificial system (NB the Hebrew word for sacrifice, korban, is related to karov, near, drawing near to G-d) was only ever for unintentional sins. For intentional sins, one had to seek forgiveness from the person wronged, make restitution if necessary, before seeking forgiveness from Hashem. No sacrifices involved. And as the sacrificial system was not for gentiles but for Jews, why on earth would sacrifices have been needed in the first place for non-Jews to seek forgiveness from G-d? G-d forgave the non-Jews at Nineveh directly when the people there repented, as the book of Jonah attests.

      When people talk about seeking to know Yeshua, I would instead suggest, just come closer to G-d, pray directly to Him, seek what G-d actually wants from you and ask Him to help you. If Yeshua truly was divine, heaven forbid, then why on earth not simply talk to G-d anyway? What have you got to lose? And if he wasn’t then why waste your time seeking a misguided man living 2000 years ago who never fulfilled the actual requirements of the Jewish moshiach in the first place?

    • Just to offer a bit of clarification, Avi — More than 800 prophetic passages have been identified as reflected in Rav Yeshua’s life during his tenure in the role of the ben-Yosef Messiah, including the notions of suffering unto death for the people of Israel and yet somehow “prolonging his days”. There is a similar large number (regrettably I don’t remember the count) that are specific to the role of the ben-David Messiah, which Rav Yeshua is expected to fulfill upon a future return. Rav Shaul suggested in his letter to the Roman assemblies that the delay between these events is related to allowing non-Jews to learn how to repent and to approach HaShem. I can only suppose that HaShem’s intent was to reduce the number of casualties that will result from the establishment of the ben-David Messianic era and its concomitant restoration of the Jewish kingdom. It should not be terribly surprising to see that the past nineteen centuries have been just as long and bloody as the preceding nineteen during which HaShem concentrated on weaning Jews away from idolatry and toward devoted commitment to His Torah instructions. However, the most recent nineteen have also included the formation of “righteous remnants” among non-Jews who did in fact learn positive lessons from Rav Yeshua, albeit somewhat indirectly and distortedly. As for whatever became of the resurrected witnesses at the time of Rav Yeshua’s own resurrection, we have no record. But if the time were not yet ripe for the restoration of the ultimate Jewish kingdom, due to a lack of Jewish readiness and repentance, one must presume that they returned to their place to await the proper time. We’re still waiting to see if the Messiah (ben-David) will arrive upon seeing all Israel properly keeping two consecutive Shabbatot; and so far that wait has been a long one.

  59. One other thing – you mentioned Rabbi Ruth ie Ruth Fleischer. I have encountered her myself in the past. From what I have read about her family on the internet, she does not appear to be halachically Jewish as it is her father who was Jewish and not her mother.

  60. […] Avi Siverman’s view, at Messianic Marzipan, of Jesus is typically Jewish, but also, I suggest messianic meshugas (madness): “As a Jew I don’t need to get the Ruach Ha Kodesh / Holy Sprit through a third party, even Yeshua/Jesus told the woman at the well, ‘We Jews Know to whom we pray to.’ That tells me, continues you go direct to the father not through anybody else. […]

  61. In the span of more than six years since this essay was posted originally, and more than three years since any replies were posted, it is possible that the definition of Jewish messianism, as a response to the teachings of the admor haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef, has developed in some degree. Hence I wonder if there may be some benefit to re-visiting the question about whether any of Rav Yeshua’s gentile disciples may benefit from conversion to Judaism, and, if so, for what purposes.

    We may ask a number of related questions, such as: “What constitutes a valid conversion for such a disciple?”; “What results should we expect from such a conversion?”; and “What may justify a given individual’s pursuit of conversion, given Rav Shaul’s emphasis to the Galatian assemblies that it should never be required and that if approached wrongly it may even sever one from the benefits of the messiah?”. In answering such questions, we ought successfully to clarify distinctions between doctrines of the various forms of Christianity which likely influenced these individuals prior to their pursuit of conversion, and the more biblically accurate doctrines of Judaism or Jewish messianism that they are expected to embrace. Likewise, we should clarify what should be expected of gentile disciples for whom conversion is *not* justifiable — particularly because they may require instruction to correct misconceptions that might have impelled them falsely to seek conversion; much as Rav Shaul had to offer severe criticism to the Galatians. In doing so, the distinction should become apparent between participation within the Jewish covenant and an external embrace of that covenant from a position alongside and in alignment with it, as indicated in passages such as Is.56, Acts 15, and Gal.5.

