Thursday, May 8, 2014

Under What Authority Does a Rabbi Make a Person a Jew? (Response to Ken)

So a commenter just asked a great question.  I'll give my two cents and then others can chime in with their perspectives.

Here's the simplest answer I can come up with (but it's not very simple):

A covenant is a legalized game of pretend in which two unrelated parties pretend that they are family and agree to love each other as family.

The questions with regard to the covenant of conversion are as folllows:

(1) Which Judaism are we talking about?  Each Judaism is its own family in a sense and therefore has its own set of laws on this matter;

(2) Which laws apply to Messianic Judaism?

In MJ, Yeshua is the ultimate source of law.  Therefore, in Messianic Judaism we cannot attribute deontic authority (final authority) to Rabbinic halacha (i.e. the Rabbinic interpretation of the mitzvot).  It can however attribute epistemic (presumptive but non-final) authority to the Rabbis in certain areas of halacha.

But here's the thing:

There's no way MJ can use the rabbinic halacha on conversion.  Here's why:

In MJ, there's no way for a Gentile to become a Jew.  There's simply no precedent for it.

The covenant of conversion in MJ allows Gentiles to join Yeshua's Kingdom, the Kingdom Realm of Israel.  But this only provides rights/responsibilities with regard to the Torah of this New Covenant. It confers no privileges to the earthly realm of Israel (e.g. Jewry, Modern State of Israel).

Sorry but that's the best I've got.  Would anyone else like to add something?


  1. First we have to make a large assumption that one can become a Jew... the Torah gives no definition for such. For such a foundational understanding, don't you think the Torah would have mentioned it at least once.

    The closest the Torah comes to the much later invention of "becoming a Jew", is known as the Ger who dwells in the land, Exodus 12:48. The problem is, the ger who dwells in the land, did not become a native born, but remains a ger who dwells in the land, he is likened to a native born, but still remains in distinction, even to the point of not being able to own land. Which is in contradiction to a gentile who becomes a Jew in every way, that is not what the Torah teaches. His offspring, assuming he has any, will at one point be completely assimilated into the people, and would thus be native borns. However the convert himself, does not have the possibility of ever being a native born, that would defy all logic and science, thus in no way could the "ger be a native born in every way"... nope.

    Thus the question is anachronistic if we are looking to the Torah for our understanding...

    Thus as a much later invention and majority rules... that is the basic answer.

  2. In the US, any club (or cult) can call itself whatever it likes (however trademarks apply) and allow or disallow entry based upon whatever criteria they choose (in certain situations various laws pertaining to discrimination and disability apply.)

    I can call myself the Queen of England, and form a club that details how others may join and also possess the right to call themselves the Queen of England. Should we admit men? It's my club/cult and I get to decide.

    You say I am not the Queen of England, and you have proof? I have all my Queen of Englanders and they will call you names, and we have sock puppets to make it look like we have lots supporters. Usually we don't allow comments on our blog, but if we do, we perform SSS (silencing, shunning and shaming) of anyone who disagrees with us, and we also delete and block. The more we try to create legitimacy for ourselves that we do not have, the more we appear ridiculous to the outside world. But that's okay, we have isolated ourselves and are surrounded by toadies and sycophants.

    A better question might be how does one gain the authority to call themselves, "rabbi," when they have created their own self-supporting system to grant themselves validation that no one but their members accept.

    Keep in mind that one trait of cults is that the members lack a sense of humor, and take special umbrage at any digs at their "leaders."

    So here's my problem: I very much support the first amendment and everyone's right to freedom of religion and expression. But I can't help that even though I've refused to join their club, I am identified with the bad behavior of people I don't even know. Any ideas?

  3. Brilliant!! LOL!!

    Sounds an awful lot like my ordination in a Reformed Presbyterian denomination. As soon as I no longer agreed with their agreed-upon 'standards,' they ousted me and shunned me. None will talk to me...

    Ahhhh. Religion! Such fun stuff!!

