Core Value #2Torah is God’s Gift to the Jewish People
God’s particular relationship with Israel is expressed in the Torah, God’s unique covenant with the Jewish people.
Within the Messianic movement it is an accepted assertion that the Jewish people have a unique covenant relationship with God and a particular vocation in this world. The Pauline affirmation of the irrevocable nature of the promises, gifts, and calling of God is axiomatic throughout the movement. While opening up new possibilities for the Gentiles and placing them in a new relationship to Israel, the coming of Yeshua does not obliterate Israel’s character as a people set apart with a special destiny.
Neither is the ongoing value of Torah a contentious issue within our ranks. It was the embracing of noteworthy elements of Torah observance, such as Shabbat, the festal calendar, and tzitzit, which distinguished our movement from its inception. Matthew 5:17, with its assurance that Yeshua came to fulfill and not abolish the Torah, is just as foundational for our movement as is Romans 11:29.
It is the connection between these two affirmations that causes some consternation among us. We in Hashivenu believe that the specific observances of the Torah serve as signs of the distinctive character and calling of the Jewish people: “You must keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout the ages, that you may know that I HaShem have consecrated you” (Exodus 31:13). It is emphasized time and again throughout Jewish tradition that the Torah is God’s special gift to the people of Israel: “Blessed are You … who chose us from all nations and gave us Your Torah.”
This is not to say that the Torah is irrelevant to Gentile Christians. Though it addresses a particular people and serves as its national constitution and customs, it also has universal implications. It points prophetically and typologically to the coming of Yeshua and the inclusion of the Gentiles in a covenant relationship with God. The specific ordinances of the Torah also reveal principles which apply beyond Israel’s collective national life. Nevertheless, in all its particularity, the Torah is God’s gift of love for one particular people, the people of Israel.
We in Hashivenu believe that this truth requires emphasis within the Messianic Jewish movement. Though Messianic Jews never cease to attack “replacement theology” (usually known outside our movement as “supersessionism”), we are in danger of failing prey to a more subtle form of the same error. If, in all its ordinances, the Torah addresses Gentiles as much as it does Jews, if it defines the life of the Church as much as it defines the life of the Jewish people, then what remains of Israel’s unique character and calling? In the past Jews who entered the church were compelled to surrender Jewish observance and identity and, as a result, they were assimilated and they and their children lost any sense of being Jews. If, contrary to the Apostolic decree and the Pauline injunction, Gentiles in the church are now encouraged to live just like Messianic Jews, will not the same result occur? And what of the Jews who do not believe in Yeshua? What need is there for them? God now has a people who are truly keeping his Torah-the Church! We are left with a Messianic Jewish movement without any Jews, a movement that loves Jewish things but not Jewish people.
In our second core value, we express our love for the Jewish people, as rooted in the unique divine love for the Jewish people. We also make known our love for Torah as the divine gift to the Jewish people. Last, but not least, we affirm our conviction that this divine gift to Israel, the Torah, manifests this unique divine love for Israel and is not applicable in the same way to the Gentiles.