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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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Wednesday, August 24, 2005

What Has Changed in the Role of Torah Now That Messiah Has Come?

The following is an edited and off-the top of my head e-mail I sent to a friend in response to the question captured in the title of this blog entry. "What Has Changed in the role of Torah now that Messiah has come?"

Well, first of all, Messiah redeemed us from the curse found in the Law [as in the Tochacha passages, the curses found at the end of Vayikra/Leviticus, for failure to comply with the Covenant], so that we need not fear the condemnation that comes from failure to comply with Torah.

But on the other hand, the purpose of Torah for Israel was to serve as a means whereby we might collectively glorify God as a Kingdom of Priests and a holy nation. The keeping of Torah has nothing to do with "salvation" and everything to do with honoring God as a people. Since the way of Torah was given by God to our people as a people, I also believe that the Torah way of life is not a matter of one's private interpretation, with each person doing what he/she feels "led to do"" or feels comfortable doing, or, in the horrific model promulgated by some, "we should only be as Jewishliy observant as we were before we believed in Christ." I believe that the way in which the Jewish consensus about Torah has evolved over the years is in the main the appropriate way of life for those of us Messianic Jews who would honor God through Torah. Otherwise, we are, in the name of Torah, [through insisting on private interpretations, and insisting on taking exception to the traditional interpretations] breaking away from the people to whom Torah was given *as a people.*

Part of the key to my thinking is vigilance against and elimination of creeping individualism. I am planning to write a blog posting named "The Kingdom of God is not a Democracy." This is something which is very foreign, and unwelcome in our day and age.

I believe on the basis of Romans 8 as well as Jeremiah 31, that the Spirit is given "that the righteous requirements of the Torah might be fully met in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." I believe that it is the carnal man who is not subject to the Torah, and that a sign of real spiritual renewal is a pliability to the Torah's demands.

Again, the key issue is that the way of Torah was given to a people, and not to a book, or to individuals interpreting that book idiosyncratically. And the way of Torah was given as a way of life whereby the sons [and daughters] of Jacob might collectively honor God. I believe that the Holy Spirit has been sovereignly present and active in the midst of Jewish life and its development. And I believe common Messianic Jewish avoidance of "that Law thing" is symptomatic of spiritual malaise and a need for renewal. . . I

I believe that a sign of renewal among our people, . . in these eschatological times will be a growing fascination with and embracing of Torah and all its demands *out of a Spirit engendered love and irresistable zeal to honor and obey God,* the kind of zealous love that does not think about nor balk at the "inconvenience" of it all.

The "difference" in our relationship to Torah after the comig of Messiah is that In Messiah we obey Torah out of perfect freedom and love (not because we have to or because condemnation will result if we do not), and that this free-choice keeping of Torah is wholehearted, passionate, comprehensive, eager, voraciously hungry for "what else can I do for You?" and Spirit-filled. It will be compatible with Jewish norms, since the Spirit has not been absent from the development of those norms. And again, our obedience must not be a constant way of taking exception to the way our people do things. There must be an end to the missionary impulse: "The rabbis say X, but we say Y." We will also have Yeshua in the gospels primarily, and the other Apostolic Writings secondarily to guide our intepretations and instincts as to what wholistic Torah obedience feels like, what should be our right sense of proportion, the Spirit of the things, etc.

Under the influx of the Spirit, in the kind of renewal of which Torah speaks, it will not occur to Messianic Jews of the Spirit to think and say "I am free to obey the Torah or not," or, "I am free from the Torah." This would be unthinkable for people filled with the kind of love which the Spirit will be inculcating in these days. Rather, such persons will say and think, "I rejoice that I am free to keep Torah in the power of the Spirit to the fullest extent of my ability in a manner which glorifies God the Father and His Son Yeshua the Messiah."

And if we are to be the remnant OF Israel [instead of the remnant OUTSIDE of Israel], we will be like kindling within the Jewish people, sparking this kind of renewal. There will and must be continuity between OUR Torah and the development of Torah obedience throughout the ages [where God has NOT been absent], but the vitality we will bring, and the Spirit-filled, Yeshua reflecting perspective we will bring will be remarkable, unique and and compelling.

We are meant to be priests to a Kingdom of Priests, and as such, we are meant to be a purer and more focused version of what our people Israel are called to be. This priestly metaphor, the focus of my disseration, is expressed well by Christoph Barth. What he says about the priests can and should be said just as easily about us, the priestly remnant.

"No human being but the Lord, the God of Israel, and he alone installed the priests. Installation by the people could only acknowledge and confirm God's prior installation. The original installation took place at a specific point. It coincided with God's adoption of Israel as his people at Sinai. Adopting the people, God instituted the only legitimate priesthood. God separated the priests or set them apart (Num. 8:14), he took them (3:12), chose them (16:5, 7), and consecrated them (Exod. 31:13), as he also did Israel as a whole. Installation was not set over against adoption. God separated, took, chose and consecrated both the larger circle of the whole people and the smaller circle of the priesthood, with himself at the center of both circles. The priests might be described as especially holy, but their purer holiness was only a symbol of the holiness of all God's people. There might also be special covenants with the priests and Levites (Num 25:12-13), but these special covenants can be understood only within the context of the general covenant that God made with all Israel" (Barth 1991:153, emphasis added).

[Following is some additional material not included in the e-mail above. It is all from my dissertation].

Charles A. Anderson interacts compellingly with the argument some adduce at this point, that Hebrews teaches that the Law has been done away with now that Messiah has come.

The following material concerning Anderson's views is quoted from some of my dissertation research

Here again it becomes obvious that the standard view of the letter is distorted due to the presuppositions and the Paul-colored glasses worn by exegetes and indeed by the Western theological tradition.

Anderson redraws the boundaries concerning what is said about "that law that has been done away with" in the Letter. He states that the Letter never "makes nor assumes a wholesale onslaught against the Law as such nor against Judaism as such." Indeed, in Hebrews the author is not in any sense setting at variance Christianity as over against Judaism. Rather, he sees the religion of Hebrews (which he unfortunately terms "a Christianity") as being "oriented primarily if not exclusively toward Jews. This form of Christianity, while opposing cultic or temple Judaism in the strongest possible terms, nevertheless considers itself Jewish, not just in a metaphorical but in a quite literal sense (1989:258). Of course, this perspective is 180 degrees removed from the standard Christian construal which thinks in appositional categories, and speaks naturally of Christ versus Moses, and Christianity versus Judaism. However, this is not the world of the Letter to the Hebrews.

Anderson states later that Hebrews is dealing with different questions than those arising in the context of modern Christian theologizing. In contrast to these, he says, "Here we deal with questions such as the following: 'Does the community envisaged in Hebrews keep the whole Torah or any part of it? What is the relationship in Hebrews between covenant, the people, and the Torah?'" (1989:269). To Anderson, it is clear that the recipients of the Letter do indeed keep part of Torah and that the bond between covenant, the people and Torah remains intact. This is a very Jewish world!

Once we see things in concert with Anderson, the overdrawn discontinuity that modern evangelicalism interposes between the two Testaments and upon which is erected the edifice of a theological tradition of and old versus a new Israel simply vanishes. With Anderson's paradigm in place, it is not only possible, but necessary to construct a Messianic Jewish ecclesiology that gives due weight to Israel as the people of God, the people of Torah, the people of the covenant. Israel remains a kingdom of priests and a holy nation in both Testaments! Furthermore, it becomes clear that it is the theological tradition of the West which has wrested the text from its context, missed its meaning, and used it as a pretext for ecclesiological conclusions alien to authorial intent.

But, is there no law that is done away with the coming of Messiah? Most certainly there is! Anderson affirms that Hebrews 7:11-12 refers only to a change in legislation as it regards the cult, sacrifice and priesthood, not to a wholesale jettisoning of the Law of Moses. Discussing the use of the passive verb nomotetheo as used in this context, Anderson states "7.11 refers to specific commandments concerning the Levitical priesthood and their sacrificial service to the people, nothing more. . . . Those commandments were of course part of the Torah, but not its totality. . . . The Torah as such never enters the picture" (1989:269-270).

In other words, the change in law spoken of in 7:12 refers only to priestly law due to a change in priesthood, from the order of Aaron to that of Melchizedek. Contrary to the widespread evangelical assumption of overwhelming discontinuity in Hebrews, Anderson indicates that "What is referred to in 7.12 is the one elemental discontinuity permeating the epistle, the cultic life of Israel. . . It is 'liturgical law' (8.2,6), and only liturgical law, that is changed in Hebrews. Inferences concerning other aspects of Torah or the Torah as such are unwarranted" (1989:270, emphasis added). This is a different religion than gentilized Protestant evangelicalism. Messianic Judaism would do well to model itself more after Hebrews in keeping with Anderson's perspective, than after the appositional models current in evangelicalism.

