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Should the Rabbis Have Authority Over Messianic Jews?

Israel Today, Israel Today Staff, July 24, 2019

There is an ongoing debate among Messianic Jews in Israel as to whether or not the rabbis and their rulings should have any authority over the lives of Jews who believe in Jesus. A well-known local Jewish believer from an influential Israeli ministry rejects the idea that the rabbis still have authority over Messianic Jews.

The following is a thoughtful response to that position by Shay Kedem Calabrese, an Israeli Jew and follower of Jesus with a background in Orthodox Judaism.

There is a well-known saying that “with history we cannot argue.”

As one who grew up in the world of rabbinic literature from the first century BCE to the modern era, I can assure you that there is one continuous line from the Jewish Spirit of the Second Temple to the present day, even with all the changes, transformations and dynamics that have shaped Judaism over the years.

Those who say that the rabbis (the term is inappropriate because a “Jew” is so much more than a “rabbi”) still have authority over our lives are right, no matter what I feel about these rabbis, the truth is that the rich heritage of Jewish literary works have preserved and shaped the diaspora Jews and enabled the Jewish communities around the world to grow out of their “closed” world by encouraging writing and creativity.

If it were not for those rabbis, we would not have a literary genre or philosophical foundation for a moral Jewish life.

The Jewish “bookcase” is wider than the “narrowness” which many think defines the rabbis and which stems from ignorance thrown at those Jews by those who are too comfortable putting themselves into the box and saying, “They murdered the Messiah.”

This is simply not true, and again we who believe in Jesus must encourage openness and thoughtfulness, instead of promoting ignorance, rejection and hatred.

In Jewish literature, one can find Rabbinic Halachic rules for living, but Halachic literature is just one part of at least 10 others that I can enumerate. All of that is what has kept us as Jews and shaped our worldview, clinging to us with invisible glue as a people scattered across the four corners of the earth. We all have identical prayers (with minor changes). We all read the same Torah (with very minor changes), and anyone who blames the “rabbis” simply casts fault on history, and should rub his eyes and see that we are descendants of those bearded ones, sitting now securely in Zion on the buckets of tears of longing and love for the Land, which now belongs to us.

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