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Rabbi Yonah


  • Have you brought this to the attention of Apple? Or requested that they list the messianic podcasts as “Messianic” rather than Jewish?

  • Disclaimer: I am a Jew (by birth) who once considered himself a Messianic Jew. I have since reconsidered the evidence and decided that the case for Christ being the foretold messiah isn’t that compelling.

    I agree wholeheartedly that there’s something weird going on when that many top featured podcasts in the “Jewish” section are messianic. If nothing else, it sure doesn’t reflect the Jewish mainstream.

    But I take issue with the statement in the video that these are “non-Jewish” podcasts. Yes, Jews for Jesus is a Christian organisation with the explicit aim of converting Jews. But I can tell you from experience that there are a lot of messianic Jews out there who are unaffiliated with JfJ, and are not all about proselytising. They are resting on Shabbat, keeping kosher, teaching their children Torah, wearing tzitzit, and generally living thoroughly Jewish lives. There have been Jewish sects down through the ages who believing in one or another supposed messiah; modern messianism is just one more example.

    Do you know that these podcasts are trying to convert Jews? Or are they just catering to the messianic crowd?

    Like I said, it’s weird and probably inappropriate that they are all featured so highly. But I don’t think it’s necessarily wrong to categorise them as Jewish.

  • What makes a messianic Jew non-Jewish? In order to contemplate this question, we need to consider the definition of a Jew, and for comparative reasons, the definition of a Christian. Since we are here on Jewlicious, I assume that everyone knows at least one definition of a Jew, I won’t go further into the definition of a Jew. But what is a Christian? One who believes that the Jesus from 2,000 years ago was the messiah. A messianic Jew fits the Christian definition a lot more than any Jewish definition.

    There have been middle groups between the Jewish and Christian realm before. But they have come and gone because of the historic tension between the Church (the Old Church at least) and the Jewish community. Once a Jewish organization or individual starts to rely upon the Christain concept of the meshiach, it stops being Jewish or even half Jewish. It’s Christian in the fullest sense of the term, which is totally fine, but it shouldn’t misrepresent Judaism.

  • I guess I don’t understand why Jews who are professed atheists or agnostics but still attend shul are considered “Jewish” by many Jews; but someone who who observes a more Jewish lifestyle than most Conservative or Reform Jews yet believes in an already-arrived messiah isn’t. The former would seem to me to be a considerably larger theological departure than the latter.

    • As someone raised frei, who now strives to be frum, I myself have often wondered why someone born jewish can abandon their heritage, becoming a secular atheist, buddhist, or an adherent to TM, etc. an still be considered jewish. But if a jew believes in, as my dear Tante Kissel used to say, “THAT MAN”, then they are somehow now mystically turned into a goy. That seems to be the dividing line; two thousand years of bad blood between the christian church and Judaism, inspired by hasatan to keep gentiles from seeing Adonai’s plan for humanity. Hate on either side is wrong. Jeremiah 14:16-19 tells us that the goyim will come to know and worship Adonai when Mashiach comes. If someone doesn’t understand something yet, it’s just that, YET. We are to “Love [our] neighbor as [our]self.” Not tell him/her that they are stupid. I confess that misplaced zeal has caused me to fail in this regard before. Just some thots.

  • Avdi,
    Jews are a people, a civilization, multi ethnic, and with a spiritual path called Judaism. We are not defined only by religious preference, or observance. That being said- when someone pledges allegiance to another people, they are no longer counter as Jews, until they renounce that. Then they can be welcomed back into the nation.

  • I am the author and presenter on the Yeshua in Context podcasts. I think most people listening to them will not find them in any sense of the word missionary.

    There is an old idea: Judaism and Christianity are enemies. That road has led to mothers and fathers and children killed and harmed. I know you believe in repairing the world, not allowing such enmity to continue.

    I want to support a newer idea, not at all original to me: that Jews and Christians are brothers and sisters and that Jesus (Yeshua) is a part of Jewish history.

