Before the internet, missionaries shared their message predominantly on street corners and public places.
Years ago, I went to the Hollywood Bowl to hear violinist Itzhak Perlman and encountered a Jew for Jesus handing out literature. I stopped for a few minutes to engage her in conversation.
When someone screamed at her, “you’re not a Jew anymore.” I saw how hurt she was.
Is there any truth to this statement? Doesn’t the Talmud say, “even though the Jewish people have sinned they are still called Israel” (Talmud Sanhedrin 44a)?
If a Jew is intrinsically Jewish, can they ever lose this status? The answer to this question is found in this week’s Torah reading Behar-Bechukosai (Leviticus 25:1-27:34).
Jews are referred to as God’s children and His servants, “the children of Israel are servants to Me, they are My servants…I am the Lord your God” (Leviticus 25:55).
A rebellious child can never sever their biological relationship with their parent. So too, a Jew always retains the child to father relationship with God. However, when Jews swear allegiance to a different master, though idolatrous beliefs, they lose their status as “servants of the Lord your God.”
Deep down a Jew does not want to deny their Jewishness. Therefore “messianic Jews” avoid mentioning that they believe Jesus is God. This tactic makes their Christian message more palatable when sharing the Gospel with Jews. There is also cognitive dissonance which rationalizes that they are still Jewish despite accepting an idolatrous belief rejected by all denominations of Judaism.
Separation caused by accepting idolatry is not irreversible and is rectified by returning to the true God through sincere repentance. As it says, “Return unto me, and I will return unto you” (Malachi 3:7) and “I will cleanse you from all your idols” (Ezekiel 36:25).
Jews worldwide and especially in Israel are being targeted for conversion to Christianity. We must redouble our efforts and provide resources in English and Hebrew to empower Jews to withstand religious coercion and discover the rich and spiritual message Judaism offers.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz