I am sad today, quite sad. I was talking to a young believer in Yeshua and getting a read on what many of his generation think of the things I stand for. Not nice. Not nice at all. What made me sad was not so much being discounted and disparaged, although that was there, and that hurts. But more than that, what saddens me is this: I feel terrified that many of these young people are on a collision course with the dissolution of the Jewish people—that is, the destruction of Jewish community and the Jewish future, certainly in the Diaspora. And to the extent that any work I have done in the past in any manner contributes to this, I am terrified and I repent.
You’re listening. Good. Here’s the problem.
My young friend told me this that he had heard from another young leader among Jews who believe in Yeshua. He is in Israel: “He told me that the craziest thing he sees in the States now is the fact that Believers want to go BACK to Torah. We have evolved, we have new places to worship besides the 'traditional' synagogue, we should do something different as believers.”
In further discussion my friend told me that such people believe the Torah is passé now that Yeshua has come. It’s all been fulfilled. And therefore, people like myself who advocate for a Messianic Jewish return to Torah are sadly misguided, old dinosaurs, who are not hip to the new Torah-free evangelistic thrust winning enthusiasm in some circles.
I am horrified. Grief stricken. Disheartened.
I wish I could sit these young people down and ask them this question: What is the impact of your philosophy going to be on your grandchildren and great grandchildren? Consider also the fact that most of you, and your children, and your grandchildren and great grandchildren will marry non-Jews. That is a statistical given. Against such a background, given the position you are taking, what kind of relationship will your grand children and great grandchildren have to the Jewish community? I will tell you. At best, the Jewish people will be seen as a target audience for evangelistic efforts, but above all, the Jewish people will become “them.”
Do you think that the Messiah came so that we would become strangers to the Jewish heritage, and strangers to our own people? Do not doubt that this will happen, things being as they are. It is already happening.
And above all, try thinking about seventy years in advance. I am not asking if your great grandchildren will remember they have Jewish roots. They may, they may not. I am asking will they know themselves to be part of the Jewish community, and the Jewish commmunity a part of themselves?
The answer is No. They will not. And if, God forbid, that does not matter to you, then know this. It matters an awful lot to me. And if that makes me a dinosaur, hear me roar.
Photo at head of blog, By Fourbyfourblazer (Own work) [CC BY 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
It is almost a comfort to hear the roar, it means you care. We attended a graduation for the son of one my husband's long time friends. His friend was raised Jewish and Lutheran. There I met his mother who is both lovely and troubled. She is adamant about never converting to Christianity, but also proud that both of her children have married out and assimilated so nicely. While I listened to her stories of how how she was raised and how the family lost more and more of their Jewish heritage I could not help but be sad. Did the handsome young man who we were congratulating and sending off into the world know the treasure that was sitting at his dining room table (yes he was so glad to see her when she showed up to the party)? This grandmother is their last living Jewish relative and she is quite elderly. As long as we are allowed to be friends in their lives (B'ezrat Hashem) we will not let them forget their beautiful heritage. Someone has got to care...
Keep roaring my friend, keep roaring. As a First Nations person I can see just how my people have being molded into what we are not as well. However, there's always hope and relearning "is" taking place - slowly, but surely.
It seems to me that Jews in the Diaspora have a different problem from Jews in Israel: maintaining their Jewish identity. Believing in Yeshua in the Diaspora compounds the problem, whereas I don't think it compounds the problem in Israel. If you are a Jew in Israel who believes in Yeshua, you will live among other Jews, maintain whatever minimal standard of Jewishness is acceptable to other Jews (apart from your belief in Yeshua), your children will most likely marry other Jews, and raise their children as Jewish.
If you are a Jew in the Disapora, you are already in the minority, and it is a daily challenge to maintain your Jewish distinctiveness. If in addition to the normal challenges confronting you as a Jew in the Disapora you also add belief in Yeshua, you increase the difficulty of maintaing your Jewish identity tremendously.
I think this is why the Messianic leader in Israel has difficulty understanding your point of view, and why you have difficulty understanding his point of view.
Julian, I do appreciate that the situation in Israel is different, but I'm also not sure that it is necessarily difficult to maintain your Jewish identity in the diaspora. In my country, there are Jewish quarters in a few cities, with all the facilities needed for a strong community - shuls, schools, shops, and more. And Yeshua doesn't mean total ostracism - we have Jewish believers who go to regular (non-messianic) shuls and send their children to Jewish schools, for example. But yes, if you don't live in one of these districts, it is harder to be Jewish.
@Julian -- What do you think "being Jewish" will mean for Israeli MJs who ignore or eschew the heritage that defines the identity and characteristics and culture of the Jewish people? Getting it second-hand from generalized Israeli secular culture does not provide the foundation for its future continuity. Secular Israel cannot complete the restoration of Jewish peoplehood without recourse to our ancient religious culture and civilization. The less-religious or even non-religious Jews who helped restore the physical infrastructure of the modern State of Israel, and their children who continue to serve in the IDF and other secular venues, face an impending crisis of identity and of justification for their very existence in the land vis-a-vis competing Arab claims, Such Jews are limited solely to physical existence in their ability to support the Jewish enterprise in the land. While that is a necessary function, it is insufficient to restore the spirit of the people, which is what Yehezkel saw as a stage of redemption that followed the physical regathering and re-upholstering of dry bones. Religious Israeli Jews (including religiously-observant MJs) continue to provide an example of cultural identity and continuity and "Jewish spirit", as we have done throughout our history of the bi-millennial exile, and we will continue to serve as the conscience of our people to draw us back to our heritage. Israeli "Messianic leaders" who seek to establish or emulate some alternative identity are being quite short-sighted in this matter.
It's an ecological crisis, to parallel the one in nature. The order is changing, and we are much like the frog in the pot that has been slowly boiling, only to realize that the change is upon us. We need a call for Messianic Jewish and Christian ecologists who study not christian people, not messianic jews, but Christian space and Messianic Jewish space. We cannot hope to survive as a people if there is not a conscious awareness and deliberate effort to preserve our heritage in the Lord. I believe we are headed for a major paradigm shift that will cause us to look back on our theological traditions and enter the no-man's land of unity in the Messiah. Things are about to stop being cushy, at least in the west.