Core Value #1Messianic Judaism is a Judaism
Messianic Judaism is a Judaism and not a cosmetically altered “Jewish style” version of what is extant in the wider Christian community.
This was the great leap which was taken when we changed our self-designation from “Hebrew-Christian” or “Jewish-Christian” to “Messianic Jew.” We were saying that we no longer saw ourselves as Christians-Presbyterians, Baptists, Episcopalians, Pentecostals, etc.-who happened to come from Jewish ethnic backgrounds. Instead, being “Jewish” is, for us, a fundamental religious category. We are those who by birth share in the covenant God made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and whose ancestors pledged themselves and their descendants to a particular way of life with God at Sinai. Having been born into the covenant, we have also come to recognize Messiah Yeshua as the One sent by God to bring the covenant to its appointed goal.
We expressed this reality by switching our worship day from Sunday to Saturday, by celebrating the biblical feasts, by adopting traditional Jewish religious terminology (such as “rabbi” and “synagogue”) and traditional Jewish religious customs (such as wearing tallit and kippot, having Torah services, and reciting the Shema), by employing selected Hebrew prayers in our services, by singing in a minor key and dancing Israeli dances. All of this was positive and good, though for the most part, superficial. The surface structure is the easiest to change. Of more importance is the deep structure, and this level has proved more intransigent.
The deep structure of religious life consists of the rooted patterns of thought, speech, action and identification reflected in our daily lives as individuals, families, and congregations. How do we think and talk about God, about His involvement with the world and with Israel? What is the actual texture of our daily and weekly religious practice? How is our sense of connection with the Jewish people as a whole expressed?
Too often the deep structure of Messianic Jewish religious life is indistinguishable from that of popular evangelicalism and bears little or no resemblance to any form of Judaism, past or present. When the world is easily divided into the classes of “saved” and “unsaved,” when our speech is peppered with casual references to “what God just did” and “what God just said,” when our exclusive mode of prayer is conversational and begins “Father God” and ends “in the precious name of Yeshua,” when our kids go to Christian schools because the public schools are filled with “satanic influences,” when speculation about the end-times is more natural to us than reciting a berachah — then we know that the deep structure of our religious life is Hebrew Christian and has been untouched by the drastic changes in the surface structure of our movement.
We in Hashivenu believe that the radical innovation initiated in the 70’s with the birth of “Messianic Judaism” — founded on first century precedent but radically “new,” nevertheless — has not yet been brought to its logical conclusion. The deep structure must now be transformed.
When we say that Messianic Judaism is “a Judaism,” we are also acknowledging the existence of other “Judaisms.” We do not deny their existence, their legitimacy, or their value. We are not the sole valid expression of Judaism with all else a counterfeit. We recognize our kinship with other Judaisms and believe that we have much of profound importance to learn from them, as well as something vitally important to share with them.