The following is written in response to the blog of Boaz Michael, which I highly recommend, by the way). There have been a series of blogs concerning the publishing of an upcoming book on mezuzahs and an effort to procure kosher-certified scrolls to go inside of mezuzahs for your door post. Additionally, Boaz has been engaged in an on-going dialog with Russ Resnick from the UMJC about the place of Torah in the life of believers in Yeshua. Resnick and the UMJC think the Torah is for Jews only. Boaz and FFOZ believe the Torah is for all who believe (for all who believe are the sons of Abraham).
All of this is inextricably bound up with the place of tradition. Who defines it, who certifies it, to whom does it belong? Should Gentile-believers in Yeshua keep the Torah? If so, who are the proper authorities for determining what it means to not work on the Sabbath? If we put a mezuzah on our door post, are we beholden to do so in the same manner that orthodox Jews do? Orthodox Jews don’t even believe it is acceptable for a Gentile to keep the Sabbath, but require that if you honor it, that you also break it slightly in some manner.
The following are my thoughts on all this. Some of what I say will only make sense if you’ve read Boaz’ blog and the comments posted there.
I submit to you that the reason the “Sharpie guy” is no longer keeping the commandments is more likely that he had no community joining him in his practice rather than that he was “re-inventing the halachic wheel” or was un-jewish in his praxis.
The key to success is that we agree and have a larger community that agrees (at least more or less) with our halachah, not that we be rabbinically Jewish in our orthopraxy. There is such a fine line between thinking that it would be nice to have a kosher klef and thinking that it’s not ok to write your own. In fact, my guess is that it would be more meaningful and “kavannah-inducing” to labor over your own klef in love, pondering how to evidence your reverence for HaShem and His words, than to pay a steep price for one a sofer penned.
Perhaps we need a “One-Torah” halachah for writing a klef, that might not be a bad idea, but we need to remember that God never specified which of His words to write on our door, nor how to write them—the principle served by creating halachah around this practice is two-fold: 1) to aid in having a proper reverence for Avinu and for His Words, and 2) to aid in forming identity as mitzvoth-keeping, Yeshua-believing, worshippers of God.
We need tradition, indeed tradition is critical to the existence of a community—without it there is no community. However, the most important thing to remember about tradition is that it exists to serve principles, and it must always remain so. Traditions can and most likely should change from generation to generation, but the principles (mitzvoth, ordinances, etc.) remain the same.
In urging an affinity with rabbinic Jewish tradition surrounding how to keep God’s commands, we are one small step away from the UMJC’s mistake of seeking to be recognized as a legitimate Judaism–by Judaisms that reject Yeshua. Whatever their reasons today (which are more than understandable) historically they rejected Him. Jamie Guinn made a phenomenal observation in one of his comments, “They want to connect more fully with “Judaism”, we want to connect more fully with the root of Judaism.”
Why is it not arrogance when a Breslover disagrees in halacha with a Lubavitcher, but it is arrogance when a Messianic forms halacha?
There are plenty of stories of individual observant Jews responding positively to individual Messianics observing various Torah commands (tzitzit, etc.), but there are also cases of individuals having negative responses. The issue is not with the action of the doer, but with the heart of the viewer.
There is a historical reality that we must keep in mind. The goal we are seeking is to return to an authentic representation of Yeshua’s belief system and practice. Rabbinic Judaism is just as different an entity from the religious system practiced by Yeshua as is traditional Christianity. They both formed and defined themselves in opposition to the other, and in opposition to the sect of The Way.
There is just as much danger in appropriating modern Jewish halachah as a sort of default as there is in doing the same thing with evangelical tradition. Not a one of us would consider the latter, why are we so tempted to consider the former?
We were grafted into the root, not into one of its offshoots (rabbinic Judaism). We are seeking to partake of the rich sap from that root, not the fruit that one of its branches (a branch that rejected the historical Messiah…not the a-historical Jesus that Christianity has presented) has produced.
I am the first guy to recommend studying and benefiting from the Talmud and the midrash. It reflects in many ways the cultural milieu that Yeshua and his talmidim were formed and influenced by. Ignoring the ancient Jewish writings is a sure-fire way to misinterpret the 1st century writings of the talmidim.
The approval or understanding of greater Judaism ought not be our concern (at least not a guiding one). They will consider the writing of our own siddur arrogance as well. Is it? No.
Granted, the guy with a sharpie may have chosen unwisely in his attempt to walk out the command. But we need not go the other direction and lay significant value on a kosher klef either. A klef can’t be un-kosher. I must confess mine is kosher…so I’m not arguing against using one. Like Justin said, when it doesn’t violate Torah feel free, but let’s not mistake ‘feel free to use” with “this is the preferred method”.
In my opinion, it would be preferable for FFOZ to produce their own tiny scrolls for mezzuzot in a method involving kavannah, fear of God and respect for His word, then to seek rabbinically kosher one’s. Lest some mistake an effort to procure them (and subsequent premium price) as a need for the approval of those men. What we need as a movement is One-Torah halachah at a high level with local community elders providing specific guidance. Always teaching that tradition exists to potentiate the keeping of commandments as a people/community and serves the principle, rather than the commandments being bound to the tradition.