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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.

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Sunday, January 02, 2005

Hashivenu Core Principle #5 - On Rabbinic Tradition

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

Hashivenu Core Principle #5 states: The richness of the rabbinic tradition is a valuable part of our heritage as Jewish people.

Although weaned and wooed to believe that our New Covenant faith was based on the Bible and nothing but the Bible, "the only rule of faith and practice," we gradually discovered that living out our faith inevitably had a cultural component. The Bible cannot be understood apart from a community context, which helps one understand its deepest meanings. In this way, obedience might become incarnate in daily life. We realized that having our views shaped entirely by a non-Jewish context was leaving a foreign imprint on our hearts, minds and lives. We wondered if this was the best we could expect.

Many of us had been brought up ignorant of, or even hostile to, the varied voices of Jewish tradition. Some had parents who paid lip-service to the G-d of our fathers, while in reality served the lesser G-ds of assimilation, success, and the unquestioned ideals of a good marriage, a home of their own in a good neighborhood, a comfortable retirement, and a better lifestyle for their children. Although these ideals were not unworthy in themselves, they become a form of idolatry when they get treated as the ultimate good. This form of idolatry can never, in the end, satisfy a people formed by HaShem to show forth His praise. But, we had been taught by omission not to look to Jewish tradition to learn how to live "the good life" in the modern world.

Certainly, our evangelical contexts taught us to distrust the opinions of "the rabbis" whose views on life and faith were perceived as a deceptive and legalistic counterfeit of the more abundant life to be found in Yeshua. After all, we had the Holy Spirit! What could we possibly learn from the rabbis except dead religion? "The letter kills but the Spirit gives life." Eventually, we recognized the superficiality of our judgments. We began to reckon with the fact that the proclaimed polarity between Torah and Spirit distorts the testimony of Scripture. We came to appreciate that New Covenant benefits include the Holy Spirit writing the Torah on our hearts, therefore causing us to walk in the statutes and ordinances of G-d. We began to appreciate the unity of Torah and Spirit.

We also began to appreciate how our own spiritual lives stood to benefit from the fruit of thousands of years of Jewish struggle for understanding. Like Paul, we began to bear witness to the undying flame of Jewish zeal for G-d. We began to lean upon these structural pillars, which stabilize Jewish religious life, understanding that they could help strengthen us and the Messianic Jewish community as well.

And what are these three pillars? The first is Torah, instruction for the good life based on the study of the sacred texts. This practice is helping us become more deliberate and informed in discerning the shape of obedience as we encounter life in all its complexity and particularity. Here, too, we learn afresh of the saving acts of G-d, of His promises, and see a reflection of His face.

The second pillar is avodah, the practice of liturgical prayer, which continues to surprise and delight us in its power to enrich our lives. In daily davvening we take our place with our people in the promises and purposes of G-d, reminded again and again of His irrevocable promises to the Patriarchs. We sing His praises with them at the shore of the Red Sea, celebrating our deliverance, sobered by the righteous judgment that overtook our foes, of which not one was left. We hear again and again, as if for the first time, His promise to gather our people from the four corners of the earth, for not one letter of His word will go unfulfilled. Is He not the Blessed One, who says and performs, who decrees and fulfills? We rediscovered daily the faith-transforming power of the Passages of Praise, the time-honored wisdom of the prayer agenda mapped out in the Amidah, and the stability and challenge encountered as we join our people at the foot of Sinai, listening again to the living word of the one who never stops saying to us, "Shema Yisrael." And we leave His presence reoriented and renewed, having again pledged allegiance to Him in the stirring words of the Alenu.

The pillar of gemilut hasadim, deeds of lovingkindness, supports and informs us as we learn to understand the meaning of "true religion," which one New Covenant writer defined as "visiting orphans and widows in their affliction and keeping oneself unspotted by the world." His is a vision totally consonant with this third pillar. The splendid and rich tradition of Jewish ethical writings and discussion of the fine print behind "doing justly, loving mercy and walking humbly with your G-d" never ceases to chasten us, providing teaching, rebuke, correction, and training in righteousness, that we might be fully equipped for every good work.

In all these ways and more, we have become informed and transformed by our own heritage. We rejoice at the privilege of drinking from our own wells, the wells from which our fathers, and from which Yeshua and the Apostles also drank and were sustained. Besides these wells we meet with Yeshua today, and here He speaks with us anew.

At 2/01/2005 1:48 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Kol hakavod! Rasid,

I, in part, wanted to be sure of my place in the World to Come, and also had some questions on this core principle. Here goes:

1. While understanding, and deeply identifying witht this value, how do we define this? I've often wondered what the term "the rabbi's" or "our sages" really means. I must confess the I've used these terms to refer to a "consensus opinion" (if such a thing is possible in Judaism), yet also wonder: which rabbi's? which tradition? How can all the dessenting voices, the differing schools, and radically opposed views among the "rabbi's" all be lumped together to formulate the statement "our Jewish tradition says..."?

2. Okay the first question was long, but the second is even more poignant: Once we establish what we mean by "our Jewish tradition", how far do we take it? Although, I greatly admire, respect, and otherwise support R. Elk and Aaron, I think their approach is flawed. I've often said, "it's not Rabbinic Judaism + Yeshua; but Rabbinic Judaism x Yeshua." Where it is the product of an interminglying, and thus a varied, reconstructed type of Judaism. Such a Judaism is informed by Rabbinic tradition, and yet not just a composite of all that Orthodox Torah Judaism has to offer with Yeshua "sprinkled" on (which I don't think R. Elk and Aaron are trying to do, but which I think we can all be guilty of doing at times). Or to offer another example we sometimes seem to build a Rabbinic Judaism, Yeshua-following like a sandwich (each piece added to make a composite whole), rather than a stew (no pun intended--cholent if you like) where everything is thrown together and set to cook together making a mixture far more rich than each ingredient separately.

Okay, well just some thoughts and quesitons...hopefully I will be granted my share in the Olam Haba.



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