  4. Thanks, Peter and everyone else who replied.

    Please take this in the right spirit, because I do appreciate the answers, but this makes it as clear as mud. But maybe that's the best that can be done with this question :)

    I agree that there is no formula for conversion in the Torah. Even though Esther 8:17 says "many of the peoples of the land are becoming Jews," (Young's Literal Translation) it doesn't say how. Is it possible they just dedicated themselves to Torah, tying their fate with the fate of the Jews?

    I've read it on the internet (so it must be true) that the G-d fearers who lived in Israel did not all keep mitzvoh, but some just kept the Noachide laws. It was only the native born or convert who was required to fully keep Torah. I don't see that. If I set up permanent residence in another country, especially one that I chose to love and embrace, would I really eat foods that were considered offensive to my new neighbors just because I'm wasn't native born? Would I do chores and tasks on days that were considered holy to them? Would I dress in a manner that made me stand out and identify as a foreigner? I would want to respect their customs and courtesies. That's why I'm living there.

    The Jews are, indeed, G-d's Chosen People. Anyone who takes on the responsibility of adding to that should make sure they have a firm, strong authority backing them. From poking around on Google, I can't really see how that process got started or what the justification was.

    Shabbat Shalom Y'all,


  5. The way I see it, I don't have a problem recognizing converts (from conversions performed in Reform, Conservative, Orthodox) as Jews. I may not agree with it but it's kind of like this: a family has the right to adopt whomever they want.

    The difference is that in Messianic Judaism this adoption is completely unnecessary as Gentiles are adopted by Yeshua Himself, brought into the Household of G-d, made citizens of the Israel of G-d. So what further change of status is necessary at that point?

    Not to mention the fact that, as Princess rightly indicated, any status of Jewishness conferred by a Messianic rabbinic council would only be recognized by the rabbis who performed the conversion. So when Messianic "rabbis" perform such conversions then some Gentiles might think "Well, I could get an even better conversion by going to Chabad!" And suddenly we've got folks shopping for the best conversion in town. Ugh.

  6. Princess,

    Great points. And you should be happy that they are talking bad about you. If the UMJC liked you then I would really have to start to wonder about you. : )

  7. Ken,

    My apologies for not being helpful. Here's someone smarter than me on the subject (Shaye Cohen, The Beginnings of Jewishness):

    pg. 175 "The verb ioudaizein, 'to judiaize,' consists of two elements: the noun stem iouda- and the verb stem -izein. The verb then is of the same class as medizein, 'to medize,' attikizein, 'to atticize,' and numerous other such verbs that are securely attested in classical, non-Jewish, non-Christian Greek. I shall first study this verb family as a whole and then turn to the specific meanings of ioudaizein...

    Verbs in the -izein family have three basic meanings: (a) to give political support (a political meaning); (b) to adopt customs or manners (a cultural meaning); (c) to speak a language (a linguistic meaning)....The verbs refer not to a change of essence but to a change of behavior, not 'to be' but 'to be like.'"

    pg. 181 "In Jewish Greek the word ioudaizein appears only four times. The first instance is the Greek version of Esther 8:17. Here is the Hebrew text as translated in the New Jewish Version:

    And in every province and in every city, when the king's command and decree arrived, there was gladness and joy among the Jews, a feast and a holiday. And many of the people of the land professed to be Jews, for the fear of the Jews had fallen upon them.

    'Professed to be Jews' translates the Hebrew mityahadim. The simple meaning of the Hebrew (and, I think, of this English translation) is not that many non-Jews converted to Judaism but that they pretended to be Jews: they professed themselves to be something they were not. They did so because they feared for their lives; the Jews had just been given carte blanche by the king to kill their enemies, and therefore many gentiles pretended to be Jews in order to protect themselves. The Greek translation of the crucial verb is perietemonto kai ioudaizon, 'they were circumcised and judaized.' Many scholars have understood this to mean 'they were circumcised and became Jews'--that is, converted to Judaism--but this cannot be right, because, as I discussed above, -izein verbs indicate a change in behavior ('to be like'), not a change in essence ('to be')...Surely the Greek means that the gentiles either sided with the Jews (a political meaning) or adopted Jewish customs and manners (a cultural meaning)...

