Musings of an Orthodox Jew

Thoughts on Torah and the Jewish world today.

Messianic Jews: Are they Jewish?

This is an oft asked question and one you repeated ad nauseum on forums like Yahoo! Answers.  The issue always seems to be: Are Jews that believe in Jesus still Jewish? Are so called “Jews for Jesus”, “messianic jews”, “Completed” Jews or one of the myriad other labels such groups use Jewish?  So, lets first investigate: who is a Jew?

From the Orthodox point of view it is very easily defined: If your mother was halachicly Jewish, you are Jewish. If you had an Orthodox conversion, you are Jewish.  That’s it.  The liberal movements vary from this (mostly in that they obviously accept conversions that are not acceptable to Orthodox) and Reform (and the other even more liberal movements) accept patrilineal descent though only combined with active participation in the Jewish community.

So, let us now assume that an individual who is actually Jewish by the Jewish definition joins one of the messianic movements (and please note, in the majority of these movements the number of people that are actually Jewish is only a small percentage of the total), what is his status?  Simply put, they are an apostate, they are outside of the Jewish community and are not considered part of the Jewish people.

But wait you cry- there is a concept in Judaism that once Jewish, either born or converted, you are always Jewish.  How can you deny this person their Jewishness?  Actually we, d on’t deny their Jewishness; note- above I said that they are outside of the Jewish community and people.  What practical ramifications does this have?

  • They cannot be a member of any Jewish communal organisation (including synagogues)
  • They are not counted towards the minyan (minimum number of people required for prayer)
  • They may not lead the congregation in prayer
  • They may not receive any honours in synagogue (such as being called to recite the blessings on the Torah, carry the Torah, wrap the Torah, open the ark, say communal blessings such as havdalah, lead the service etc)
  • They may not participate in any religious functions (such as weddings)
  • If they do not repent before they die, they may not be buried in a Jewish cemetary
  • If they do not repent before they die the Jewish laws of mourning do not apply to them and the Kaddish (prayer for the dead to help the soul of the deceased) is not said for them

So, what do we mean when we say that they do not loose their Jewishness?   It carries two connotations: one good, one bad.  On the good side: it means is that the path of repentance is always open to them. If they repent and return to Judaism, they are Jewish without the need for a conversion. There are some opinions that state they need to go to a mikveh, that is where it ends.  (Note: this is a modern ruling to be lenient based ont he fcat that the vats majority of Jews tricked into these movements are very uneducated in Judaism.  The Rema in Shulkhan Aruch requires them to appear before a Beis Din, formally renounce their other religion and then to go to Mikveh!).  On the bad side:  If they die before repenting they are judged by the heavenly court as appostate Jews.  This means that they are punished with Kares, their souls permanently cut off from G-d and the Jewish people.

In short, no Jew who believes in Jesus (or any other divine, prophetic or semi-divine figure outside of the beliefs of Judaism, or in any other religion at all for that matter) remains a member of the Jewish community or people. It is the one thing that all the movements within Judaism agree on, even when they often agree on very little else!

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June 26, 2008 - Posted by | Messianic, Random, Torah | , ,

14 Comments »

  1. Yes they are Jewish, and they will remain Jewish until God Hiself declares otherwise. No yeshivah bocher is going to deny this heritage to a Jew. Its the birthright of any Jew to be a child of God.
    You can argue this until the cows come home and I will hold my ground. This is the 21st century and not the dark ages. We are governed by the civil rights laws and by our own bill of rights. Freedom of speech. Freedom of expression and freedom to pray to whatever God we choose. Rabbis are here to protect our rights and to be tolerant.They are not here to point fingers and rain fire and brimstone down on us.

    Marc’s Elmer Gantryism is to be rejected. The next time you try to attack my character like this, your comment will not appear. For those not understanding this reference: Elmer Gantry is a character from a novel who turns preacher in order to make money and seduce women. I do believe I have made my point that I will not allow lashon hara on this page. Any further remarks like this and the entire comment is consigned to the garbage bin.

