Understanding how to deal with missionaries requires an understanding on several fronts, some of which are historical and some of which are psychological. The historical elements help in strengthening Jews who must face off against missionaries in all of the elements that make missionaries and the modern messianic movements heretics. The psychological is in part understanding how and why some Jews get sucked into such movements and developing the approach based on these people as individuals and not as entire groups.
In all cases the basic starting point is to understand that any person of Jewish background who assigns themselves to any aspect of Christianity is a heretic not only to Judiasism, but also the fundamentals of Torath Mosheh. Yet, in order for this to be understand one must first understand what Torath Mosheh is.
The reason why this is important is based on the following Judaic principles:
תלמוד בבלי - מסכת אבות פרק א-ב,יז יד
רבי אלעזר אומר, הוי שקד ללמוד מה שתשיב את אפיקורוס; ודע לפני מי אתה עמל, ומי הוא בעל מלאכתך
Talmud Bavli – Tractate Avoth 1b,17
(Translation) Ribbi Elazar says: to learn what to answer the heretic; and know before whom you toil, and whom is your master.
Further to this point is Rashi’s comment on Devarim 18.9:
לא תלמד לעשות: אבל אתה למד להבין ולהורות, כלומר להבין מעשיהם כמה הם מקולקלים, ולהורות לבניך לא תעשה כך וכך, שזה הוא חוק הגוים
(Translation) Do not learn to do: But you learn to understand and to explain, like to say to understand their actions and how they error and to expound this to your children to not do this or that, because this is a law of the nations/i.e. idoloters.
Understanding Modern Messianic Heresy
Much has been written about the history of Christianity and its inception. I will not cover much of this, but instead focus on the modern movement which claims to be both Jewish and Christian.
Modern “so called” Messianic Judaism claims to follow on a history of emergence of Jewish believers in Jesus seeking to reclaim their identity as Jews and as followers of Jesus at the same time. A simple summary of that history should note that in the 18th and 19th centuries, Christians of Jewish descent increased in numbers due to social issues in Europe and America. In Europe and America the growing number of Jewish Christians were represented by missionary organizations to the Jews with quaint names.
The Christian missions to the Jews movement made an advance when Hebrew Christians, as they were known, began to associate and come together for conferences. The idea of maintaining Jewish identity as followers of Jesus began to grow. At first this had little to do with Judaism.
In the 1970’s, some of these Hebrew Christians, especially under the influence of Martin Chernoff and Manny Brotman, developed Messianic Judaism in its incipient form. The advancement here was the idea of Jews actually practicing faith in Jesus in a Jewish way.
Increasingly, however, in the 1980’s and 1990’s, so called Messianic Judaism became a haven for non-Jews looking to find a restoration of a perceived early church or some alternative to a church that had grown soft on Biblical practice and strong on revivalist tradition.
In the next post we will explain how missionaries and messianics do not match the requirements of Torath Mosheh. So stay tuned.