Commonly Asked Questions

Messianic: What does it mean?

Within Judaism, a Messianic is one who believes in the coming of the Messiah. Within Christianity, a Messianic is one who believes Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah. In contemporary usage, the term also refers to one who follows a “Biblical” lifestyle, including many of the worship and celebration practices of Biblical Judaism into his or her life. Within the Messianic movement the term may refer to either a Jewish or Gentile follower of Yeshua.

 

Are Messianics Jews or Christians?

A common question asked by those outside of the Messianic circles is “are Messianics Jews or Christians”? The answer is yes! It is our belief that Christianity was originally a form of Judaism. 1st century Christianity was made up of Jews and Gentile G-D fearers who worshipped the G-D of Abraham in a Jewish fashion, honored the Jewish Sabbath, and kept the yearly Jewish festivals, and continued to worship at the Temple until its destruction in 70 AD. Though we share some of the same theology as modern Christians do in regards to the Messiah, our practices and life style is based in Judaism.

Acts 21:19-20 “After greeting them, he related one by one the things that G-d had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. And when they heard it, they glorified G-d. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed. They are all zealous for the law.”

 

Are Gentiles welcome at Sha’arey Tzion?

From the very beginning, there have always been Gentiles numbers amongst the Jews, starting with Abraham.

Genesis 17:12 “Every male throughout your generations, whether born in your house or bought with your money from any foreigner who is not of your offspring.”

Even at the Passover there were Gentiles who could participate. Not just any Gentiles, but those who had joined themselves to believing Israel, and bore the sign of the covenant in their bodies.

Exodus 12:48-19 “If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the L-rd, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. There shall be one law for the native and for the stranger who sojourns among you.”

In the prophets , we see G-D’s calling out to the nations to come to Him. Throught the prophet Zechariah, G-D declares the people from all the nations will be gathered unto Himself.

Zechariah 2:10-12 “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst, declares the L-rd. And many nations shall join themselves to the L-rd in that day, and shall be my people. And I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the L-rd of hosts has sent me to you. And the L-rd will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

In the Gospel of John, Yeshua speaks of Himself as the “agent” by which the Father will draw those from amongst the nations unto His people Israel.

John 10:16 “And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.”

Gentile presence within the Messianic community is not only welcomed but a fulfillment of the promise plan of G-D that He take from amongst all the nations a people to join Israel as His own.

 

 Why Keep Jewish Tradition?

Anyone who has seen “Fiddler on the Roof” realizes that, to the Jews, tradition is a serious subject. However, the term tradition, In reference to Judaism, is often misunderstood by the outsider. It does not mean a quaint custom, as it might in other groups.

Tradition is a “Mitzvah”! It is a command in Scripture such as keeping the Passover or the Feast of Trumpets. These “traditions” are far more than custom, they are acts of obedience.

Tradition is Halakah! These are the expressed means and guides by which the Spiritual commands found in Scripture are carried out. For example Deuteronomy teaches us to attach the Word of G-D to the “Doorframes of our houses and our gates”. How do we carry out this command? Do we just spiritualize it? If we choose to completely “spiritualize” our relationship with family and friends we will quickly find those relationships deteriorating. For example; wedding rings are symbols of the covenant bond between husband and wife. They make a statement not only to the married couple, but also to those around us. Likewise, we place a “Mezuzah” (parchment of Deuteronomy 6) on the door frames of our homes as a reminder that our homes are to be dedicated as holy unto G-D. Tradition and its history guide us in a Biblical expression of keeping G-D’s commands. It also helps give us a clear historical insight into Scripture, as well as the culture of the people.

Doesn’t Yeshua rebuke that traditions of the Pharisee’s? Not at all! Instead He rebukes making the traditions of men greater than the Word of G-D. We would do well to ask the question“does a tradition bring honor to G-D and assist in following the written Word?” I am confident that you will find as we do, the vast majority of Halakah tradition has great value and does bring glory to G-D.

 

How Jewish should I be?