    Comment by Shoshana | July 3, 2008 | Reply

  2. I’m sorry Shoshana- but the reality is that they are NOT Jewish. They are apostates and outside of the Jewish community. It is not denying their heritage, through repentance they are welcomed back with open arms- but a Jew practicing another religion is an apostate, and if they die without repentance, they loose their portion in the world to come and they are punished with kares- spiritual excission, forever denied coming close to the Divine presence.

    People can believe what they like, say what they like, pray how they like- it does not mean that the Torah agrees with their choices. The Torah was given as an eternal document, not one subject to the whims of whatever era people lived in. Rabbis are here to protect the Torah and to guide people on how best to live their lives in order to follow it. They are DEFINITELY here to point fingers and tell people when they are involved in a soul destroying action like worshiping foreign Gods

    Comment by marcl1969 | July 3, 2008 | Reply

  3. Consider it a victory that Shoshana resorted to a petty attack to try and discredit you with a really ridiculous attack. (I didn’t recognise the reference, but after what you said, I went and looked in wikipedia.)

    Anyone with an Orthodox background recognises that your view is the standard Orthodox one. No orthodox community anywhere in the world will recognise a Messianic Jew as anything but a Christian unless they repent. Its only in the liberal movements that anyone would argue that the Torah is secondary to modern wants.

    Sorry, just did a minor edit to correct some spelling

    Comment by Avraham | July 3, 2008 | Reply

  4. Just one more comment before bed time Marc.

    I presume you make money. You are not in the IT field for charity I hope.

    You do have some form of social life and you are married, so at some time you have, a most normal men , seduced a woman????

    So you too are guilty of Lashon Hara……..right????????

    Comment by Shoshana | July 4, 2008 | Reply

  5. Nope- not everyone speaks lashon hara- its your own issue if you feel that every man has to speak lashon hara in order to befriend a woman. You are aware that people can interract without committing lashon hara.

    And nope- I’m not in the IT field for charity- in fact I’m not in the IT field at all! (I used to be- but that was a couple of career changes ago). I work to pay the bills like everyone else. And guess what- even in my job I stick to halachah and actually asked a shailah of a Rabbi how I could conduct performance appraisals without contravening the laws of lashon hara. Guess what, it is possible to work, be ethical and conduct your life in accordance to halachah.

    Oh, and your other two comments have been consigned to the garbage. I did tell you that lashon hara was not welcome and not allowed.

    Comment by marcl1969 | July 4, 2008 | Reply

  6. Ahh, let her go off her rocker. Undoubtedly she has caught the modern disease of thinking that physicality is important at the cost of spirituality. So, undobtedly she is happy to do anything (or believe any line) that lets her fulfill her pysical needs and can’t grasp the concept that other people don’t think (or behave) like that.

    Comment by Avraham | July 5, 2008 | Reply

  7. Messianic Jews are traitors, they are a cancer that needs to be excised lest it attack the healthy body of Jews. Every Jew they convert into Christianity is another soul lost, anothe rsoul murdered and sentenced to the worst imaginable punishment.

    The Rema states clearly that any convert is a traitor- Messianic Jews are not just traitors, but attempt to turn others into traitors as well, how much worse is this than someone who merely afflicts themselves with this cancer?

    Comment by Chaim | July 8, 2008 | Reply

  8. I suppose calling other religions “cancer” is not Lashon hara. I suppose calling another Jew a traitor is not lashon hara?

    Please define lashon hara. It seems only to apply to Jews who dont agree with your minority group of religious fanatics.

