While I concur with the basic thrust of the recent Mishpochah Message, It’s No Fun Being Shunned,” I was nevertheless concerned with a significant point. I offer two quotes. First, “If a Jewish believer identifies him or herself as a Jew, it is not up to anyone else to say that he or she is not ‘Jewish enough’ or to suggest what he or she ought to do to demonstrate Jewishness.” The second is, “He is the Messiah of Israel and the most Jewish thing any Jew can do is to believe and follow Him.”
In previous Mishpochah letters similar statements have been made. It seems to me that there are logical implications to these statements. If no Jew can suggest to another what ought to be done to demonstrate Jewishness except to believe in Yeshua, you are left with a position something like this: “As a Jew the only call on my life is to believe in Yeshua (the same as any gentile) and then acknowledge my Jewish ancestry. Having done that I am under no obligation whatsoever to do anything specifically Jewish, whether by precept from the O.T. or example from the N.T.”
This is the position you end in when you refuse to deal with specific Jewish obligations. It may be true that the unity of Jewish believers in Yeshua is more important than our differences over other matters, but with a position like that stated above it will hardly matter. No wonder we are considered to be Jewishly irrelevant by most Jews. Let’s not blame it all on Yeshua.
Walter Lieber, Tikvat Yisrael
ed: Thank you for your thoughtful letter. The first sentence you quoted certainly could have been worded better to prevent misunderstanding. We didn’t mean to rule out suggestions. We intended to say that it isn’t up to any of us to require or pressure one another to demonstrate Jewishness in whatever way might seem most appropriate to us. (We do make suggestions in the Mishpochah Message from time to time—including this issue!)
I agree with you that it’s important to do more than simply say we are Jewish, but I do not agree that we are considered Jewishly irrelevant. If we were, there would not be such an outcry to insist that we are not Jews. Why fuss about the obviously irrelevant? Many unbelieving brethren view us in a kind of Matthew 11:17 way: either they say we’re not Jewish enough, and obviously we don’t care about our Jewishness, or else we are accused of deceiving people and trying to lure them with phony and put-on Jewishness. Of course not everyone sees it that way, but deceptive is the favorite word to describe any time, place or manner that we express our Jewishness.
So when it comes to one another, may our suggestions about our Jewish identity be given in humility, and when it comes to how we are regarded by those who don’t know Jesus, may we be prepared to encounter whatever He encountered.