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As a Messianic believer, he provides articulate answers to questions about modern and historical Jewish practices and beliefs. He also addresses believers' inquiries about their own relationship to the Old Testament Law, such as "Should Christians adhere to the dietary laws? He has written a much-needed book to help his fellow Christians understand the Jews. He has a balanced view as to what Jews, Jewishness and Jewish customs mean that will help Christians appreciate the earthly family of Jesus.

Michael Brown's own Jewish background, coupled with his years of fruitful ministry in the Church, make him singularly capable for the task. Michael L. His work has also been featured in newspapers such as the Washington Post , the Charlotte Observer , and the Baltimore Sun. Convert currency. Add to Basket. Condition: New. Language: English.

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In the Bible, is the fig tree a prophetic symbol for Israel? Was Jesus really a rabbi? Did Jesus follow the Oral Law?

60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices - Baker Book House

What is the original Hebrew name for Jesus? And is it true that the name Jesus Greek Isous is really a pagan corruption of the name Zeus? What language did Jesus and the apostles speak? Was the New Testament originally written in Hebrew? Was the New Testament originally written in Aramaic? What are some examples of the Jewish background to the New Testament? What does it mean to restore the Jewish roots of the Christian faith? Was Paul really an educated Jew who knew the Hebrew language well? Did the Jews really kill Jesus? Did Jesus abolish the Law?

Should Christians adhere to the dietary laws? Should Christians observe the biblical Jewish holidays? What is the difference between Passover and Easter? Are Gentile Christians spiritual Jews? What is the Two House Theory? What is the difference between a Messianic Jew and a Hebrew Christian? Are Messianic Jewish leaders really rabbis?

Is it good for Christians to attend Jewish synagogues? Should Christians unconditionally support the nation of Israel? What did Paul mean when he said that all Israel will be saved?


Did God make a special way for Jews to be saved without believing in Jesus? Jewish denominations do not exist in exactly the same way that Christian denominations exist. There are, however, three main branches of Judaism: Reform, Conservative and Orthodox, Reform being the most liberal and Orthodox being the most traditional.

Further subdivisions include Reconstructionist Judaism, which is to the left of Reform Judaism, and ultra-Orthodox Judaism including Hasidic Judaism , which is the right wing of Orthodox Judaism. Before comparing the beliefs and practices of the three main branches of Judaism, let us take a moment to review the historical development of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism. Although each of these three branches claims to be true to the spirit of the ancient rabbis just as the various Christian groups claim to be true to the spirit of Jesus and the apostles , from a historical perspective, Reform Judaism, which is sometimes called Liberal or Progressive Judaism, emerged as a distinct, somewhat humanistic reaction against Orthodox Judaism roughly two hundred years ago, while Conservative Judaism developed out of Orthodox Judaism roughly one hundred years ago, but in clear contrast with Reform Judaism.

To briefly sketch the history of these three movements, Reform Judaism arose in Germany in the early s as Jews began to As noted in The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, Its historic origins were motivated less by theological or ideological attitudes than by a desire for a more attractive form of service that would appeal to Jews who were in danger of dropping out of Judaism completely. These changes included synagogues being called temples; prayer books using the vernacular language and not just Hebrew; sermons being preached in German; and musical specifically, organ accompaniment being added to public worshipall of which constituted radical departures from the traditions, traditions that were considered sacrosanct by the religious Jewish community.

Such innovations, therefore, were strongly opposed. Not surprisingly, within a fairly short period of time, deeper theological and ideological differences began to arise, and Reform Jews began to distinguish between what they felt were the eternal, truly inspired aspects of the Bible and rabbinic traditions, such as the ethical teaching of the prophets and the importance of the Jewish calendar, and those laws and customs that they considered to be products of a particular age2and were therefore outmoded, outdated and potentially embarrassingsuch as the biblical purity laws, wearing head coverings and the absolute submission to rabbinic authority.

In keeping with this, the Reform motto, speaking in terms of the biblical commandments, eventually became guidance, not governance, reflecting the Reform position that biblical and rabbinic law must be evaluated by human judgment and contemporary methods of study such as the critical reading of sacred texts. And, whereas traditional Judaism often functioned best when isolated from modern culture, Reform Judaism sought to interact with and even learn from modern culture.

The Jews were coming out of the ghetto now, and they had to get in step with the spirit of the age. In fact, even the idea of being the chosen people whose homeland was in Israel was considered offensive to many, since it made them superior to the nations as opposed to sent with a mission to the nations , as well as aliens in their own country. In fact, a foundational document of Reform Judaism, the Pittsburgh Platform of , stated that the mission of Judaism was to solve on the basis of righteousness and justice the problems presented by All this was met with absolute scorn by traditional Jewish leaders, who not only opposed these innovations but sought to outlaw the opening of Reform houses of worship.

