In recent months I have watched with some dismay as multiple people around me have strongly considered or actually taken the leap and converted to Judaism. The move itself is not so problematic except that the conversion process generally demands a firm denial of Yeshua as the Messiah and that is monumental.
My journey out of a Christian pulpit and to the Hebrew roots of the faith began when I started to evaluate many of the traditions I had been handed. Each traditional understanding of Scripture, handed down from Christian theologians for up to 1600 years, had to be evaluated against what Scripture actually said. And, central to it all was the looming question regarding Yeshua/Jesus as the Messiah.
I knew coming into the study that Christianity had some things very wrong, but experience told me that somethings were right. The key was to tease out the valuable elements and leave the rest behind. I was a bit perplexed as I began exploring many sources of information to find that Judaism, like Christianity, was filled with traditional interpretations that simply do not add up to Scripture. Ultimately, I came to a place wherein I firmly stand today. BOTH Christianity and Judaism have violated the Torah of Moshe and each moved to, whether by accident or design, a place well removed from the simple reading of the Word.
We are warned, all of us, in Deuteronomy 12:32,
“Whatever I command you, you shall be careful to do; you shall not add to nor take away from it.”
Christianity has consistently taken away by removing the Feasts of the Lord, eliminating (technically: changing) the Sabbath, and throwing out the dietary instructions while Judaism has consistently added to the simplicity of the Torah with huge expansions to the requirements. The result is that both Christianity and Judaism are religions. (I am an equal opportunity offender.) Ultimately, any student of religious history as it affect these two groups will quickly recognize that they define themselves not by the Scriptures so much as against each other. It is a millennia old story of religious leaders with vested interests protecting themselves.
Buried within both religions are many pieces of the truth, some more obvious than others. Ironically, both religious leaders know the truth about Yeshua and the Torah, but admission would reduce their own incomes and power bases. Really sad… but, I digress.
In the first year of my studies as I was shedding traditions, one requirement in retooling my faith was to prove or disprove the Christian claim that Yeshua appears throughout the ‘Old’ Testament. I knew I had experienced something in my faith-walk with Yeshua, but was it real and could I validate what I had been taught?
The average Christian has heard that “Jesus is on every page” but few have actually had to prove it. My first study led me to dig deeply into the ‘Angel of the Lord‘ mentions throughout the Torah, Joshua and Judges in particular. The above linked article shares an abbreviated study sheet that I put together, but like many articles on this site, has ‘pingbacks’ in the comments that link to related articles. I spent weeks just mulling the richness of the many Angel of the Lord appearances where this visible being accepts worship and makes claims only God can make! The characters in the text clearly state, in multiple places, that they had ‘seen God.’ Irrefutable unless we accept the blinders of false traditions and false teachers.
Next, I stumbled onto the Memra de Yeya, a Jewish personification of Yehovah in the Targumim, authoritative Aramaic translations of the Torah that date to the second Temple period. I was amazed when I understood where the Apostle John got the idea that the ‘Word was made flesh.’ I was so intrigued by the 100+ occurrences of the Memra in the Onkelos and Yonatan that I took the time to mark every one in my trusty NASB so I can see them every day when I read in the Torah. While it is a tedious process, to find these for yourself, go to this set of Pentateuchal Targumim and search each set for ‘Memra.’ It is worth your time to read the verses where these appear and ponder what is actually being said.
From here I began to understand the Voice of God, the Mouth of God. The One who is the visible and exact representation of the Father.
Maybe others could walk away from Yeshua, but I had not only experienced Him, but now understood exactly what He meant when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM!” He said similar to Moshe from the burning bush…
Only after I had really spent time with just Scripture did I begin to consider other sources. My initial desire was to find my way by the Ruach and not be influenced one way or the other by sources. But, once firmly planted in my new soil of Torah observance and understanding of who the Messiah is. Several Jewish authors that impacted me come to mind. Most significant, Rabbi Itzhak Shapira’s The Return of the Kosher Pig, gave me a wealth of information from Jewish thought regarding Yeshua as the Messiah. While he draws from the sages to reveal more vistas of the Yeshua as the Messiah, he is quick to admit that he presents a minority opinion. The point though is that parts of Judaism know Yeshua is the Messiah. The single most memorable illustration from that book for me was revealed in my article Evan, the cornerstong, revealing Mashiach.