It’s amazing how often this question comes up. It’s not unlike asking “how Christian should I be”. The real question is “how orthodox or traditional should I be”? The answer is as much as you are willing to be.

In 1st century Judaism there were three groups of people in the Diaspora synagogue, the Jew, the convert, and the G-D Fearer. Those who are Jewish by birth are those who are the descendants of

Jacob. The convert or Proselyte to Judaism are those who have legally converted to Judaism and are considered beholden to the “sign” commands in the same manner the Jewish people are. The third group is the G-D Fearer or “ger toshav”. These are gentiles by birth who have left the idolatrous past of their fathers and chosen to worship the G-D of Israel in a Jewish fashion, even taking on many of the traditions of the Jewish people, but have chosen not to formally convert to Judaism and take on Jewish identity. G-D Fearers were a major part of the Diaspora synagogue. New Testament Jewish scholar Mark Nanos believes as many as 80% of the synagogue makeup outside of Israel were G-D Fearers. Because they had not taken on legal Jewish identity they were not beholden to the sign commands. Instead the Apostles of Yeshua invited Christian G-D Fearers to partake in the rich heritage of Israel as much as they were able to, including the sign commands.

 

What are the Sign commands?

The sign commands are those commands that are associated with Jewish identity. They are given to the Jewish people as a sign of the eternal plan of G-D for the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. These include mezuzah, tzitzit, tefillin, and the annual Biblical festivals. In no way are these commands restricted only to those who are Jewish, either by birth or by conversion. It is however important to remember that these commands are given firstly and foremostly to the Jewish people. G-D Fearing Christians would do well to embrace the sign commands as they are desire of G-D’s heart, but they should be done fully within a Jewish context.

 

Isaiah 56:6-8 “And the foreigners who join themselves to the L-rd, to minister to him, to love the name of the L-rd, and to be his servants, everyone who keeps the Sabbath and does not profane it, and holds fast my covenant— these I will bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer; their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be accepted on my altar; for my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” The L-rd G-d, who gathers the outcasts of Israel, declares, “I will gather yet others to him besides those already gathered.”

 

What about Spiritual Gifts?

We fully acknowledge that the days of the outpouring of the Spirit on the books of Acts have not ended and that the infilling of the Holy Spirit is available for believers in the Messiah today. But we also recognize the vast abuse of liberty many have taken with “signs and wonders” gifts. Our desire is to be a Messiah centered Torah pursuant Jewish congregation that fully participates in the manifestation of the Spirit of G-D through the legitimate, G-D powered “Bat Kol” (Voice of G-D), as our fathers did in the book of Acts. We seek to return to the Scriptures for guidance and direction concerning the public manifestations of the Holy Spirit.

Prophecy, or Words of Wisdom, should written down, whether they are for an individual or the entire congregation. They should be tested by the synagogue leadership before being delivered to the congregation. And If proven proven true should be followed.

Habakkuk 2:2And the L-rd answered me: Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it.”

I John 4:1 “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from G-d, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”

 

What does it mean to eat Kosher?

The Dietary Laws are often defined by one word, “Kosher”. These are the Laws found in the Bible that are concerned with the types of foods that are permissible to eat and the process of how they are to be prepared and stored.

Kosher means a lot more than not eating pork or shell fish, it is a true discipline for a healthy Biblical lifestyle.

Rabbinical Kosher refers to keeping Kosher standards according to strict Orthodox Jewish teaching. In Orthodox homes, meat and dairy foods are never served at the same time, since such a meal would violate Talmudic teaching. A Proper Rabbinical Kosher home requires two sets of pots and pans, as well as no less than four sets of dishes.

Biblical Kosher speaks to a simple Biblical diet found in Leviticus 14. These commands include refraining from unclean animals such as swine, shellfish, scavenger birds, many types of fish, and most insects. Biblical standards also forbid eating blood from any clean animal, one that has diet on its own or has been strangled.

Doesn’t the Gospel of Mark teach us that Yeshua declare all foods clean?

Yes; but this had nothing to do with declaring foods that were previously unclean clean. Yeshua’s declaration had to do with the Pharisaical teaching that clean food touched with unclean hands brought contamination to the food.

What about Peter’s vision in Acts 10?

We often misread the message G-D gave the Apostle Peter as G-D declaring all things clean to eat. Instead we should read it as G-D calling Peter to distinguish between clean and unclean. Peter gives us the meaning of his vision in Acts 10.

Acts 10:28You yourselves know how unlawful it is for a Jew to associate with or to visit anyone of another nation, but G-d has shown me that I should not call any person common or unclean.”

A Gentile like Cornelius, though G-D Fearing, was considered unclean by 1st century Jewish standards. G-D was sending a message to the Apostle that He did not consider G-D Fearing Gentiles unclean.

 

Why aren’t offerings taken up in the service?

As a historical practice, Jews do not take up an offering as part of their services. Even though the practice of giving to the store house of G-D is a commandment, it must be performed in a truly voluntary fashion. A “Pushkah” or “poor box” is placed in the back of the sanctuary for this purpose. One can place their tithes or offerings into the Pushkah, or mail them to the synagogue office.

Secondly, handling money on the Sabbath is seen by many orthodox and conservative Jews as relating to buying and selling, thus forbidden work. For those who choose the more stringent tradition they may write a check during the week and send it to the synagogue office.

II Corinthians 9:6-7 “The point is this: whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows bountifully will also reap bountifully. Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for G-d loves a cheerful giver.”

 

Why do men wear Prayer Shawls?

The Prayer Shawl, also known as a “Tallit”, dates back to the time of giving of the Torah to Moses. The book of Numbers (15) tells us about the four cornered garment and the four tassels (tzitzit). Young Jewish men and G-D fearers traditionally begin to wear the Prayer Shawl at the age of 13 at their Bar Mitzvah. Prior, they wear only the daily under garment style Tallit.

The Tallit is a reminder that represents the written Word of G-D. When a young man wears a Tallit he is showing himself to be under the authority of G-D’s Torah. The most significant part of the Tallit is the tzitzit on the four corners. The five knots on each tzitzit represent the five books of Moses. The wrappings represent the 613 commandments found in the Torah of Moses.

 

Why do some tzitzit have a blue chord and some only white?

Most English translations of Numbers 15 teach us to place a chord of blue in the zitzit. The Hebrew uses the term “techelet”, referencing not a specific color but color source. The color source was lost to the Jewish world after the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD, only to have been recently discovered in our own generation. The re-inclusion of the techelet has been a slow process.

 

When are Tallits to be worn?

The Tallit is worn by Jewish and G-D Fearing men for the morning and afternoon prayer services. It may also be worn by those men who are leading the evening service, such as the Cantor and the Spiritual Leader. The only exception to the rule is during Yom Kippur and Tish B’av, when the services start before sunset.

 

Do I need to wear a Kippah?

Wearing a kippah or yarmulke (Yiddish) by Jewish and G-D Fearing men is a choice. The only time we ask a man to wear a kippah is when he ascends the Bimah to a part of the service. Covering ones head in the present of an authority figure is a sign of respect and humility. Consequently many choose to wear a kippah at all times. The significance is that it reminds us that G-D is always above us, watching over us, and is our authority. The kippah also reminds us that we are called to be a nation of priests, and we are ever to be in the service of G-D as His representatives before man. Wearing a kippah makes a bold statement, and obligates the wearer to live up to a certain standard of behavior. It makes us think twice before cutting in line at the bank, or berating an incompetent waiter. Wearing a kippah makes one a Torah ambassador and reflects on all Jews. The actions of someone wearing a kippah can create a Kiddush Hashem (sanctification of G-d’s name) or conversely a Chillul Hashem (desecration of His name).

 

Why do women cover their heads?

In Middle Eastern culture, from Biblical times to the present, it has been customary for women to appear in public only with their heads covered. Again, it is a sign of respect. Orthodox and Messianic women often choose to cover their hair during synagogue service out of respect for G-D and to approach Him in worship with humility.