It would not be hard to imagine how the traditional Jewish community reacted to the news that a dinner in conjunction with the graduation ceremony of the first Reform seminary in America in included shrimp something absolutely forbidden by Jewish dietary laws see It is therefore understandable that, in the days leading up to the Holocaust, when anti-Jewish laws were being passed, some Orthodox rabbis actually pointed to Reform Judaism as a primary cause of the disaster, arguing that the Reform movement, birthed in Germany, had led to the assimilation of many Jews into secular As expressed in the s in The Israelit newspaper: We ourselves are to blame that we have any problems.

When the ghetto gates fell [meaning when Jews could readily become part of the society at large] Jews could have shown the entire world that it is certainly possible to acquire the treasures of culture such as art and science without abandoning the Jewish way of life. We have missed that opportunity of attaining a synthesis between Judaism and its eternal forms on the one hand, and the cultural assets of the surrounding world on the other. This indicates clearly how passionately Orthodox Jews felt about forsaking their traditions.

For them, it spelled nothing less than death and destruction. Conservative Judaism was far less reactionary than Reform Judaism, seeking to conserve tradition in the modern setting, hence the name of the movement, Conservative Judaism. Weiss, a Conservative rabbi, Conservative Positive-Historical Judaism began, not as a break with traditional practice but rather with a break with the traditional way of looking at our historical texts. Everything, in a sense, had to be processed through the lens of historical, critical scholarship.

As explained in The Oxford Dictionary of the Jewish Religion, Since the Conservative movement saw Judaism as a dynamic, developing tradition practiced by a And from the viewpoint of Conservative Jews, Orthodox tradition had become too rigid and inflexible, failing to adapt the ancient traditions to the modern world and failing to read critically the ancient, sacred texts. Unlike Reform, it considers itself bound by almost all Torah rituals as well as Torah ethics; unlike Orthodoxy, it considers itself free to introduce innovations in Jewish law, particularly the laws formulated in the Talmud.

In contrast, from the viewpoint of Orthodox Jews, there has always been and there remains today only one true Judaism, the Judaism they believe was handed down in unbroken form through the generations from Moses until today see 3. Orthodox Jews would argue that they alone faithfully adhere to the ancient traditions, which they accept as binding and not optional, also noting that before the rise of Reform Judaism, there was no such thing as Orthodox. In other words, either you were a religious Jew or you were not.

And if you were religious, you followed the rabbinic traditions, meaning that, from an Orthodox perspective, all past religious Jews, including the ancient rabbis, were Orthodox. Even within Orthodox Judaism, however, there is a right wing and a left wing, the former refusing to yield in any way to modern enlightened thinking, and the latter adhering strictly to all the The right wing is called ultra-Orthodox or Haredi meaning trembling before God12 while the left wing is called Modern Orthodox.

The right wing does not recognize either Conservative or Reform Judaism as legitimate expressions of Judaism in any way. For the strong pronouncement of the ultra-Orthodox rabbinic association called Agudath Israel, see What are the differences in the beliefs and practices of Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews? To highlight the differences, I will draw the contrast between key areas that divide Orthodox and Reform understanding that Conservative Judaism takes a somewhat middle position, although in practice, it is closer to Reform , describing things in generalized terms. Scripture Orthodox: The Tanakh what Christians call the Old Testament is Gods perfect, inspired, authoritative Word, with the Torah occupying the highest level of authority.

What God commands, to the extent it can be followed today, is required of all Jews. In other words, observance is mandatory. Reform: The Tanakh is an inspired yet imperfect human product, of special importance in moral and ethical matters. The Scriptures help shape our national identity and calling as Jews, but the Torah commands provide guidance rather than governance.

In other words, observance is optional. Contemporary rabbis function as the community leaders, giving application to the Torahs requirements for our day. Reform: The rabbis of past generations should be respected and honored, but their teachings should not be followed in a slavish way. Todays rabbis provide moral and inspirational leadership for their congregations but do not legislate behavior. Observance Orthodox: Every aspect of Jewish life is mapped out, including when to pray, what prayers to say every day and on every occasion, what texts to study, how to observe the Sabbath and holy days, what to eat, family relations and laws of purity, etc.

