In the Internet age that we currently live in it is vital to be not only wary of anything that we read, anything that comes up as the top link for X or Y or anything that we find in our research, but also fundamentally we need to know the sources of any information offered to us. In the egalitarian Internet of all equal voices the messages can so easily be consumed by the media and leave us feeling lost and bewildered. In the garden of knowledge the fruit of wisdom is not easily picked. It is why the prophet, speaking the words of G-d relating to Himself, said ‘Ho! Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters’. It is why Yeshua Mashichaynu at Simchat Torah said ‘if anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink’. G-d has always been our first source and inspiration for truth and understanding. In the spectrum of ‘sources’ in our age there is only One Source we need to hear.
Which is why when we move to consider our Judaism it is vital to know what sources we draw from. Judaism as the ‘religion’ given to the Israelites at Sinai, the national covenant of the Jewish people who had descended from Avraham, has as its source G-d Himself. It was given to us, a revelation, and not discovered by mankind. Judaism thus categorised by source should be ‘Judaism from Heaven’, or maybe ‘Heavenly Judaism’. All the more interesting then that as Jews we have applied many other modifiers than this to our Judaism to describe how we have adapted, or denominated this original form of Judaism into each subset. In the last 2000 years we have made use of these many modifiers to build the categories of rabbinic, orthodox, reform, liberal, masorti, modern orthodox, conservative, charedi, chasidic etc etc. Each one tells a story of sources and their impact upon the resultant form of Judaism.
This is highlighted in a recent article (see link below) in the Jewish Chronicle. As the article clearly and rightly explains, Rosh Hashanah has only one specific command attached to it: to hear the shofar blast. It is one command that is relatively easy to fulfil. That the festival nevertheless has been renamed away from Yom Teruah to Rosh Hashanah, and the numerous other commandments detailed in a dedicated tractate in the Mishnah introduced, shows us not that any of these per se are wrong, but rather that this is the expression of a form of Judaism (rabbinic) that has as its source the rabbis and sages of ancient times. Now, as someone who has read and loved these rabbis and their writings, I can accept and acknowledge their deep commitment to Judaism and its continuation. But that is not the issue. The issue here is sources.
In rabbinic Judaism the sources, and authoritative texts include not only Torah but Talmud and the many other later writings. Tradition plays a large role in the generational transfer of faith. None of this is in itself necessarily bad, but the original concept of source in Judaism is G-d Himself, and not man’s traditions, however good and noble they may be. In Messianic Judaism the source is G-d Himself, through Yeshua our Mashiach (Messiah). Our source texts are the accounts of the teachings of the Mashiach in the first century and the letters written by the first generation of hearers and followers of Yeshua. For us Messianic Jews these texts are as authoritative as the Talmud is for rabbinic Jews. And just as the Talmud and the later rabbinic writings play a role in defining rabbinic Judaism today (Orthodoxy), so too the Messianic Writings define our Judaism too. Our prophetic task as Messianic Jews right now is to redefine Judaism around the teachings of Mashiach (rather like many Lubavitch do with the teachings of one of their former leaders, subsequently declared by many to be Messiah). This is nothing other than a radical shift of sources, finding the One original source again that alone can define what Judaism and should be: G-d.