Thursday, May 07, 2009

"Messianic" Aliyah?

I've noticed the "Who is a Jew" question popping up in relation to "Messianic" Jews lately, and it seems to be morphing into more of a "What is Judaism" question.  As a people dispersed across the world for the last two millennia, constantly either assimilating into or being expelled from host cultures and nations, so much mixing of blood and ideas has occurred that it's very hard for the secular state of Israel to determine who is truly Jewish.  It should be mentioned here that according to traditional Judaism, a Jew is anyone either born of a Jewish mother or who underwent conversion under which he or she accepted the 613 commandments, underwent circumcision (if he is a "he"), and immersed in a mikvah.

 

The secular state of Israel's definition is rooted in its mission as a haven for persecuted Jews.  For Israel, a Jew is a person with one Jewish grandparent who has not opted to follow another religion.

 

Recent years have seen the invention of "Messianic Judaism," primarily in the United States.  In the previous generation, these would have been "Jews for Jesus," i.e., Christians of Jewish descent, most of whom believe that Jesus was the Jewish Moshiach as prophesized in the writings of the Prophets.  In recent years, a new brand of Jews for Jesus, "Messianic Judaism," has sprung up.  In this religion, adherents set up "Synagogues," observe their Sabbath on Saturdays, and acknowledge Jewish holidays, although concepts like "Halachah," (Jewish law) are unknown.  Some of the adherents are of Jewish descent and some are not.

 

The traditional Jewish perspective is that the Moshiach must complete three tasks to be considered authentic:

1.       Ingather all the exiled Jews from around the world.

2.       Rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

3.       Bring peace.

 

Because Jesus, as well as dozens of others throughout history claiming to be Moshiach, failed to do so, he obviously does not qualify and Jewish texts do not spend much ink refuting Christianity.  It's assumed that anyone who was raised with even a rudimentary Jewish education would never go for such a thing. Indeed I have never met a "Messianic" Jew who could quote a single Gemarah.

 

Most Israelis, and many traditional or "Orthodox" Jews to whom I mention "Messianic Judaism," are genuinely confused.  After all, don't all Jews believe in the imminent arrival of Moshiach?  It's one of the thirteen basic principles of the Jewish faith.  It is only when they begin to understand that, "Messianic Judaism," is just Christianity by subterfuge that they begin to feel offended.  It would be as if one were to rebuild the holy temple in Jerusalem to exactly the dimensions and layout as defined in the Torah, and then place an idol to the Roman god Pan in the Holy of Holies.

 

The question then arises, what about a Messianic Jew who wants to make aliyah? 

 

The Jerusalem Post's aliyah expert answered:

 

Q: We are Messianic Jews and would like to make Aliyah. How difficult would this be?

A: From the inquiries that I have received, I have come to the conclusion that there seems to be 2 different interpretations of the meaning of "Messianic Jews." One seems to be people born Jewish who have embraced Jesus as the Messiah and follow the New and Old testament. The other appears to be people, not of Jewish birth who support the Jewish religion and who believe in both testaments. If the questioner is the former then it would appear that s/he is entitled to make Aliyah in accordance with the Law of Return. If the latter is the case then the questioner does not qualify for Aliyah.

So by his interpretation, Messianic Judaism still passes the bar.  But then this morning I read a story in Yediot Achronot:

 

Three Messianic Jews residing in Britain filed a petition with the High Court of Justice Wednesday in an effort to convince Interior Minister Eli Yishai to grant them citizenship…

 

..They claim they have appealed to the Interior Ministry a number of times but were rejected because they are Messianic Jews. They say the ministry sees members of their faith as missionaries and has denied their appeals for this reason.

 

The courts, which determine who is a Jew, are controlled by the liberal-secular ruling class, but the Interior Ministry is controlled by the Hareidi ("Ultra-Orthox") Shas party and the nationalist Yisrael Beitenu party.  Of course I too would oppose allowing them to make aliyah.  I have respect for Christians who want to practice as they choose if they leave me alone, but to allow these people to spread their beliefs through deceit and subterfuge is too great a risk to the spiritual health of the state.  Such are the conflicts in a state which defines itself as both secular and Jewish, but not all-the-way Jewish.

3 comments:

NormanF said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Esther Joiner-Kruse said...

I am Messianic. My family were Christians for many Generations. Most Europeans have Hebrew ancestry. This is a movement that has "blessed" our world, We have finally found each other. Most families that learned that the holidays were from Pagan Orgins did not want to participate and would usually leave their traditional church. Some have just met in their homes. We truly LOVE the WORD of YHVH and felt sick that it was adulterated by the Catholic Church. Many Hebrew Believers in Messiah were killed off in the first few centuries or forced to assimilate into the Universal Church, which is just a hybridized collage of several religions. We are just trying to reclaim who we were before Constantine. There has been much persecution trying to remove the Paganism and Re-learn our Hebrew Roots. This has been extremely emotional for all of us. We feel betrayed, lied to, and manipulated. Sadly these traditions have been going on for so many years, it may take a while for the believers to remove Greeko Roman Paganism from our churches or synagogs or tabernacles. Most of us have had to remove our children from the schools and teach them at home to prevent them from being forced to participate in pagan holidays. Most Messianics do not believe in the TALMUD or traditions from it, but rather just the Old and New Testament. Some are wanting to bring the New up for reconsideration because they fear the Catholic Church may have altered the original Hebrew Writings to fit their Pagan agendas. We view the Jewish people as our brothers and Sisters and would love their support during this time in our lives, but if not we will continue on. Remember the diaspora happened at various times, the Scottish and other Celtic peoples left Northern Israel several hundred years before YasHuWaH was even born. The Saxon people called themselves this because they were "Sons of Issac". Most still circumcise their sons throughout Europe and the USA. We did not experience the Hanukkah experience. That does not make us Less Hebrew. Please consider doing your research before you pass judgement. In the states there are THOUSANDS of Messianics that would love to return to Israel. It seems to be easier for an Atheist than a TORAH keeping Messianic.

Evan said...

Esther,

You say, "Most Messianics do not believe in the TALMUD or traditions from it, but rather just the Old and New Testament."

Ok, well, since you reject the oral Torah and accept the Christian "New Testament," and worship Jesus, the religion you practice is Christianity, not Judaism. Calling yourself a "Messianic Jew" is disingenuous.