 

Why do Messianics dance as a part of their worship service?

Dance within the context of worship is only permitted in some orthodox and Messianic synagogues. The orthodox, however, dance only in home celebrations and during Simcha Torah. In Israel, some groups gather together in the streets on their way to synagogue, and dance as a way of welcoming the Sabbath. But within the context of service, only Messianic see dance as an expression of worship.  It has not always been that way. In the time of King David and the 1st Temple period, dance was an expression of worship by both men and women. Many Messianic synagogues are attempting to bring back this age old form of worship.

The Lubavitchers are an exception to the rule, as they have re-instituted music and dance in their worship services. Their worship services in some ways have the characteristics of a Christian Pentecostal service.

 

Why is there a hyphen in G-D?

Out of respect! Jewish tradition teaches that the command not to take the name of G-D in vain means not to use His name casually. Most English Bible translations will substitute and capitalize LORD for the same reason. Orthodox Jews take this a step further by not printing even a speakable name in its entirety. The addition of the hyphen in place of a vowel ensures the acceptance of the shortened usable form in printing, conversation, and song. Some ultra orthodox Jews substitute the Hebrew title Hashem (meaning “the Name”) instead of a hyphen. In sacred books such as a Bible or Prayer Book, the speakable names of G-D are spelled out.

 

Why refer to Jesus as Yeshua?

Yeshua is the shortened Aramaic form of the Hebrew name Yahoshua (Joshua), meaning G-D is my salvation. When transliterated into Greek, Yeshua becomes Iesous. Iesous is than transliterated into English as Jesus. Neither is wrong and we respect and honor the name Jesus, but Yeshua is the name given to Him by His mother as directed by the Angel Gabriel.

 

Why do we recite the Shema?

The Shema is a proclamation of faith and a prayer. For many, it is the first step for G-D Fearers in learning Torah, as the Shema defines the relationship between the believer, the Jewish people, and the G-D of Israel. It is also the first prayer a Jewish child learns. For Messianics it is the first clear thought in the morning and the last before retiring at night.

It is the practice of most Jews and G-D fearers to face Jerusalem when reciting the Shema as a reminder of the holy Temple. There is also the idea that when facing Jerusalem one may receive a glimpse of the Messiah when He returns to Jerusalem. Finally when facing Jerusalem we remember where our home is.

It is also custom to cover one’s eyes when reciting the Shema as a reminder, though we may not see Him, He is real and continually with us.

 

Why touch the Torah scroll as it passes?

Though the Torah itself is not touched directly, its covering is often touched as it is carried amongst the people of G-D. Many avoid directly touching even the Torah cover and will touch it with their prayer shawl, head covering, Bible, or Prayer book. The touching is often followed by kissing the object that made contact with the Torah cover. This is often confused with worship. Instead it should be seen acts of honor and devotion to G-D’s Word. It is not unlike the honor that is shown towards the US flag. It is not the flag itself that is the object of honor, but what the flag represents. Likewise, we do not worship the scroll, but the One who spoke the Words on the scroll.

 

Is the Kaddish a prayer for the dead?

The Kaddish is one of the most misunderstood prayers in Judaism. Many believe it to be a prayer for the dead. Rather, it is a proclamation of the living. It is a prayer of hope for the Messianic Kingdom. It speaks of man’s need to express his faith in the promise of G-D during the most difficult trials and troubles. It may best be summed up in Proverbs 3

Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the L-rd with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.”

 

What is the Amidah?

The Amidah is one of the oldest of the liturgical prayers, dating to the time of the Men of the Great Assembly, after the Babylonian exile. It is the central prayer for all synagogue services. The weekday Amidah consists of 18 prayers, while the Sabbath and festival Amidah is shortened. The words of these prayers would have been recited at least 3 times per day by Yeshua, His Disciples, and the early Christians. The prayer is traditionally said standing, facing Jerusalem, with both feet together, as reflected in Ezekiel’s vision of the angels of G-d in Ezekiel 1:7. One would do well to use the Amidah as a spring board to personal petition.

 

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