Pervasive “anti-rabbinism” must be rooted out
Messianic movement has a disease, a festering sore. It’s called “anti-rabbinism.” In reality, it should be called “hypocritical anti-Judaism,” simply because while chiding the “rabbis” for their many “faults” many of those same critics base most of their “Messianic Judaism” on “Rabbinic Judaism” with Evangelicalism thrown in to make it “kosher” enough for messianic use. This ailment in insidious and penetrates every segment of Messianic Jewish life, to one degree or another. One often hears, even from some messianic Jewish leaders, “Oh, it’s rabbinic!” It’s an inherited condition which we inherited from Christianity’s almost two millennia of derision of all things “Judaism” and by default, all things “rabbinic,” and therefor it’s closely related to antisemitism. It’s time to heal ourselves. No human being is above criticism, and rabbis are not an exception, but deep-seated “anti-rabbinism” by any Jewish person is self-hatred.
Below you will find an article titled Seeds, Weeds, and Walking the High Wire: The Weed of Anti-Rabbinism, by R. Stuart Dauermann. It originally appeared on MJTI website.
A third, closely related weed, is anti-rabbinism—opposition to “the rabbis” as a class. The way the term “the rabbis” has been used in Messianic Jewish circles, although less widely than formerly, demonstrates a polemical disdain fit only to be uprooted and discarded. A quick search of one Jewish mission website using the search term “religion of the rabbis” turned up quotes such as the following:
When I talk about being a Jew, I’m talking about something that is different from the religion of the rabbis. I’ll be quick to tell you that I do not follow the Jewish religion.
You might be surprised that the Jewish Bible, the T’nach, does not mention rabbis. According to Scripture, the priesthood was to be in charge. What is now considered “traditional Judaism” began at the Council of Yavneh, when a group of rabbis met and made certain decisions in light of the destruction of the Temple and the growth of Christianity. What decisions they made, we can only surmise. But after Yavneh, rabbis were in control of the religion.
Regardless of the degree to which one agrees or disagrees with the author’s historical reconstruction, we find here an appalling categorical hostility toward Judaism, toward the rabbis, and their religion. Can the rabbis be wrong? Certainly! Has the rabbinical establishment been almost entirely opposed to Jewish Yeshua-faith? Surely! But should we therefore distrust all rabbis and all rabbinic writings as has commonly been the case in our thinking, discussion and polemical rhetoric? Must we consider the rabbis and their teachings to be guilty until proven innocent? Should we consider all of them to be seducers and enemies of Yeshua-faith, to be avoided by all who would exercise due caution? Must we assume, as some have stated of us, that those seeking irenic relationships with rabbis do so only to pander for approval, prepared to sell out the gospel as a means to that end? In the service of truth, I cannot go there. In fact, this weed nauseates me.
This antipathy to “the rabbis” extends beyond distrust to disdain. A typical mission publication states, “Unfortunately, most rabbis have accepted the role of an apologist for Judaism, rather than a spiritual authority who can aid in or inspire a true encounter with God.” Will you join me in finding this comment presumptuous? How do we know the motivations of “most rabbis?” Where do we sign up for a dose of such omniscience concerning the motivations of the majority of an entire class of people? I submit that what we are hearing are echoes of Justin Martyr and the Adversos Judaeos tradition.
We ought not comfort ourselves that these are someone else’s statements, not our own. Axiomatic suspicion of and distancing from the rabbis and their religion lingers in the air like a stench of a corpse only recently removed from the room. Things are better among us, but not well–not yet.
As another case in point, consider our respected friend Dr. Michael L. Brown. One of his recent blog postings includes ample evidence of the weeds of categorical anti-Judaim and anti-rabbinism persisting in our ranks. For example, he states that he has “come to the conclusion that rabbinic traditions have little or no place in our private lives or public services.” Brown continues, “While it is one thing to follow the rabbinic calendar as a matter of convenience, it is another thing entirely to pray the prayers of the rabbis or utilize their varied religious expressions and methods.” He asks, “How can we pray the prayers of men whose very faith presupposes that Yeshua is not the Messiah?” These positions will sound very familiar to most of us in the Messianic Movement, because this viewpoint is not his alone.
I am asking all of us to reconsider our attttudes and to spread the word: “The rabbis” should not be used as an epithet of scorn. We need to recognize and repudiate the tradition of anti-Judaism and anti-rabbinism as weeds, not wheat. Uproot them.