Jewish author, Asher Intrater, wrote another excellent book, Who Ate Lunch With Abraham, that I read and reviewed with one minor reservation. While much lighter reading than Shapira, here was an easy “to digest” source that I could hand to others who needed some confirmation regarding Yeshua as the Messiah.
Only after six years on this journey did I dare pick-up a major Jewish book of theology from the Chassidic stream of thought. In the Introduction and Foreword of Tanya, I discovered Malchut, a clear and engaging explanation from Jewish (Chassidic) thought as to how the almighty reveals Himself so we can interact. They may as well have been copying verses and concept from the Brit Chadashah (New Testament). Seriously! Now, I am not suggesting Chassidic thought flows from the Brit, I am simply stating that the concepts are so close that only Yeshua could fulfill…
Then, just yesterday, as we discussed Yeshua in the Tanak, I put on a recent video by 119 Ministries concerning the Daniel 9 timeline and was reminded that even Rashi and the Rambam agree that Daniel 9 tells us that the Messiah had to come before the destruction of the Second Temple. If He didn’t then Daniel is a false prophet. Where the Jews fail is in identifying King Agrippa as the one Daniel spoke of. REALLY?!? The simple fact is, Jews and Christians agree that the Daniel 9 timeline required someone come on the scene as the Messiah before the destruction of the Second Temple. Who fits the bill? Bring your candidate, if not Yeshua!
Many are seeking answers that they are not finding in the pews. Finding those answers requires re-evaluating much of the traditions we have been taught. I encourage re-evaluating traditions, both Jewish and Christian! However, in the search for truth, rejecting one religious tradition (Christianity or Judaism) for another religious tradition (Judaism or Christianity) is not the answer. The answer is to come to what scripture actually says and not the lenses of religious traditions that cloud plain and simple meaning.
I agree 100%. Good article. L’Shanah Tova.
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Very well stated Pete! I am so glad to see you addressing this issue. It’s sad to think that some who have such a love for the Truth could be led away from it so easily. Thanks for writing this!
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I refer to your latest discourse on this topic. Unfortunately your approach to the issue and your guidelines do NOT make for Peaceful Reconciliation which is a ‘MUST’ before Mashiach ben David comes to rule over the Nations in the Eternal Universal Kingdom of the God of Israel. HaShem defines His long term Strategy with His People to King Solomon at the time of the inauguration of the 1st Temple as follows:
1 Kings 9:1-9, “3 The Lord said to Solomon,… “I have consecrated this temple you built by making it My permanent home; I will be constantly present there. 4 You must serve me with integrity and sincerity, just as your father David did. Do everything I commanded and obey my rules and regulations. 5 Then I will [bless you] 6 “But if you or your sons ever turn away from me, fail to obey the regulations and rules I instructed you to keep, and decide to serve and worship other gods, 7 then I will remove Israel from the land I have given them, I will abandon this temple I have consecrated with my presence, and Israel will be mocked and ridiculed among all the nations. 8 This temple will become a heap of ruins; everyone who passes by it will be shocked and will hiss out their scorn, saying, ‘Why did the Lord do this to this land and this temple?’ 9 Others will then answer, ‘Because they abandoned the Lord their God, who led their ancestors out of Egypt.”