Whereas discontinuity between the former and the present times is vigorously affirmed in Hebrews it must not be extended beyond the limits set for it there. Rather than covering the entirety of Torah, it applies only to cultic legislation. And rather than proclaiming, as Paul did, a new ethnic principle inherent in the new covenant which constitutes a fundamental departure from the first covenant, Hebrews contains no evidence of an envisaged rupture between traditional Israel and the heirs of the new age. In Israel then and now are found both those whose apistia ('unfaithfulness') barred them from inheriting the rest and those whose faith qualified them for it. The "seed of Abraham" (2.16), whose salvation is at stake, is "Israel." (272-273)

The arguments in Hebrews regarding Law and covenant are misunderstood if confused with Paul's argument concerning the incorporation of the gentiles into faithful Israel. The religious world of Hebrews is narrower and more traditional than Paul's. With the one fundamental exception relating to the cult, the Torah is still valid for those to whom it was given by Moses. No break with Jewish tradition apart from priesthood, sacrifice, and temple is assumed in Hebrews. Discontinuity centers upon cult, not Torah. Of course, cult implicates Torah. But Torah is a larger category, and apart from priesthood and other cultic aspects, is left untouched by the critique of Hebrews. The new covenant does not imply a new Torah, but a "changed" Torah in which earlier cultic legislation is replaced.

At 8/26/2005 11:26 AM, Anonymous Chayamindle said...

Along with your own spiritual writing masterpieces, I think you & your readers might also appreciate the article below by Rabbi David Aaron.

Rabbi SD, would you be kind enough to share with us from your own wealth of Torah knowledge & abundance of practical wisdom what you believe the specific applications his insights may have for those who are personally struggling with, questionning,&/or attempting to work out the "Biblically defensible specifics" of a "messianicly correct", edifying level of halakhic observance~~~the prescriptive "Do's" and the prosciptive "Don'ts" of the Mitzvoth of Shabbat, Kashrut, Taharat ha Mishpocha,Yontefs, etc.

With much appreciation--

Jewish World Review August 26, 2005 / 21 Menachem-Av, 5765

You get back what you put in

By Rabbi David Aaron
The Joys of a Commandment-Driven Life

| The Zohar, which is a Jewish mystical classic, written two thousand years ago, states a frightening and harsh prediction. It says that there will come a time when people will be performing tradition and rituals like cows eating grass, and that this generation will be almost completely destroyed. Let's try to understand what this means.

Essentially, the cow chews its food, stores it and then chews its cud, thereby re-chewing the food, over and over again. The Zohar is using this metaphor as a symbol for something that is done mindlessly without intention or taste. In Jewish tradition there is a concept called taamei mitzvos, which can be described as the "reason for the commandments." But taamei mitzvos can also mean the "taste of the commandments." In Hebrew, taam means both "taste" and "reason" — and there is definitely a connection between the two. Without understanding the reason behind the life of commandment it can become mindless and tasteless.

Imagine a man who observes Sabbath, but it has no meaning to him — no taste. The only thing that keeps him doing it is guilt, or respect for the tradition, or simply habit. Without his understanding the meaning behind the observance, it will eventually stop sooner or later, in this generation or the next.

An experience I had working with a Jewish youth group describes how this translates down the line to the grandchildren. I was hired to try to rejuvenate interest for Judaism among the participants, and I thought a "Sabbath Experience" would be a great idea. So I presented my plan to one of the chapter presidents, a girl of about 16 or 17. She looked at me in total shock. "Sabbath!" she exclaimed incredulously. "Do you mean no tearing toilet paper?" This was the first thing that came to her mind. I said "Sabbath" and she thought "toilet paper." So in jest I said, "Yes! Haven't you ever tried that? For thousands of years Jews get together, put a roll of toilet paper on a table, sit around the table and chant, 'Don't tear it, don't tear it!'" She looked at me with an expression that said "Is this guy for real?" And then she said, "You know, I always wanted to ask a rabbi, 'are you allowed to flush on Sabbath?'" Imagine this is the question she always wanted to ask a rabbi.

Perhaps partial ignorance is even a greater problem than complete ignorance. At least when we know nothing, we don't have bad feelings. But partial ignorance can translate into a total distortion. It would have been better for the girl to be completely ignorant of Sabbath than to have been taught to think of toilet paper in association with the most beautiful of Jewish celebrations. As a result she is not even open to experience an authentic Sabbath. Her reaction and associations are but a symptom of the real disease: she does not know (or is confused about) who she is and who her ancestors were. And she will have nothing real to say to her children about Sabbath. Sabbath has no taste for her.