Orthodox Jews are expected to be fully observant. The more religious the community, the more synagogue attendance is constant through the year. Reform: The ethical and moral commands of the Torah and Prophets should be followed, and a Jewish life cycle circumcision, bar mitzvah, worship on the Sabbath, celebrating the holy days is encouraged but not required.

Dietary laws and other nonmoral laws are a matter of personal choice. In a typical Reform congregation, attendance swells dramatically during the major holy days as opposed to other times of the year. God Orthodox: The Lord is the Creator of the universe and the King of the world, omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent and completely noncorporeal.

Absolute faith in Him is He rewards and punishes and is active in the world today, responding to the prayers and petitions of His people. Reform: Officially, God is viewed as the noncorporeal Creator of the world, but most Reform rabbis are not at home with literal concepts of the deity, and one Reform leader explains: Like Maimonides, we are unable to accept a God who is, essentially, a bigger and better version of a human beingwho operates the cosmos the way a conductor leads an orchestra. As a whole, we embrace metaphor. We imagine a God who is revealed in the experiences of loving relationships, of hope against despair, and of obligation to that which is beyond ourselves We are believers, though, who take the idea of belief quite seriously.

I never have met a Reform rabbi who did not feel that something cosmically important was happening in the moment that he or she led Jews in declaring themselves before their God. Human Nature and Holiness Orthodox: The human race is created by God, and every human being battles between the good inclination and the evil inclination.

Every Jew, in particular, has a divine spark within him that, when ignited, will bring him into traditional Jewish observance. There is a tremendous emphasis put on keeping the commandments and walking in purity, both ritually and morally. Reform: Human beings are the product of evolution, with great potential, even to usher in a Messianic era, and every human being has a divine spark.

Sin is viewed primarily in social terms rather than measured against standards of holiness or, even more emphatically, laws of ritual purity. Messiah and the Messianic Age See 10 for details. The discerning reader will recognize that, within the framework of Judaism, and given the distinctions between Judaism and Christianity see 8 , the differences between Orthodox and Reform Jews would parallel the differences between committed Christians and nominal Christians.

The former take the Bible as Gods infallible Word and seek to order their lives accordingly, taking the words of Jesus as binding, taking personal sin seriously, attending church services and Bible studies on a consistent, yearround basis and seeking to live in a God-conscious state all the time. The latter attend church sporadically, virtually never read their Bibles, tend to be seasonal Christians baptism, Communion, Easter, Christmas and identify themselves as Christian by religion but not by having a quality, ongoing relationship with the Lord.

A Thumbnail Sketch of Judaism for Christians - page 5

The former look at the latter as compromised and not reflecting the truth of the Gospel; the latter look at the former as fanatical, close-minded and even dangerous. The same can be said of Orthodox especially ultra-Orthodox views of Reform Judaism, and vice versa! On a moral and ethical level, the subject of the acceptance of homosexuality provides a contemporary illustration of the differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Judaism.

For Orthodox Jews, the testimony of the Torah and the rabbinic tradition is clear, decisive and final: Homosexual practice is sinful and unacceptable, and practicing homosexuals can play no official religious role in the community. Although Orthodox rabbis would state that compassion should be shown toward Orthodox Jews who struggle with same-sex desires, with rare exception, such Jews live very closeted lives in terms of their sexual struggles.

Reinforcing the prohibition of homosexual practice is the fact that traditional Judaism recognizes the words Be fruitful and multiply Genesis , nasb as the very first commandment given For Conservative Jews, the matter of homosexuality is the subject of serious, ongoing debate, with the ancient traditions needing to be freshly assessed and evaluated, although the primary Conservative view is shifting toward the acceptance of homosexual practice specifically, recognizing civil unions and ordaining homosexual rabbis.

Conservative rabbis also recognize that most of their congregants do not practice the fundamentals of Judaism in their private lives. Jews who dont observe Kashrut [dietary laws] or Shabbat [observing the Sabbath] or those who are intermarried are treated with the same honor and respect as those who follow these norms. In too many Conservative congregations, Shabbat and Kashrut are things to be observed in the public arena, in synagogue, but not necessarily by individual Jews.

In fact, despite all our educational attempts, our members continue to think that Jews who observe Shabbat and Kashrut are Orthodox. Why then, should gay and lesbian Jews be treated any differently if they desire membership in a Conservative synagogue? Not surprisingly, the primary school for the training of Conservative rabbis, the Jewish Theological Seminary in Manhattan, allowed one of its graduating speakersa woman now serving as the associate rabbi at the worlds largest gay and lesbian synagogueto give an impassioned plea for the acceptance of homosexuality.

