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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

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Should We Just Discontinue Bar Mitzvahs?

The following is an interactive message, presented through question and answer interaction with the congregation, rather than as a lecture. You are invited to do the work of forming your own responses to the questions presented concerning the texts included in this message.

TORAH READING – From Vayikra/Leviticus 26:3 - 27:34
26:3 If you follow My laws and faithfully observe My commandments, 4 I will grant your rains in their season, so that the earth shall yield its produce and the trees of the field their fruit. 5 Your threshing shall overtake the vintage, and your vintage shall overtake the sowing; you shall eat your fill of bread and dwell securely in your land.

6 I will grant peace in the land, and you shall lie down untroubled by anyone; I will give the land respite from vicious beasts, and no sword shall cross your land. 7 You shall give chase to your enemies, and they shall fall before you by the sword. 8 Five of you shall give chase to a hundred, and a hundred of you shall give chase to ten thousand; your enemies shall fall before you by the sword.

9 I will look with favor upon you, and make you fertile and multiply you; and I will maintain My covenant with you. 10 You shall eat old grain long stored, and you shall have to clear out the old to make room for the new.

11 I will establish My abode in your midst, and I will not spurn you. 12 I will be ever present in your midst: I will be your God, and you shall be My people. 13 I the Lord am your God who brought you out from the land of the Egyptians to be their slaves no more, who broke the bars of your yoke and made you walk erect.

HAFTARAH READING - From Yirmeyahu/Jeremiah 16:19 - 17:14
19 O Lord, my strength and my stronghold,
My refuge in a day of trouble,
To You nations shall come
From the ends of the earth and say:
Our fathers inherited utter delusions,
Things that are futile and worthless.
20 Can a man make gods for himself?
No-gods are they!
21 Assuredly, I will teach them,
Once and for all I will teach them
My power and My might.
And they shall learn that My name is Lord.

Chapter 17

1 The guilt of Judah is inscribed
With a stylus of iron,
Engraved with an adamant point
On the tablet of their hearts,
And on the horns of their altars,
2 While their children remember
Their altars and sacred posts,
By verdant trees,
Upon lofty hills.
3 Because of the sin of your shrines
Throughout your borders,
I will make your rampart a heap in the field,
And all your treasures a spoil.
4 You will forfeit, by your own act,
The inheritance I have given you;
I will make you a slave to your enemies
In a land you have never known.
For you have kindled the flame of My wrath
Which shall burn for all time.

. . . 12 O Throne of Glory exalted from of old,
Our Sacred Shrine!
13 O Hope of Israel! O Lord!
All who forsake You shall be put to shame,
Those in the land who turn from You
Shall be doomed men,
For they have forsaken the Lord,
The Fount of living waters.

14 Heal me, O Lord, and let me be healed;
Save me, and let me be saved;
For You are my glory.

17 When we had come to Jerusalem, the brethren received us gladly. 18 On the following day Paul went in with us to James; and all the elders were present. 19 After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. 20 And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, "You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed; they are all zealous for the law, 21 and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. 22 What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. 23 Do therefore what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow; 24 take these men and purify yourself along with them and pay their expenses, so that they may shave their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you but that you yourself live in observance of the law. 25 But as for the Gentiles who have believed, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from unchastity." 26 Then Paul took the men, and the next day he purified himself with them and went into the temple, to give notice when the days of purification would be fulfilled and the offering presented for every one of them.

1. What bearing might our Torah passage have upon the question of whether we should continue to have Bar/Bat Mitzvahs and what they should mean?

2. This Haftarah passage makes it clear that forsaking Hashem and serving other Gods has dire consequences. By what measure can Israel be assured that it is serving, rather than departing, from the service of Hashem?
3. How can we demonstrate that our allegiance to Yeshua the Messiah is not idolatrous?

4. Paul is commonly assumed [wrongly] to be the person who declared obedience to Torah to be outmoded. How does this passage demonstrate that he did not consider obedience to Torah to be outmoded for Jews living in community?

5. Does this passage simply show Paul obeying Torah, or is he, more broadly, adhering to the patterns of Jewish piety? How do you know?

6. How does this passage demonstrate that a Torah honoring way of life is especially the responsibility of Messianic Jew, and not equally all Yeshua-believers.

7. What does this passage have to say concerning whether we should or should not continue to have Bar/Bat Mitzvahs?

8. What does this passage have to say about the meaning of a Bar/Bat Mitzvah? [Hint: it is not simply a way of identifying with our people nor of pleasing the family!]

9. How would having Bar/Bat Mitzvahs while being an essentially non-observant community send a confusing message to the next generation?

10. What would you say to someone who said that Messianic Synagogues should discontinue Bar Mitzvahs and Bat Mitzvahs and substitute a ceremony called a “Bar/Bat Chesed--A Child of Grace, open to all in the congregation, whether Jew or Gentile? Defend your answer through reference to today’s lesson.