    If I believe that our movement is part of Judaism and you do not, you have the right to your opinion. Meanwhile, Judaism is my home and my podcast is, in my opinion, Jewish.

    May your Sukkah be a delight and may the theme of the inclusion of the nations at Sukkot speak to all Jewish souls.

    Derek Leman

  • Jews can regress in their observance of traditions and rituals, but to adopt the tradition of another religion is to become something else.

    Believing that the messiah has arrived already come instead of arriving in the future might seem like a minor theological distinction, but since it is the foundation of the world’s largest religion which has a violent history against the Jews, it plays out to be a major distinction.

    Question: Do messianic Jews read or hold the Christian Bible (the Gospels) as part of their scripture?

    If it was not for the Christian Bible, messianic Jews would have never heard of Jesus. If it is in their scripture, even as a minor part of their study, it has adopted a document established and canonized by the Roman Catholic Church who did not observe any Jewish rituals and traditions and were part of an empire that brought devastation to the the Jews in Judea. That’s like Jews adopting ancient Egyptian rituals and beliefs from Egyptian writing.

    I personally don’t understand the messiach aspect of Judaism. When ever it is brought up, it seems like a minor theological pebble that makes no difference in the whole of Judaism whether it is in there or not. I don’t see where it takes a major focus in any Jewish writing. The Talmud, if I am not mistaken, is focused mainly about the laws between men and men. There is no messiach mentioned in the Torah.

    • Jews have adopted Ancient Egyptian beliefs/rites – just as they have adopted Shamanic beliefs/rites, Babylonian beliefs/rites, and, ack, notions of the concept of a messiah as a person as opposed to an abstract concept of salvation from Christianity (among other stuff). It’s theologically naive to the extent of ignorant to believe that the respective surrounding religions / sets of beliefs have not had any influence on Judaism.

      I’ve explained this at length before, and the literature – by religious scholars, too – is out there for anybody who wishes to educate themselves on those matters.

      Buddhism (in its pure form, not in the mishmash that can be found where it merged with Hinduism in e.g. Cambodia) denies the existence of any deity whatsoever, yet the – unstoppably and undeniably aging – demography of “cool” Jews embraced a philosophy that mocks what is a core element of Jewish faith – the belief in an omnipotent creator deity with loud cheers.

      BTW, the Second Temple was destroyed about 250 years before Christians were not persecuted in the Roman Empire anymore. Might be some food for thought if the pre-made and and ruminated on views still leave space for that. It’s 2009 BCE for friggin’ whoever’s sake, and never has there been more of a need and more of a chance to actually bridge devides by stressing shared values. That is what will be left of religions in the generations to come if anything.

  • Oy, froylein the expert again – the only expert who thinks notions of a messianic savior and world salvation moved from Christianity to Judaism….

    The non-sequitirs pile up: yes, fro – most committed Jews consider Bu-Jews just as lost to our faith as Messianic Jews.

    For the same reasons.

    You’re a nice person – please, please stop revealing your ignorance and hubris in posts like this.

    They say “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.” It’s even more dangerous served up with a chaser of overweening yekkishe certainty.

    • Just that I’m not the only one who thinks this but a whole host of scholars that I referenced back when we had the “discussion” before. The ignorance lies with the pseudo-elites.

  • Michael W.:

    You said that you can’t see the whole Messiah thing as being very important in Judaism.

    What Siddur do you pray from? The traditional prayers are filled to overflowing with references to Messiah, the Age to Come, the rebuilding of Jerusalem, etc. Rather than a minor theme in the tradition, it is a major theme. It’s even an understatement to say it is a major theme.

    May he come speedily and soon in our days.

    Derek Leman

  • If, as Rabbi Yonah suggests, affiliation with the Jewish people trumps even agnosticism/atheism as the sine qua non of Jewish identity, that seems to legitmate Christian beliefs for Jews who choose to identify as such. Unless I’m missing something.