  62. Thank you for these observations and thoughts. I’m in full agreement.

    Once Sheldrake’s thesis on conversions is completed (I’m not sure of the completion date, but I believe Richard H. is one of his supervisors) I think this discussion will merit some further attention in light of his arguments. Already the discussion has moved on since the post, and there is more dialogue on the issue than almost seven years ago. If I read you correctly, you are suggesting that should conversions be performed (without having stated that you think it is necessarily permissible), they should be done thoroughly with a proper acceptance of all the obligations and rights of being a Jew, including a thorough change of worldview – and re-evaluation of the paradigms of rationalism (as a system), modernity and post-modernity which so pervade the modern western world and Christianity but are quite foreign to the Scriptures and traditional Judaism.

    • I must apologize that I don’t know who this “Sheldrake”. Can you tell me anything of his approach to the subject of conversion, or, for that matter, to Jewish messianism in general? I do envision cases that justify conversion for certain individuals, particularly for the purpose of correcting situations originating in prior generations that have distorted Jewish families to render their descendants halakhically non-Jewish. For example, I would justify it for descendants of Anusim, or of Holocaust victims or survivors who similarly were forced to seek survival via conversion, submersion of identity, intermarriage, et al, who wish to return to covenantal responsibility.

      And while I would certainly and strongly discourage any consideration of a deliberate entry into an intermarriage, I can accept that post-facto conversion may be an appropriate resolution to the resulting cultural and familial conflicts that inhibit the Jewish partner from fulfilling Torah responsibilities freely in an existing one (including the mitzvah of raising Jewish offspring to build up the Jewish people). Conversion would be much preferable over divorcing a non-Jewish partner, repudiating any non-Jewish children, and subsequently marrying a Jewish partner to produce Jewish children. I suspect we can agree that such actions represent an unfaithfulness that is contrary to the purpose of faithfulness to Torah, even though it can be justified in the example set by Ezra upon the return from Babylonian exile.

      Of course, each case must be considered on its own merits, and not solely on general principles and ideals; and we should not discount the possibility that HaShem may call someone to join the Jewish people who seems to us to have no particular justification for it beyond an inexplicable personal compulsion or vision that defies discouragement. Nonetheless, you read correctly that I would insist that someone accepted for conversion should be trained thoroughly to uphold the highest standards of knowledgeable traditional Jewish behavior and outlook, just as I would demand these of modern Jewish disciples, as commensurate with Rav Yeshua’s instructions to his ancient Jewish disciples in Mt.23:2-3a. Indeed, I would encourage *all* Jewish disciples, of whatever origin, to pursue greatness in “malchut ha-shamayim” by the means Rav Yeshua outlined in Mt.5:19-20, recognizing that the traditions preserved and elucidated by generations of rabbis throughout the past 20 centuries represent the same Mosaic Torah authority that he ascribed to the scribes and Pharisees of his own era.

  63. No, it’s me who should apologise for assuming you knew of him. Benjamin Sheldrake was (and still is as far as i know, and who will probably see this comment) the ‘rabbi’ of a Messianic congregation in Norwich, in the UK. His views on conversion are not mainstream, and as far as I understand it (I stand to be corrected) he was both ‘converted’ to Judaism and ordained a rabbi under the auspices of Ruth Fleischer. I think it is fair to say that I have grave misgivings about this type of conversion and ordination on a number of levels – as a reader of Paul and as a Jew, and in particular as a Messianic Jew. Hence my quotation marks around ‘rabbi’ and ‘converted’!

    From what you’ve written above, I am on the same page with you regarding conversions for people in certain classes as you describe. Two of the issues faced by the Messianic Jewish community are those of the quality of training and acculturation that we can offer, and secondly the level of credibility to the rest of the Messianic community and the Jewish world that such conversions might be able to command. Needless to say, to the orthodox only orthodox conversions have any weight, but in reality while influential they are not the majority of the Jewish world (yet). Thank you for your excellent postings!

    • In a related development, it appears that conversion and semi-conversion are also current topics of conversation in the blogosphere. I refer to the essay at: [https://mymorningmeditations.com/2017/02/09/the-ger-toshav-certificate-within-messianic-jewish-community/] and its linked references on the topic of a “Ger Toshav” status.

    • Sheldrake and his wife were just Christians and now think they are Jewish no conversion by them or any other Messianic congregation would be valid, as you said only Orthodox ( United ) would be valid here in the UK and Israel. United don’t even consider conversions from Israel to be valid unless it’s from the highest authority in Israel.

    • I should like to know something of the Jewish quality of ‘Rabbi’ Sheldrake and his family, and their practice of Judaism under a messianic model, and how long it has been since their ‘conversion’ (employing the same convention as did Daniel in his reply above). I would suggest that the validity of any conversion is not properly determined by the supposedly-orthodox bodies that do or do not recognize it; but rather by practical halakhic measures of the quality of its outcome. Messianic affinities alone should not be a determinant for rejection or disqualification; though given the current state of Jewish messianism where it is practiced one must examine its specific characteristics and doctrines in light of such measures. It seems to me that there exists justification to question both the evaluative measures employed by even a well-regarded “Orthodox” body, and the standards of conversion applied to modern gentile disciples of haRav Yeshua in the UK. Nonetheless, it is certainly possible that the Sheldrakes should be considered valid converts for all purposes, and not delegitimized for their prior religious affiliation nor for their present messianistic perspective on Judaism. If the proof of the pudding is to be found in the eating thereof, then let the proof of validity for such converts and prospective converts be determined by their Jewish behavior and outlook.

