Identity

Attending a Messianic Jewish Congregation can be confusing at times as to who we are, what we believe, and why we worship the way we do. The following hopefully will clarify and answer some of the questions.  

One question people frequently ask is that if they aren’t Jewish can they worship with us. And my response is always “of course!” We are a congregation of Jewish and Gentile believers who worship God together. We worship in what I call “Messianic Jewish space.” We worship together as one body unified in our faith in Yeshua the Messiah.  

In reference to the members who are Jewish, we are called to maintain our Jewish biblical heritage. This is part of our identity and witness of God’s faithfulness to the Covenant He made with our people. We remain part of our people Israel, as well as, the greater body of Messiah.   

Regarding the Mosaic Covenant, in which God gives the Torah to his people Israel, we by no means embrace the Torah with the hope of gaining justification before Him, but we view the Torah as God’s foundation for how we relate to Him, and how we relate to each other. God’s desire is for us to embrace and affirm the entirety of Scripture, both the Tanach and the Brit Chadasha 

Dr. David Rudolph has created a wonderful list of at least twenty purposes of the Torah for us today.  

They include: 

  • To serve as the foundational revelation of God 
  • To remind us of God’s love, grace and power exhibited in acts of Creation and redemption                                                                   
  • To teach us how to love God and our neighbor 
  • To teach us how to worship God 
  • To establish the oneness and sovereignty of God 
  • To teach us to be holy as God is holy                                         
  • To point out sin so that we might repent to God 
  • To train us to exercise faith in God 
  • To train us to be obedient to God 
  • To reveal the heart and priorities of God 
  • To reveal the wisdom and knowledge of God 
  • To train us to meditate on the Word of God 
  • To establish the order of God’s creation 
  • To uphold God’s standards of justice and compassion in society 
  • To draw the nations to God 
  • To foster unity among God’s people 
  • To give our children a heritage from the Lord 
  • To point us to Yeshua the Messiah, in whom the story of Israel finds  fulfillment through his death, resurrection and return 
  • To prepare God’s people to fulfill their diverse callings 
  • To preserve Israel as a distinct nation by God’s design

As you can see it embraces every aspect of life. In Torah there are commands that apply to the Israelites, to gentiles, the stranger, priests, women, men, etc. What is unique about the commands given to Israel is that there are specific commands given as identity markers. These were given by God’s divine purpose to preserve Israel as a distinct nation among the nations. This refers to the commands of circumcision, keeping the Sabbath on the seventh day, celebrating Israel’s appointed times and festivals, observing dietary laws, etc. 

Due to the Torah being given to Israel, how do those who are from the nations, the Gentiles, fit in and apply Torah to their lives? (Especially since the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 (Acts 15 TLV) only required the gentiles to observe four basic things so that they would do well. As well as Paul’s “rule in all the Congregations”.  (1Cor. 7:17-24TLV) 

We believe there are gentile believers who are drawn to worship in a distinctly Jewish way, who love the Torah, and who feel personally called to living a lifestyle consistent with Messianic Jewish Identity.       

The operative word here is calling. There is a difference between commandment and calling. We are all commanded to obey Torah ethics such as; obeying ones parents, to not commit adultery, not to covet, or steal, or murder, just to mention a few. It is with the identity markers for the nation of Israel that the sense of calling comes into play.  If a Gentile believer feels a divine personal call to be part of a Messianic Jewish community and express their faith taking on some or all of the identity markers as a lifestyle as a sign of solidarity with our messianic Jewish community then they are encouraged to do so. It is an individual calling and not something God expects all Gentiles believers to take on. It is done in obedience to a calling and love for God and his people (Rom 14:4-6).  

As an example there has been a family that has been members of Adat Yeshua for decades. They are not Jewish but from the start took on a messianic lifestyle out of their love for God and his people. Whenever I have mentioned them that they are not Jewish no one believes me. They have been such a Godly example of how a gentile family has taken on the lifestyle without ever judging others as to their lack of observance.   

In reference to the greater body of Messiah, we love our brothers and sisters who do not worship the way we do or see it necessary to adopt a Messianic lifestyle. We believe that we are called to build bridges to other congregations for the purpose of unity, fellowship, and education. We have also found that there are many misconceptions about who  we are and what we believe.

What I have found is that once we have healthy dialogue with our brothers and sisters in the greater body most often they gain insight and understanding dispelling those misconceptions.          

In terms of our practice we observe and celebrate the yearly Jewish cycle. This includes Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Passover, Shavuot and minor ones such as Purim.                                   

We also celebrate Chanukah and Simchat Torah. We also take part in Yom HaShoah,    Yom Hazikaron, and Yom HaAtzma’ut. But the one that is the most important day of the yearly cycle is the Shabbat. This is considered the most important appointed time of all. On this day we worship with song and dance, study His word and celebrate His goodness. We enter in on this day of rest that God has given us to remember Him and His creation.  

So in closing, there is one other issue I would like to mention. It’s in reference to Christian days of worship such as Christmas, Easter, and Sunday worship. My typical response is that we don’t celebrate these holidays, or worship on Sunday due to us being a Messianic Jewish congregation. We certainly honor Yeshua’s birth and His resurrection but do it in Jewish context. We are not in the habit of condemning our brothers and sisters in the church for their celebrations or days of worship. It’s the matter of the heart. Each person has to be fully convinced as to why they celebrate the way they do. (Romans 14:4-6.)  I know there are probably unanswered questions in this brief paper but this was never meant to be comprehensive but only to give a brief over view to our identity here at Adat Yeshua. We are a loving and diverse flock coming from different backgrounds united is this purpose and identity. This unity only enriches our worship experience and appreciation for who God is and what He has called us to be.  

Jamie Shapiro 

Congregational Leader  

Adat Yeshua Messianic Synagogue 

Parts of this article were adapted from Dr. David Rudolph’s  “Gentiles and the Torah.” 

HIGH HOLY DAYS 2019

Erev Rosh HaShanah

  • Sunday, September 29 at 7:00 pm

Rosh HaShanah

  • Monday, September 30 at 10:30 am

Erev Yom Kippur

  • Tuesday, October 8 at 7:00 pm

Yom Kippur

  • Wednesday, October 9 at 10:30 am

  • Neilah – 6:15 pm

Sukkoth

  • Saturday, October 19 at 10:30 am

Simchat Torah

  • Tuesday, October 22 at 6:30 pm