    Paul uses the verb in Galatians 2:14 in his attack on Peter: 'If you although a Jew (Ioudaios), live in the gentile manner and not Jewishly (ethnikos kai oukh ioudaikos), how can you compel gentiles to judaize?' The structure of the sentence makes clear that 'to judaize' here means 'to live Jewishly,' to follow the customs and manners of the Jews. (Similarly, ioudaismos in Galatians 1:13-14 means the observance of Jewish traditions.)...The verb seems to be used in a general sense: when gentiles adopt any distinctively Jewish customs and manners, they judaize."

  8. "don't you think the Torah would have mentioned it at least once."

    The Torah didn't but Ben Gurion did. He said: "who is a Jew? Any one who wants to be."

    Derek's conversion according to Ben Gurion...

  9. Is. 56 says foreigners who join themselves to the Holy One of Israel have a name better than sons and daughters. So, what else do you need?

    Converts would only be accepted by congregations of the same big macher letters, not even by MJ as a whole. And the Jewish community claims MJ is a bunch of frauds and liars, and they are proven correct. Do they have a conversion process to declare me an honorary male so I wouldn't have to be a second class citizen according to their business model?

    I thought Chabad didn't do conversions? But perhaps that has changed?

  10. Here's another quote by Ben Gurion:

    "What matters is not what the goyim say, but what the Jews do."

    Unless I am missing something, Ben Gurion spoke in context of both religious and secular Jews being considered Jews. He wasn't talking about gentiles being able to call themselves Jews,

    A problem for me is that Ben Gurion was that while he believe any Jew could call themselves a Jew, whether or not they met with rabbinic approval, he believed that once a Jew converted to another religion, they were no longer Jewish.

    That is a problem for me, as although I have ditched evangelical theology, I am considered to have converted to another religion, and these people who I have nothing to do with are seen as representing me and speaking on my behalf. I don't know what the answer is, and it is my fault I did't accept Israeli citizenship when I was there almost 30 years ago.

    What torah did say was that those of the mixed multitude who kept the same torah and sojourned among them would gain an inheritance with the tribe among which they sojourned. What I don't understand, is why HR folks don't see that they aren't sojourning among the Jewish people and aren't taking hold of the tzitzit of a (real) Jew.

  11. Just like in the 1st century the Gentiles were kicked out of the Synagogues. While I attend a local synagogue every now and then and I am involved in different ways with the Local Jewish community, many of us gentiles do not have much choice, they do not want us around. I am even friends with a local Chabad Rabbi, and he knows all about my beliefs, but there is no open arm friendship or open hand acceptance, while we are friends, there is a wall separating us at the end of the day.

    Understandable as this is reality. But we are not part of the Kingdom of God because of the acceptance of modern Jews, instead we are part, because we have grabbed the tzitzit of the greatest Jew of all, Yeshua, the King.

    If I relied on the modern place of Judaism for my acceptance within God's family, then I need to find another faith or become a Jew, because being a follower of Yeshua and what He has accomplished means nothing to Judaism or worse, is considered avodah zarah. According to Judaism, in no way am I a part of Israel or in any way considered a son of Abraham. From there perspective I was not grafted into anything and I am not different than any other gentile on the earth.

  12. In the first century there were many God-fearers in the synagogue.

    Orthodox tend to be cliquish, and even with other Jews, as Chabad is with anyone who is not Chabad, unless it is about getting you to join them.

    I agree that is accomplishes nothing, and is counterproductive to live your life for the purpose of gaining acceptance. However, if you are in Jewish space, I am sure you are respectful, and don't walk around with the divine name on a tee-shirt (yes, I have seen this.)

  13. Zion,

    " ...instead we are part, because we have grabbed the tzitzit of the greatest Jew of all, Yeshua, the King."

    Nice! I never thought about it that way.