    • No chance never in a million years will the state of Israel accept them or you as Jewish ever period.

    • I’m a Jewish citizen of the State of Israel, Avi. Now, there are ‘haredim who don’t accept the validity of this State, so I suppose they can be just as foolish about any of its citizens with whom they may disagree. That does not give to them any right or power to reject any other religious Jews, neither as individuals nor as a class, though they be ‘hasdei admor haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef who are pious, traditionally-observant Jews.

      One of the problems that a number of Israeli rabbis are trying to address is that of continuing “sinat ‘hinam” and factionalism between Jews; which, if not resolved, will continue to impede any chance of building the temple anew just as it was responsible for the ‘Hurban that marks the beginning of the exile from which we are now returning.

    • If you’re an Israeli citizen who converts to messianic Judaism that is different you cannot lose your citizenship, but you will not be able to marry for example by the rabbinate of Israel so many hop off abroad to marry like Cyprus.
      My point was people like Sheldrake who is English and his wife whom I believe is German or Danish who were not born Jews but Christians then changed will not be accepted as Jews ever by the State of Israel or the rabbinate there or her in the UK or anywhere for that matter including Reform/Liberal

    • I’m not sure you understand the limited scope of the conversion under discussion here, Avi. Jewish citizens of Israel cannot “convert” to messianic Judaism. Neither can any other sort of Jew living outside of Israel. Only gentiles can convert to Judaism of any form, including the messianic one. Jews who affiliate with or become disciples of an ‘hasidic-style admor such as haRav Yeshua ben-Yosef merely change their outlook; and hopefully they improve their dedication to Torah and its middot, much like Jews who affiliate with ‘Habad or Breslov.

      I hope you now understand the distinction I’ve made, with its implicit definition of a Jewish messianism which is far removed from any culturally-flavored religion that misappropriates the name “Messianic Judaism” and misapplies it to doctrinal positions derived from one or another form of traditional Christianity rather than from Judaism. Because of this widespread phenomenon, your confusion is understandable. One of the purposes for which I asked Daniel about Sheldrake’s approach to issues of conversion and Jewish messianism is to learn whether he (Sheldrake) is able to address the matter accurately or if he suffers similar confusion. The answer may very well determine the validity of the conversion process employed by the messianic rabbi and Beit Din that guided and approved his own conversion. Regardless, with proper intention and good will, even errors committed in a prior process can be rectified. Improvement is always possible.

      It is, however, getting to be late in the day; and Shabbat is almost upon me. So I will wish you Shabbat Shalom and ‘Hag Samea’h shel T”u B’Shvat.

  64. Well, here in the galut, in Seattle, I still have a little time to reply before Shabbat. Avi is supplying more details than I have regarding Mr and Mrs Sheldrake. I take ProclaimLiberty’s key statement to be:

    “I would suggest that the validity of any conversion is not properly determined by the supposedly-orthodox bodies that do or do not recognize it; but rather by practical halakhic measures of the quality of its outcome.”

    For me that’s a big pill to swallow. I am, for example, aware of a group of Africans in Uganda who have taken Judaism upon themselves, but I find it hard to say that they are Jewish no matter how well they have incorporated our traditions, lifestyle(s), and worldviews. In such instances I’ve observed that sometimes Orthodox or Hassidic rabbis will come to perform traditional conversions… which I suppose ProclaimLiberty might well be able to say proves his point in the quotation above. They are arguably just rubber-stamping (I know there’ll be more to it in terms of training, etc.) an existing fait accompli. Nevertheless, at this point I’m inclined to wait for their ‘rubber stamp’ because I don’t know of any body within the world Messianic Judaism that seriously is competent enough or has enough credibility even within the movement for its conversions to be recognised by even a significant minority.

    That said, I have to address another point: the definition of Messianic Judaism. ProclaimLiberty is right to raise it in this context… There are many ‘Messianic’ Jews, who use the term ‘Messianic’ even thought they may in reality be fully in the Christian world with only tenuous connections and commitment to their heritage and obligations as Jews. In this sense the term can be used in a broad sense, as many do. However, when we get to the term Messianic Judaism… if it is a Judaism, then it had better BE a Judaism, or we have grave problems with authenticity.

    • Shavua Tov, Daniel — The notion of authenticity really is crucial, isn’t it?