    Comment by Shoshana | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  9. Calling a movement aimed at destroying the soul of Jews a cancer is a mild term really. Christianity is not being attacked here- Chaim attacked a movement whose aim is converting Jews and thus leading their souls into Kares. And it seems you need to study the laws of lashon hara- Try reading the “Guard your tongue”- the English translation of “Shmiras Halashon” by the Chofetz Chaim. And if it doesn’t offend your liberal sensitivities- try studying Rambam on the topic. you will find out that speaking harshly of a movement engaged in converting Jews is not just ok, but required if it will prevent others form making the same mistake. Their is no room for accomodation with those attacking Jews by attempting to convert them- their is only room for making sure that other Jews are informed of their activities and they are prevented from further damaging the souls of Jews.

    And actually-its the vast majority of Jews that calls Messianic Jews traitors- even Conservative and Reform agree with Orthodox on this issue. Just about the only people not doing so are a fringe minority of liberal fanatics in reconstructionist and humanistic Judaism. (and even in those movements the majority reject “Messianic Judaism” out of hand)

    Comment by marcl1969 | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  10. I am an orthodox Jew. I dont insult my own religious calling.
    I will attack the insults to those who have alternate beliefs. Its their right. I am not a Messianic Jew. I dont believe in JC as my Moshiach. I do respect the rights of others. My eyes are not closed by tunnel vision.

    Comment by Shoshana | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  11. Guess it wasn’t you on the MG forum stating that you prayed in a community led by a female Rabbi; that wore a tallis, prayed from the Torah etc? Guess it wasn’t you that posted all those attacks against Orthodox Judaism and saying that Orthodox Judaism had died in the gas chambers of Auschwitz and how we are merely archaic remnants that are dying out? You really should have changed your email before posting here- it was a dead giveaway as to who you are- whether you call yourself by your late mother’s Hebrew name, TexasHick, SilveradoRider or anything else.

    Comment by marcl1969 | July 9, 2008 | Reply

  12. It’s been mentioned in the comments as “traitor”.
    Say the Jew believes JC to be considered as Mashiach, like some Chabadniks consider their Rebbe to have the potential. What’s the difference then?

    I understand Christian groups take him to be divine and 1/3 part of their divinity, but what if the Jew didn’t believe in his divinity. Rather, just followed his teachings like any other Jew follows their rabbis teachings?

    Comment by duvy001 | November 4, 2008 | Reply

  13. The bottom line is as I stated in my post: Any person believing in Jesus is a Christian. Any person that was born Jewish and starts to follow Jesus becomes a Christian and is no longer a member of the Jewish community until such time as they repent and return to Judaism.

    As for Jesus- he was not a Rabbi, he was not a prophet- as far as we are concerned he is completely irrelevant and there is nothing to learn from him. Nor was he a particularly observant Jews- the Christian scriptures themselves have stories of how he broke the halachah- one such example was when he told his disciples to pick and eat barley on the shabbos. (harvesting and then removing the barley seed from its husk are both activities forbidden on Shabbos!)

    In the end, Jesus is irrelevant to Jews- he is not a Rabbi, prophet or anything else for us- just another false Messiah.

    As for those in Chabad who see the late Rebbe as the messiah. yes, they are mistaken and many see them as potentially needing to eb expelled from the fold fo Judaism. However, they do not claim the Rebbe was divine in anyway. they do not claim a virgin birth, that G-d is a trinity, that a single law in Judaism changes because the Rebbe was here. They make a mistake as to him being the mashiach, but they do not alter or change Judaism in anyway at all. “messianic jews” do. They add on non-Jewish books to the Tankah, they believe in the divinity fo Jesus, many believe in a virgin birth. The two cases ar enot equivalents in any way at all

    Comment by marcl1969 | November 4, 2008 | Reply

  14. […] One of the main attacks they tend to base there defense of “Messianic Jews remain Jewish, regardless of there later actions.  Heres a simple reply to that- we do not deny that.  However, we say that they are OUTSIDE the community- for the practical ramifications of this see my earlier post on this […]

    Pingback by A reply to some of the emails from Messianic Jews received… « Musings of an Orthodox Jew | February 3, 2009 | Reply


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