Our Relationship to the Torah - Pt 2
Continued from last week
So who should be Torah observant, and how Torah observant they should be? How do you personally fit into this picture? As part of a Messianic Synagogue, we will predominately come face to face with the last 4 groups, believing Gentiles - Jews. Each of these has a unique relationship to Torah. To understand, let's discuss 1 group at a time.
Believing Gentiles - previuosly we stated they are to follow significant parts of Torah. Exactly which parts, and how much is an area of serious debate. First, I think we must agree to take into account the level of light given to the individual. Second, based on 1st Yochanan 3, and Yeshua's own words, "if you love me, you'll keep my commands" there is some level of commandments that are required. Some in the Church refer to it as the "Law of Christ". This group is predominately our friends in the Sunday Church. It is not reasonable to require them to keep kosher, keep Shabbat (Friday evening, Saturday), have Mezuzah, or wear Kippa. None of these conditions are required for a relationship with G-d through Messiah. This can be verified by the ruling of the Jerusalem Council seen in Acts 15. It should be noted, we do believe G-d does reveal more to individuals as they walk with him. This seems to be addressed in verse 21 where is says "for Moshe is taught in the Synagogues each Shabbat". We believe this to mean that as Believers grow, they will learn more of G-d's commands. Thus we should never judge our brothers for not practicing as we do (nor should they judge us). Ultimately, how much of Torah G-d wants our Sunday friends to keep is an open question. We do know according to the B'rit Chadasha, all believing Gentiles are somehow grafted into Israel; ultimately it is G-d's responsibility to show the person the way through His Ruach (Breath or Spirit).
Ger Toshav (sojourners at the Gate) - this group comes along side Israel, and follow some but not all of the commands. We typically would see these persons as visitors who are beginning their walk with Messianic Judaism. Often this group expresses a deep love for Israel (the nation). Since their walk is just beginning, they are walking in unfamiliar territory, unsure where they fit in, and not sure what to do. We need to be loving and patient; there will be many questions that sometimes come across as challenges to what we practice. Most Ger Toshav will migrate towards one or other of the surrounding positions, either choosing to return to our Sunday Friends, or becoming a Ger Tzaddik. This group faces one of the most challenging tasks of determining their level of Torah Observance. Many will adopt many aspects of Jewish practice. Again, we must not judge our brothers for not practicing as we do. To this group we need to be able to explain our position, without causing offense, leaving to G-d how they ultimately practice.
Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentiles) are also known as G-d fearers. This group chooses to follow all (or most) of the commands of B'nai Israel (children of Israel) except circumcision. Ger Tzaddik would keep kosher, keep Shabbat, and many other Jewish practices. These are not converts; but are following so closely to Israel, they can almost be seen as one group. This group demonstrates a love for the land of Israel, and also her people. Ger Tzaddik are very important to our Messianic Jewish Synagogue as we have a significant number of this group, and they form significant portion of the backbone of the Congregation. How much of the Torah should they follow: should they wear Tzitzit? Have Bar / Bat Mitzvah? Again, each person responds to the light G-d places on their heart. So we should help, support, teach and exhort; but never judge that person based on perceived observance.
Converts / native born Jews - are in many ways the easiest to define. Nowhere in scripture are Jews released from the special relationship to Torah assigned to our people. This special relationship applies to both native born Jews and converts. Based on the Conversion process, a Convert is not a Ger Tzaddik (Righteous Gentile) but is fully a Jew; with all rights and responsibilities. The Rabbi's in the Talmud forbid calling a convert a Ger, that still holds true today in the Conservative & Orthodox writings. This person is a son or daughter of the commands, whether they Bar/Bat Mitzvah or not. This person follows a Jewish lifestyle and is part of B'nai Israel. Within the Jewish Community there are varying standards of observance. So we need to be aware that we will not all practice the same way. The rule again is to not judge people.
Hopefully based on the above list, we can see where we each fit into the body. While we may not all agree with how we've broken this up, I sincerely hope each definition is broad enough so that all may find their current comfort level. Note we said current, for Adonai expects us to grow. Following G-d's commands are not a burden; they are a joy. We each need to seek that joy and follow Him with all our heart mind soul and strength.
Blessings - Rabbi Gavri'el