A few days ago (October 26th), I went to an art exhibit for the Texas Jewish Arts Association. Some of the art displayed was very good and intriguing as it was an exhibition centered around the theme of Yitzhak (Isaac) — but it was not limited to the biblical Patriarch but also a retrospective on Isaac Newton and Isaac Bashevis Singer among others. We were encouraged/allowed to take pictures and my favorite piece is noted above.
I was talking with a friend of mine who had a wonderful piece at the exhibit about the pieces being displayed centered around Isaac the son of Abraham. We also talked about the huge crowd that came out for the opening night of the TJAA exhibition. My friend’s response was revealing and definitely true —
“We might be small in number but we come out strong in support of each other.”
My friend could not be more right! This is one of the strengths of Judaism and one of its greatest weaknesses. You might be surprised that I write it is one of the greatest weaknesses; however, I believe that this strong tie to Judaism as it now exists (and not the Biblical Judaism as founded by Abraham and Moses) has prevented many Jewish people from truly exploring the truth of Messiah Jesus.
Therefore, we need to begin with a very a few very important questions — How is this tie so strong? Why is this tie so strong? What could happen in one’s life that could unravel this tie to the Jewish community?
How is this tie so strong?
In the Pirkei Avot (which is a book that could be defined as a series of sayings/proverbs/ adages tied to Jewish thoughts and beliefs by Jewish rabbis dating to perhaps even the first century or the time of Jesus), it states what I would argue are the Seven Most Damaging Words in Rabbinic Judaism:
“Do not separate yourself from the community” (Pirkei Avot 2:5)
אל תפרוש מן הצבור
This has been interpreted by many Jewish people as the means and method of how the Jewish people have survived throughout many Diasporas, Pogroms, Inquisitions, Disputations, and THE Holocaust. They have survived because they have united behind the word community even if it meant what Aaron Potek described in Sh’ma Now: A Journal of Jewish Sensibilities (October 2016) giving up “some of our independence and adapt[ing] to the culture and norms of a larger entity.”
In other words – don’t question the status quo of Rabbinic Judaism as it relates to religious matters? The standard answer as it relates to Jesus — you can’t be Jewish and believe in Jesus because the rabbis have said so. If you believe in Jesus … you have left/separate yourself from the community.
Why Is This Tie So Strong?
Tradition. A Mother’s Guilt. Two good and powerful answers. However, I believe there is an even stronger answer and it comes from a rabbi who died over 800 years ago. However, his influence is still stronger than anyone alive today. An influence so strong than I wrote my dissertation on Moses ben Maimon (aka Maimonides/Rambam). He wrote the following:
“Those who separate themselves from the ways of the community have no portion in the world to come, even without commiting any sins.” (Hilchot Teshuva 3:11)
For while there is a question within modern Judaism as to the existence of heaven/hell after death, would you take a chance? Additionally, the teachings of Maimonides still underlie in my opinion the thought behind Rabbinic Judaism even more than the Tanakh (Hebrew Scriptures) itself. Therefore, if Maimonides states that one must not leave Judaism and this is repeated by your rabbis, then Jewish people are adverse to explore the truth of Messiah Jesus even if the religious teachings of Rabbinic Judaism have no meaning anymore.
Does this make logical sense? Perhaps not; however, the emotional ties of Judaism and the bonding ties of community are strong, especially given the heritage and history and, yes, the sense of guilt that is imposed if one leaves to explore the most Jewish person in history … Jesus of Nazareth.
What Could Happen in One’s Life that Could Unravel This Tie to the Jewish Community?
I wish I could tell you that the easy and obvious answer was Jesus in all cases; however, and sadly, this is not usual case. A growing number of ultra-Orthodox people are leaving because of hypocrisy within the community. Others who are not ultra-Orthodox and/or Orthodox are leaving because of a lack of answers by the rabbis and synagogues. Still others are drifting away because of apathy and hopelessness and despair.
HOWEVER, this is where we who have the truth of Messiah Jesus could step in with hope and answers.
We must be ready. We must be there. We must be active!
Tzedakah Ministries is diligently working to build Explore Messiah…? for not a day/night/hour goes by that we are not seeking to find way to fine-tune this ministry outreach. In fact, Tzedakah Ministries has established a Millennial Beta-Group designed to bounce ideas and create ideas so that we will be better equipped to be equip YOU! I personally have been inspired by this group and I hope Tzedakah has inspired them as well!
We need your prayers. We need your support. We need your encouragement. Please be there for us. We need you.