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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

All Contents ©2004-2007 Stuart Dauermann - ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Hashivenu Core Principle #1 - On Messianic Judaism

Hashivenu is an educational foundation established in 1997 by myself and a group of friends. This is the first of seven core principles which help to define those commitments we most deeply hold in common.

Hashivenu Core Principle #1 states: Messianic Judaism is a Judaism and not a cosmetically altered "Jewish style" version of what is extant in the wider Christian community.

This was the great leap which was taken when we changed our self-designation from "Hebrew-Christian" or "Jewish-Christian" to "Messianic Jew." We were saying that we no longer saw ourselves as Christians-Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, etc.-who happened to come from Jewish ethnic backgrounds. Instead, being "Jewish" is, for us, a fundamental religious category. We are those who by birth share in the covenant G-d made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and whose ancestors pledged themselves and their descendants to a particular way of life with G-d at Sinai. Having been born into the covenant, we have also come to recognize Messiah Yeshua as the One sent by G-d to bring the covenant to its appointed goal.

We expressed this reality by switching our worship day from Sunday to Saturday, by celebrating the biblical feasts, by adopting traditional Jewish religious terminology (such as "rabbi" and "synagogue") and traditional Jewish religious customs (such as wearing tallit and kippot, having Torah services, and reciting the Shema), by employing selected Hebrew prayers in our services, by singing in a minor key and dancing Israeli dances. All of this was positive and good, though for the most part, superficial. The surface structure is the easiest to change. Of more importance is the deep structure, and this level has proved more intransigent.

The deep structure of religious life consists of the rooted patterns of thought, speech, action and identification reflected in our daily lives as individuals, families, and congregations. How do we think and talk about G-d, about His involvement with the world and with Israel? What is the actual texture of our daily and weekly religious practice? How is our sense of connection with the Jewish people as a whole expressed?

Too often the deep structure of Messianic Jewish religious life is indistinguishable from that of popular evangelicalism and bears little or no resemblance to any form of Judaism, past or present. When the world is easily divided into the classes of "saved" and "unsaved," when our speech is peppered with casual references to "what G-d just did" and "what G-d just said," when our exclusive mode of prayer is conversational and begins "Father G-d" and ends "in the precious name of Yeshua," when our kids go to Christian schools because the public schools are filled with "satanic influences," when speculation about the end-times is more natural to us than reciting a berachah -- then we know that the deep structure of our religious life is Hebrew Christian and has been untouched by the drastic changes in the surface structure of our movement.

We in Hashivenu believe that the radical innovation initiated in the 70's with the birth of "Messianic Judaism" -- founded on first century precedent but radically "new," nevertheless -- has not yet been brought to its logical conclusion. The deep structure must now be transformed.

When we say that Messianic Judaism is "a Judaism," we are also acknowledging the existence of other "Judaisms." We do not deny their existence, their legitimacy, or their value. We are not the sole valid expression of Judaism with all else a counterfeit. We recognize our kinship with other Judaisms and believe that we have much of profound importance to learn from them, as well as something vitally important to share with them.