Where did they get the idea that Jews who believe in Jesus are traitors? Most of us know that atrocities committed against Jewish people became even more atrocious when people falsely claimed that their wicked deeds were somehow a service to Christ. Memories of these acts do fan the fires of fear and (subsequently) hostility, yet those fires have also been intentionally fueled for centuries by some of our own Jewish leaders.
Remember that this adversarial stance toward Jewish believers began during Jesus’ ministry…long before anyone was using Jesus as an excuse to persecute Jews. The following paragraphs and quotes show how the commitment to view Jewish believers in Jesus as adversaries has been promoted and promulgated through synagogue liturgy, the Talmud and, more recently, through news media.
Jewish believers in Jesus were most successful in their evangelistic efforts between 70 and 135 AD: the same time frame that a prayer called the Birkat ha Minim (Blessing for the Minim) was introduced into the synagogue service as an addition to the 18 Benedictions which are to be said daily. The prayer was altered in various times and places, but the gist of it was a curse upon the heretics” and upon the Jewish believers in Jesus in particular,
For the renegades (meshummadim) let there be no hope, and may the arrogant kingdom soon be rooted out in our days, and the Nazarenes and the Minim perish as in a moment and be blotted out from the book of life and with the righteous may they not be inscribed. Blessed art thou, 0 Lord, who humblest the arrogant.
Jakob Jocz, Jewish believer in Yeshua and emeritus professor of Wycliffe College, gives ample evidence that “Minim” refers to Jewish believers in Jesus. It is generally accepted that the “Blessing for the Minim” was a test to detect the presence of Jewish believers in Jesus in the synagogue. In keeping with tradition, all such believers would be asked to leave. If you are interested in a scholarly book that traces the history of the Jewish response to Jesus, do pick up a copy of The Jewish People and Jesus Christ, published by Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan.
As in the Birkat Ha Minim, the ancient rabbinic writings make reference to Jews who believe in Jesus as “the Minim” (plural) or “Min” (singular).
But the Minim…Gehinnom is shut in their faces and they are judged there for generations of generations, as it is said, “And they shall go forth and look upon the corpses of the men who sin against me, for their worm shall not die, nor their fire be quenched, and they shall be an abhorring unto all flesh.”
Isaiah 66:24 (T. Sanh. 13:4,5)
Gentiles, and those that keep small cattle and those that breed the same, are neither helped out [of a pit] nor cast into it. The Minim and the apostates and the betrayers are cast in and not helped out.
T. B. Mez. 2:33
Flesh which is found in the hand of a Gentile is allowed for use, in the hand of a Min it is forbidden for use. That which comes from a house of idolatry, lo! this is the flesh of sacrifices of the dead, because they say, “Slaughtering by a Min is idolatry, their bread is Samaritan bread, their wine is wine offered to idols], their fruits are not tithed, their books are books of witchcraft, and their sons are bastards. One does not take from them, or give to them; one does not teach their sons trades, and does not obtain healing from them, either healing of property or healing f life.”
T. Hull. 2:20-21
The ancient writings kept to the strategy of isolating Jews who believe in Jesus from the mainstream community. The same thing is true today, but fewer Jewish people attend synagogue or read the Talmud, so the strategy has been carried out through the media.
Rabbi Yakov Spivak likes to publish articles which are ostensibly “open letters to missionaries,” In his “EMES Report” in the Jewish Press on January 20, 1989, Spivak was supposedly addressing “missionaries” when he wrote:
You are fooling yourselves. You believe Jews will stand idly by while you perpetrate your spiritual atrocities.
(The spiritual atrocity of handing pamphlets to those who may either take or refuse them in public places?)
The following (from Spivak’s same article) is supposedly addressed to missionaries who hand out gospel tracts on Saturdays,
Be prepared to meet the Shmad Squad. The area commander, Chanoch Meir Riell, will be most happy to inform you that you are attempting to make Jews violate the Shabbos by having them carry your fliers on the Day of Rest. You will be politely asked to refrain from your activities. I am confident that the presence of Chanoch Meir and the other, Boruch Hashem, healthy young Jews with him will convince you that a cessation of your endeavors would be the most prudent course of action.