      I don’t know who are these Ugandans to whom you referred. How did they come to take upon themselves the requirements of Judaism? Are they among the African peoples who claim descent from the ancient Queen of Sheba who was so impressed with King Solomon that she supposedly converted and influenced all her tribe? Thus some modern Africans wish to follow her storied example. Or is this rather an example of the misguided Pharisaic zeal that Rav Yeshua decried in Mt.23:15? During most of the past 18 centuries, Jews have assiduously avoided pursuing any proselytization efforts, at least among goyim, in part to avoid being accused by Christians of committing that very error. We have preferred, rather, to work toward getting our own house in order via “inreach” rather than addressing foreigners with “outreach”. Nonetheless, there have been exceptions like the Khazars.

      There are times when Jewish influence is recognized for its positive contribution to a society; and, in some degree, this may be ascribed likewise to the influence that modern Messianic Judaism has had upon gentiles who wish to follow the most authentic version of Rav Yeshua’s teachings that they can find. Consequently, we find the “Hebrew Roots”, “Netzarim”, and “Ephraimite” religious phenomena, as well as the numerous gentiles affiliating with “Messianic Judaism”. Regrettably, such phenomena often have inhibited MJ development toward fulfillment of its initial notion of Jews who have discovered Rav Yeshua as a truly Jewish messiah figure deepening their commitment to Judaism, returning to a fuller embrace of Torah, and repatriating Rav Yeshua to his own people from his former captivity within gentile Christianity (the leprous-messiah in chains at the gates of Rome, as one of the midrashim depicts him). Thus, today we see the need to distinguish authentic Jewish messianism from several other religious formulations that are not really Jewish despite a cultural veneer or adaptation, as well as to offer guidance to perplexed non-Jews about how they may pursue the benefits of the Jewish messiah without excessively compromising their own validity as non-Jews.

    • There is another movement going around now in the UK which started across the pond and is growing here in the UK, that is the “Real Hebrew Israelite’s” all black people who have decided that they are the true Hebrew’s.
      I have said this for quite a number of years that Christianity will mutate one day soon which it has, you have Christians now who think they are Jewish because they have joined messianic congregations and think that they are the true Jews and joining them now mostly on street corners are the Hebrew Israelite’s who keep telling bystanders that Ashkenazi Jews are not the real Jews of the book but actually convert s who are really Khazars and converted on mass who have stolen the faith from the true Israelite’s the blacks of Africa.
      My own view is if you were born Jewish and decided to follow and accept this fellow as your messiah then one could be called a messianic, but not if you’re a Christian and decide to do the same if that makes sense.
      Jews did go and convert goy’s until the fall of the holy city in 68CE after then they had to re-group and consolidate otherwise the faith would have disappeared like others have in the past. Interestingly before 68CE 10% of the Roman empire was Jewish out of 70 million people many Roman noble families converted, that is when Jewish law changed that one had to be from the mother to be Jewish not from the father as it was before. Simply to conform with the Romans because to be a Roman your mother had to be Roman not the father as was the case with Judaism it was always the father not the mother however to attract Roman converts our sages had to change the halakhic laws.

    • Shavua Tov, Avi — As I understand the history of the halakhah with which we are familiar today, regarding Jewish identity via the mother, this emphasis was the result of losing the genealogical records that were destroyed along with the second temple. Hence, patrilineal tracing had become unreliable, along with tribal identification. Where previously it had been possible to identify Jewish descent from both mother and father, the only remaining reliable means fell upon the unmistakable connection with mothers. The effect of, and parallel with, Roman law may be also an incidental influence.

      In my brief summary above I did not even begin to address the issue of supercession that delegitimizes traditional Jewish lineage in order to replace it with one or another alternative claim, not merely trying to join into the existing body of Jews but rather trying to replace us outright by means of a-historical or anti-historical claims and fictions. I suppose it demonstrates that there are even worse versions of supercession than the memes that arose within Christianity and find some echo within Hebrew Roots and Ephraimite views.

    • OBTW, Avi — I neglected to mention that the “Black Hebrews” movement has existed in Israel since 1969, with a small community based in Dimona, additional communities in Arad and Mizpeh Ramon, and possibly a smaller community in or near Jerusalem within the past decade or so. Apparently, as I read information available on the web, they originated in the USA as early as 1966, a few hundred migrated to Liberia for a couple of years, and thence to Israel. They now number a few thousand. While some have begun to serve in the IDF, their beliefs are nonetheless as inimical to Jewish legitimacy as you have described. I did not know that any had settled in the UK, though there seem to exist a few variations on their identity and beliefs, some of which seem to extend farther back within 20th-century USA and even to the very late 19th century. The group in Israel apparently still follows the same autocratic leader who instigated their departure from the USA in 1967.

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Morning Meditations

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