The Rabbis teach that at the subsequent split ofSolomon’s Kingdom (due to their non-compliance with His Torah) His Shechinah Presence departed from the Land and its People – as He promised Solomon. The Nation was exiled, both Houses, but with the Divine Promise of Return and Restoration (of BOTH Houses into ONE reunited Kingdom). Then, at that time, His Shechinah will Return – like remarriage after divorce! The Symbolism of Rosh HaShanah (Yom Teruah) which we have just commemorated, points to this Return of His Shechinah and our recognition of Him as our King – ONE and ONLY. This will occur on this Day some time in future … when WE, the 2 opposing Houses have reconciled. He cannot force us – just like in a marriage restoration. WE have to reconcile.
Your ‘solution’ to the above issue suggests DIVISION or conditional reconciliation. Certainly, this Messianic issue raises an obstacle which is unacceptable to either of the restoration partners while setting conditions is the order of the day. How do we solve this? Solved it has to be, or there can be no Return of His Shechinah (His Presence) while the division continues.
If we return to Torah, He will Return His Presence to us and return us to His Land. Judah has returned to the Land, so He must be satisfied with their Torah observance and teshuvah (repentance). 10-Israel has not yet returned because, like their forefathers of the ancient 10-Tribed Israel, they still reject Judah’s Torah leadership. They are returning to Torah observance but as interpreted by themselves (like Jeroboam). They are NOT prepared to conform to Judah’s Lawgiver mandate (Ps. 60:7, Gen. 49:10). Till the 2 Houses re-unite, His Shechinah will NOT return.
Now you claim that your Messiah is the One prominent throughout the Scriptures (O.T.). Why then do you persist in promoting a concept and a strategy that puts your Messiah ABOVE the God of the Jews – above the God of Israel? You may protest this statement, but, to the observer from the outside that is indeed what you do.
– You expect Judah to have to accept your Messiah; or at least allow you to ‘come in’ with your constant promotion and insistence for Jews to have to recognize him;
– you thereby insinuate that the God of the Jews, the God of Israel, Whom you claim is the SAME One that you worship, is not sufficient and they need ‘another’- His ‘son’.
If indeed you believe your Messiah is the God of the O.T., then why are you so perturbed at ‘denying’ him? No Rabbi will dream of withholding you from converting to become a servant of the God of the Jews. Your line of thinking and demanding puts another god ABOVE the God of the Jews Whom surely you claim to be worshipping.
It is indeed confusing, also for the Rabbis whom you expect to have to accept you with ‘another god’. The solution is elementary: Become a Ruth who wants to make the God of Judah her God and His people her people. Keep your love affair with your Messiah whom you regard as that God, for yourself. We have an issue here of the two Brides of the God of Israel. No descent person discusses his/her intimate love affair (bedroom affairs) with another. Stop speaking out of your intimate affairs with the One whom you regard as that God of Israel with the other Bride.
Serve the ONE Only True God of Israel, the Creator, with Judah who is the “Guardian of the Word of God” (Rom. 3:2 in your NT) and thus of His House.
On His Arrival, at the Return of His Shechinah – which WE have to make possible by conformance to His requirements – He shall reveal Himself to us and we shall know that He is the God of the Universe!
I would say this in response to khtor. Why does reconciliation always mean us rejecting Messiah? I know you don’t understand at this point, I look forward to being reconciled too, but I won’t reject the one who opened my eyes to the beauty of Torah. Without Yeshua I would never have seen or known. We will not solve this on our own. As it stands, this requires one side to renounce something that is core to who we are. In truth, we, Hebrew roots, or whatever you want to call us, won’t be accepted by Judism unless we reject Yeshua. To those who truly know him, that is just not an option. The sooner we accept these facts, the less frustration there will be. In the words of Dennis Prager, I prefer clarity over agreement.