You will discover what happens when you incur Jewish wrath. We invite other organizations to join us in informing you in a myriad of ways that you are interfering with a G-d given mission of the Jewish People. Every group that tried to destroy Am Yisrael in the past met with the same fate that you will meet with.…Especially sickening is your attempt to propagandize Russian Jews in Brighton. These people, generally unaware of who you really are, are your favorite targets.
Is Rabbi Spivak’s letter really written to “the missionaries”? (A missionary is anyone who tells Jewish people of their need to accept Yeshua.) No. Why would Rabbi Spivak tell us what we are supposedly doing? If we had a favorite “target” would we need to be told who it is? It is not “the missionaries,” but the Jewish community Spivak wishes to reach with his alarmist propaganda. His threats to stop us are not for our benefit, but to convince the Jewish community that he is a hero.
You may think that Jewish leaders object to a certain approach or method of evangelism. The Jewish Journal published an article by Rabbi Ben Tzion Kravitz on December 18, 1987 which shows that the real objection is to what we believe, not methods. After a paragraph quoting from a Christian magazine that more Jews have accepted Jesus as their Messiah in the past 19 years than in the past 19 centuries, Kravitz says,
What can the Jewish community do to counter this terrifying trend? How do we respond to the “Hebrew Christian’s” claims that I)they can retain their Jewish identity once they convert, 2) that the Jewish Bible is full of prophetic references to Jesus and that 3) spiritual salvation and a personal relationship with G-d can only come through Jesus?
Kravitz stated the claims of Jews who believe in Jesus very neatly, and calls Jewish acceptance of those claims a “terrifying trend.”
Rabbi Stephen Fuchs repudiates Jews who are for Jesus on one hand:
A Jew for Jesus is no more a Jew than a Catholic who denies Christ is a Christian.
But he admits that the Jewish community is not willing to consider who Jesus is on the other hand:
But what of Jesus himself? Had Jews never been branded Christ killers, had we never suffered as we have in Jesus’ name, what place would this teacher from Galilee have held in our religious tradition?
On this one can only speculate, for Jews have been blinded to Jesus’ merits because of the suffering his followers have caused us. If Christians are to understand Jews, they must understand that the issue of Jesus is so fraught with emotion that we are incapable of discussing it objectively.
from The Banner, November 23, 1987 A Jew looks at Jesus
How can he be so sure a Jew can’t believe in Jesus when he cannot take an objective look at Jesus’ true identity? His insistence on the incapacity of Jewish people to discuss Jesus objectively is supposed to signal that the case is closed; yet we are living proof that the case for Jews believing in Jesus is open. Equally perplexing is the accusation that we are not “Jewish enough” while at the same time, we are discouraged if not barred from participating in Jewish activities! The Jewish Community Center in Dallas, Texas was in turmoil after discovering that several students in one of the courses offered there are Messianic Jews. The story was picked up in newspapers across the country.
Some rabbis have threatened to discontinue instructing the class and the adult studies committee, the JCC staff and board members have forwarded a two-page letter to the Jewish students alerting them to the situation.
“We reject the legitimacy of any claim by Messianic Jews that they remain within the Jewish community,” the letter explains. “They may hold any beliefs they wish, but they are not, by any accepted Jewish standards, Jews,” the letter stated.
National Jewish Post and Opinion, April 19, 1989, Indianapolis, Indiana)
In an interview with Rabbi Howard Wolk of the Orthodox Congregation Tighter Israel for the Dallas Times Herald regarding this situation, Rabbi Wolk said,
These people are more of a threat than Nazis. A Nazi wears a swastika. At least I can tell where he stands.
We need to accept the fact that some of our rabbis have erected a protective shell of anger to keep us away. Perhaps their motives are noble. But instead of helping our people, that shell of anger harms them. It keeps in harmful agents (poisonous prejudice and fatal fear) and blocks out the only hope for true healing and survival: the Sonshine of Yeshua.
Those who wish to discourage our belief in Jesus or prevent us from “spreading” it teach that we are enemies of the Jewish people. Rather than taking this personally, we should understand that the role of adversary has been thrust upon us as a strategy which has nothing to do with us as individuals. The right response is to continue offering the gospel to those who might someday choose to follow the Messiah, just like we did…and to accept rejection from those who are committed to unbelief as part of our service to the Lord.