And what is the affiliation of this gay and lesbian synagogue, called Beth Simchat Torah and boasting a membership of 3,? As you might have guessed, it is a Reform Congregation, and Reform Judaism actually supports the concept of same-sex marriages or civil unions and is willing to ordain gay and lesbian rabbis. But I dont believe a loving God could have written such a thing. It could only have come from well-meaning but ignorant humans who could not see that homosexuality was part of Gods diverse plan for humanity. It could only have come from people who knew almost nothing of what we know today.

It could only have come from people who did not know my brother Greg; your goodness and your deep Jewish soul. In keeping with this, the current president of the Union for Reform Judaism, Rabbi Eric Yoffie, has passionately denounced what he perceives to be antigay bigotry, sounding a warning against Americas religious right. Orthodox Judaism represents about 6 percent of American Jews and over 15 percent of Jews in Israel, where it is seeing its most rapid growth in terms of percentage of the overall Jewish population, since the ultra-Orthodox families have very large families eight to twelve children are common while the secular Israeli families have small families fewer than two children per household.

Because of its modern, enlightened approach to Jewish life and law, Reform Judaism claims that it is the best antidote against Jewish assimilation, helping Jews who reject the traditional faith to maintain some semblance of Jewish identity. Such a person is This Orthodox revival has also been evidenced by some major publishing ventures in which numerous classic works of Judaism see 7 have been translated into contemporary English and beautifully produced in parallel, Hebrew-English versions with extensive commentaries. Most notable in this genre is the volume Schottenstein Talmud, published by ArtScroll.

Their learning is voluminous, but narrowly focused. The vast majority of Modern Orthodox rabbis have been trained at Yeshiva University in New York City, although there are some schools in Israel now as well. On a light note, there are a number of Jewish jokes that highlight the differences between Orthodox, Conservative and Reform, such as: The Orthodox are crazy being considered too strict and fundamentalist in their practice and interpretation of the law , the Conservative are hazy being considered unclear in their real convictions because of their middle-of-the-road approach and the Reform are lazy referring to their extreme laxness in terms of Jewish observance.

Another joke is that the Orthodox say, adonoy referring to the Eastern European pronunciation of the word Lord ; the Conservative say, adonay referring to the Middle Eastern pronunciation of Lord ; and the Reform say, Hasidic Judaism developed during a period of intense misery for most Jews in eastern Europe. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the Jewish populations of Poland and the Ukraine had endured a century of intermittent poverty, persecution, and pogroms.

Born in and orphaned as a very poor, young child, his life is shrouded in legend. According to tradition, even as a boy, he would go out by himself into the fields and woods to get alone with Godthis was not a common Jewish practicebut from all reports, it seems that he was not recognized as a Jewish leader of notein fact, he seems not to have impressed people at alluntil when, according to his followers, he revealed himself by working miracles and demonstrating his holiness.

The title given to him, the Baal Shem Tovabbreviated as the Beshtreferred to his use of the divine name to work miracles.

As his fame grew, he began to attract a wide range of disciples, both learned and unlearned, but his reputation was primarily that of a miracle worker and mystic rather than a scholar, and his teachings emphasized joyful relationship with God more than erudition. In this, he made a break with much of the traditional Jewish focus in his day, which placed a disproportionate emphasis on excelling in Torah study.

By Torah study, I refer here In contrast, the Baal Shem Tov taught that even the most ignorant Jewish peasant could experience divine intimacy, even encouraging some level of deviation from the detailed, fixed system of Jewish daily prayers. According to Dr. He taught that G-d wants us to approach Him and His Torah with joy and gladness The poor and ignorant Jews of Russia The Baal Shem Tov was happy in his poverty.

He rejected the formalities of his opponents [called] Misnagdim and emphasized Jewish optimism and joy Believing that the highest form of prayer was an attitude of joy and happiness, of singing and dancing, he taught his followers that a good deed was worth more than all the adherence to the Mitzvoth [commandments]. He also taught that the humble and the ignorant have a better chance of enjoying the World to Come than the arrogant and the learned. These lectures created great excitement among the miserable masses of Slavic Jews.

60 Questions Christians Ask About Jewish Beliefs and Practices

Treated worse than the blacks in Mississippi before the civil rights movement, the Jews of Europe had no joy. Yet, the Besht taught them optimism and laughter amidst pogroms [organized, violent attacks on the Jewish people] and hatred. He literally rose above the content of daily life and became an enormous inspiration to his people.

His movement was called Hasidism or Piety. Nearly one half of all Jews [meaning, in that part of the world] subscribed to his message despite the opposition of the formalists in Lithuania and elsewhere.