  • Derek,

    Much of the Christian violence towards Jews throughout history has been because of replacement theology. In the first few centuries after Jesus, his early followers were practically Jews since Jesus was one messiah out of many followed by Jews promising freedom from Roman rule. But lets not mistaken one Jew from a long time ago to the bringing of the “world to come”.

    To me, the “world to come” means an age of freedom, truth, and justice. In order for the world to come to this stage, we have to make mistakes and learn from them. But lets be realistic, we will never stop being humans. The world to come is not heaven. We are not angels obeying every command of God with no free will. Therefore we will continue to make mistakes, tragic mistakes, for a very long time. The world to come is an ideal to strive for, not an actual time brought by an actual person.

    What Siddur do I pray from? I have read the phrase the “in the world to come” several times in my Jewish studies. I come from a secular kibbutznik and American Reform background. I think meshiach as a notion, is a fine idea. But the more explicit and definitive it becomes, the more it becomes a source of tension and ill deserved power by religious authorities.

    I believe the most important aspect of the Jewish tradition deals with the relationship between man and man, not man and his messiah. You said, “It’s even an understatement to say it is a major theme.” Here’s my problem, it places the messiah tradition above everything.

    I don’t think you have answered my question yet. Are the Gospels a major part of your Scripture? If so, how can it be part of mainstream Judaism when no other Jewish denomination considers it part of their Scripture. The only documents about Jesus as messiah are Christian and are not “peer reviewed” by Jews.

    You wrote: “I want to support a newer idea, not at all original to me: that Jews and Christians are brothers and sisters and that Jesus (Yeshua) is a part of Jewish history.” We are all humans. You do not need to adopt another person’s messiah in order to feel an obligation to be their brother, their keeper.


    It is my understanding from my Jewish studies is that Jewish adopted several traditions because they were the opposite from the traditions of their neighbors. Example 1, Cohanim can’t touch or be close to dead bodies, while Egyptian priests dealt with dead bodies all the time. Example 2, no idols, a clear difference between the Jewish tradition and the pagan culture of that time.

    • Michael, compare the commandments (not only the initial ten ones) to the list of sins a righteous soul denies having committed after death when judgement over the heart is spoken according to the Ancient Egyptian religion (which pre-dates the commandments by millennia), and you’ll quickly see that the Egyptian influence on biblical commandments is huge. The custom of putting stones onto graves is not originally Jewish either but has got its origin in “primitive” religions of northern African nomads, who would cover a deceased’s body with stones so that it wouldn’t fall prey to wild animals. The dried-out corpses in the desert sand tomb raiders found not only inspired later mummies but made for the concept of some kind of life after death. Religious hierarchies even with a designated priesthood are of Egyptian origin. The list is endless. But you are right, too, as in that certain customs were adopted to mock the customs of the surrounding sets of beliefs (the commandments that get introduced by that something shouldn’t be done the way the Canaanites do it once Israel is in the Promised Land).
      Eight works of creation, for instance, are a Babylonian adoption. The older text of creation (the second one in Genesis) starts with the creation of man. Babylonian religion had eight acts of creation with man as the conclusion of creation. The influence of the Babylonian Exile led to an adoption to the Babylonian story of creation with elements of mockery (sun and moon to be lights instead of deities) and adoption (eight acts of creation; crammed into six days plus the Sabbath in the Jewish adoption, that’s why you you get two acts of creation on each the third and the sixth day – very religious people still choose the third day of the week for their weddings, as on the third day both acts of creation were “good”, which emphasises the idea of equality among the married couple. This custom, by the way, is referenced in the Christian gospels when it’s mentioned in the pericope of the water -> wine miracle at a wedding that the wedding took place on the third day. This is pretty much the oldest genuinely Jewish wedding custom you get.)

      I’m too tired now to write more though there are tons of examples that come to mind. I suggest that if some point or another about Jewish customs catches your interest, you might like check out the entry in the Jewish Encyclopaedia, the most comprehensive work on Judaism to date, which not only mentions the findings of secular science and theology, but also the reception in Talmudic / rabbinical literature etc.