We can perform the commandments and the traditions like cows eating grass. They chewed before, they chew now, and they'll chew later because they chewed before — and that's when religious life starts breaking down. That's when children say to their parents, "Why should I do this? This is not interesting. This is restrictive and meaningless." And that's when parents respond, "You should. You must. You have to." Rarely do people respond positively to empty demands; instead, they rebel against them. People respond to what they find fascinating, relevant, inspirational and meaningful. Most people do what they want, not what they should.

Smoking is a great example of this phenomenon. Tobacco companies discovered that the Surgeon General warnings on the packages actually promote smoking. In fact, I heard that the companies are printing the warnings bigger than they are legally required. You see, people want to feel like the macho Marlborough man. They want to face death, puff in its face, and say, "I am not afraid. I am tough. I know how to take risks." So to say "you shouldn't" isn't always an effective way to encourage people to do what is good for them. They have to want to do it.

But getting excited about the commandment driven life requires having a reason. We're missing the real meaning behind it all. And without meaning, tradition becomes stale, and commandments become heavy burdens.

The Torah (Bible) recounts how, before Moses came down from Mt. Sinai with the first set of the tablets of the Ten Commandments, G-d told him that the Jewish people have created an idol — a golden calf. But Moses wasn't alarmed; he was determined to bring the Jewish people the commandments, nonetheless. But, as he descended the mountain and saw the Jewish people dancing and singing around the golden calf, he suddenly threw the Tablets down and broke them. Why? Why did he lose his determination? The answer is that G-d told him about the golden calf, but G-d did not tell him that the people were dancing and singing. Moses may have imagined the people sitting beside the golden calf, crying, because they had lost hope in their leader returning. Surely, they would rejoice as soon as they saw him! Instead, they were happy with a golden calf. Incredulously, Moses recognized that if the people could be happy with a golden calf, they could not have comprehended the great gift that he was about to bring them from G-d. The Talmud further explains that as Moses came down the mountain, his incredulity and horror rising at the scene fore him, the letters flew off the tablets. When that happened, the tablets became so heavy that Moses couldn't hold them any longer. When the tablets lost their meaning they became lifeless rock.

So it is with the Torah. When it ceases to be the Book of Life then it becomes dead weight — just a heavy burden.

When the meaning and the taste of a Torah life are lost, then there is no love for it and no joy. When a person whom you love asks you for a favor, it is easy to do it, it's a pleasure. But when you don't like the person, the favor can be the hardest thing in the world because there are no good feelings surrounding it.

The Talmud says that when people accept the Torah with joy and happiness, these feelings are guaranteed to be long lasting. But when people accept Torah with anger or feelings of coercion, though they may observe its commandments for a while, eventually they reject them and everything breaks down.

Imagine somebody suggests to you that you should tell your spouse "I love you" three times a day. Sounds like a great idea. You wake up in the morning and start rushing off to work. "Oh, my gosh!" You hurry back and say, "Honey, I love you. See you later."

You're having a busy day, lots of big deals in the make, and it's now two o'clock — oh, no! You call up your wife and say, "Hey, sweetheart, it's me. I love you. I'll call you later."

You get home exhausted, fall asleep on the couch and — oh, no — it's two o'clock in the morning! You panic, run to the bedroom: "Oh, honey, honey, wake up!"

"What is it?" she asks with alarm.

"I love you, goodnight."

So what would happen if that kind of behavior went on and on? Would it keep you ever mindful of your loved ones presence and significance in your life? Or would it become a burdensome obligation? Is it a good idea to tell your spouse "I love you" three times a day, or is it a bad idea?

The answer to that question is up to you. The intentions that you put into it are what you'd get out of it. If a person says "I love you" with no meaning, no feeling and no understanding, then those words will get in the way of the relationship. But it is a truly great idea to tell your spouse regularly that you love him or her. You just have to put a little something into it — a little consciousness and understanding.

The same thing goes for the commandments. The Torah gives us ways of connecting to G-d and each other, spiritual strategies for living a more complete, meaningful and enlightened life, but we have to put a little soul into it. I can have a powerful lamp, but if I don't know how to plug it in, it's not going to turn on.

The Zohar offers a great parable for this concept. The Zohar describes the commandments as garments. By itself a garment cannot keep you warm; it can only keep the heat inside your body from escaping. Imagine you have the flu. You can have several blankets draped over you and you can still be shaking. The blanket only reflects your own body heat, gives you back what you put out. If you are cold inside, then nothing you put on the outside is going to help you.

In this way, the Zohar is teaching us that the commandments — such as celebrating Sabbath, keeping kosher, or doing acts of kindness — can only give back to us what we put into them. The commandments are like garments. They were meant to be put on and not to be a put off.

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