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In the story of Joseph we come to this place that breaks my heart. Joseph recognized his brothers, but his brothers did not recognize him. Then he wept bitterly. Please pause and think about this. After coming into Torah, realizing who I am and having a very strong desire to be with my ‘brothers’ I made my first trip to Israel over a decade ago. After finding what I thought was genuine acceptance and a narrow open door, I moved to Israel with my young family. We were there a year. I met with many of the Jews that get discussed in Hebrew roots circles. Many nice people, BUT, and it is a big ‘but’, you can get close, but not too close. There will come a point when in very nice, loving terms, you will be told that you need to leave your idolatry and ‘go the whole way’ to Judism. So Joseph weeps…. And this is where we are, weeping waiting to be recognized, so much so that many renounce Messiah, or continue to hold their belief privately, while publicly puttingt on the face of Judism. A mistake in my view. I would not do that, so I’m back in exile. A fellow Hebrew roots brother that was with me for a time in Israel said that he thought this was part of our story, to weep over the loss of the separation from our brothers. I now, sadly agree. I thought it would be different with me, they would love me, if only they would get to know me. I could show them that I was willing to be humble and submit, learn from my older brother. But then, the Cornerstone, that all eventually ALL stumble on, became the elephant in the room. No longer to be ignored, no longer a little side issue that we will ‘deal’ with later. But now, as big as Mt. Zion itself, became the ONLY thing that mattered. So we left, unable to get the visas we needed. So now I’m wiser… as the scripture says, with much wisdom, comes much sorrow. I still love my Jewish brothers, but like our Father Joseph, recognize the facts on the ground. We wait. Faithfully, we wait. Just as in the story, it will take the Father to bring this broken family together. May it be so, soon, and in His time. Shalom to ALL my brothers.
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Bless you brother and thank you for an honest and loving accounting of truth. Yeshua is critical to the restoration. Without Him, we are all, both houses, nothing. We love and walk in patience.
May HE restore us, soon and in our day.
It is not the refusal of Judah to accept NT Messianic believers which is the real problem neither the denial by Messianics nor the ‘keeping quiet’ of some who do convert. Fact is that, as you phrase it, the elephant is in the room. What do we do about that? This was Yosef’s problem. He was a super military strategist for Egypt. He used every strategy he could derive to get his brothers to come to recognize him and thus bring reconciliation to the divided Family as per his dreams which made them get rid of him as a teenager. His brothers opposed reconciliation. They did not recognize the main goal of reconciliation which was what he stood for. A true Yosef would find a way of removing the elephant from the room or at best live with it without upsetting the animal. THAT is reconciliation! In the current real scenario we see both sides unwilling to yield on the issue and pass it on for “God to resolve while they persist in stoking the fires of division!
The real problem with this Messianic ‘elephant’ is that those who consider or even attempt this reconciliation do so with stern conditions: that Judah must accept ‘another God’ whom Messianics offer to them as MORE powerful than the God of Israel Whom they are worshipping. If this were not the case, then these proposing converts should be content to accept the God of the Jews as their God and not present the Jewish defenders of Monotheism with a plurality of Gods which is totally unscriptural. Paradoxically, there are Messianics who claim that their Messiah is indeed the God of the Bible, the God of Israel. Yet, the fact that they also often refuse to stop offering strange gods to Judah, proves that they regard their Messiah as superior to Judah’s One True God.
It is vital that Messianics come to learn more about their topic and the Identity of the One whom they present to Judah as superior. They would then rest joyfully to serve the God of Israel with Judah as ONE reconciled, re-united nation.
Now, you and I are NOT going to achieve to influence either side to the communal admission that their Messiah, whenever He comes, is the ONE True God of Israel Whom both sides worship. So, until then, we have to be ‘wise as serpents’ and NOT present or threaten each other with non-acceptable ‘Gods’ ANY other strategy simply fuels the fires of fatal Division between the 2 Houses.
It is a supremely “Tall Order’ placed before us by HaShem. It needs great humility and perseverance. Until WE solve it between ourselves, it seems unlikely that He will return His Shechinah in order to establish His re-united Kingdom. He certainly is NOT going to force us “back in bed together’ again!
Blessings on those who attempt Reconciliation!