Disrupting Judaism

At the opening of the African-American Museum this last week in the USA, Will Smith stood up to deliver his dedicatory speech and quoted Martin Luther King: “change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability, but it comes through continuous struggle.” Anyone who has attempted to change the status quo of anything, whether political, cultural or religious can testify to the veracity of such thoughts. The CEO of Indiegogo recently put it this way: “The world loves to say ‘no’. It likes the status quo, it doesn’t like change (…) your job is to keep saying ‘yes’.”
In Judaism right now there are many it seems who are screaming ‘yes’. Many who are demanding change from the roots up and are beginning to do something about it. Rabbi Cardozo (whose blog appears on the Times of Israel website) describes such Jewish faith start-ups as ‘disruptive Judaism’ because they are increasingly putting pressure on the establishment, and rapidly so. The spectrum of disrupters runs from the Women of the Wall to the Beit Moshe movement and the ordination this last week of the first batch of rabbis from the Shalom Hartman Institute in Jerusalem (see link below). While we in Messianic Judaism would not necessarily agree with all the components of such ’emergent’ forms of Judaism, the fact is that Messianic Judaism DOES belong to the disruptive spectrum of Judaism. One of the newly ordained Rabbis put their vision as follows: “At Bina, a big part of what we try to do is to ‘redeem’ Judaism, reclaim ownership of Judaism, reclaim terms and language and concepts, but while reinterpreting and redefining, also finding new meanings.” There is very little in such a statement that we would disagree with, although our conclusions will surely differ.

What this does however reveal is not only the thirst and hunger right now for a redefined Judaism, or should we say a new relationship with our Judaism, our shared Jewish heritage, amongst Israelis and the wider diaspora community, it also reveals the telling fact THAT such a change is possible and desirable. Indeed Judaism has never been static and unchanging, even if many have sought to portray it as such for the wrong reasons. Messianic Judaism is a ‘disruptive’ Judaism because it not only is willing to question but also because in Mashiach we have a perfect example of disruption. An ancient thread of Jewish experience and identity was the concept of G-d breaking into the human experiential realm, whether through our deliverance from Egypt or being led through the wilderness, or yet again with the tradition of the Bat Kol speaking and guiding Israel through the ages. His presence literally disrupted our lives and we knew that HE was the reason for our existence, continued and past. We have lost such a concept in today’s forms of Judaism. In Mashiach we can begin to win that back. As He taught and preached 2000 years ago the question on so many people’s lips was ‘in whose authority do you speak?’ They wanted to know who trained Him, what school of thought He adhered to, in which Rabbi’s name He ministered. Yeshua rejected such limitations and so often responded to such questions with ‘you have heard it said (by Rabbi so and so), but I say unto you..’ He spoke on His own authority, or directly related such authority back to His Father in heaven. Such a disruption in the religious thought-world continuum of course caused astonishment and some outrage, as it does today.

Messianic Judaism however is no new start-up. It is the return of an ancient form of Judaism practised by tens of thousands of Jewish people (if not more) in the first and early second century. It is disruptive and will cause ripples in the fabric of Judaism generally, and often-times we shall be told ‘no’. But the disruptive effect of Yeshua id an eternal ‘yes’ to any resistance As our people are reaching out for change in the status quo, in Mashiach we can give it to them.

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