Over the past few weeks while I have been recovering from my recent surgery, I took some time to visit various chat groups and blogs in the outer limits of the Messianic world. I spoke to people who called themselves “Rabbi,” but the education they had, was severely limited, they received “smichah; rabbinic ordination from groups I would not consider legitimate. When I dialogged with these individuals, some were Jewish but didn’t care about having any continuity with the Jewish community, which was not simply trying to work Yeshua into an otherwise Jewish life, but was a “do-it-yourself,” “make-it-up-as-you-go-along” religion. They had no desire to express their faith in continuity with Jewish life, and had no desire to be part of the wider Jewish community. Others among them who called themselves Rabbi, weren’t even Jewish. They said they didn’t need to be, as long as they believed in Yeshua. Something wasn’t kosher.
I couldn’t figure out what bothered me more; that they didn’t care about being part of the Jewish world, or that they would call themselves rabbis and misuse Jewish symbols to suit their own purposes. I don’t like them calling themselves rabbis because that puts my title on the same level as theirs. Of course, Orthodox rabbis probably feel the same way about Reform Rabbis using the rabbinic title.
The other thing that bothered me about them calling themselves rabbi, was that they had no real education to back their title. My colleagues and I studied for many years before we received Smicha, and had to become competent in Jewish studies, literature, and Holy Writings before we could have and use that title. In the way these other “rabbis” respond to and discuss issues, it became clear to me they had not studied. They said they had the “Holy Spirit.” I always felt that when I taught, when I said this is what God says, I wanted to be as sure as possible that this is what the Scriptures actually taught. Thats why I went to school.
When I brought up halakhic issues, they dismissed them by saying they weren’t subject to rabbinic rulings. Then why call yourself a Rabbi at all? What was I missing here? When I dialogged with these gentlemen, they didn’t engage in discussion. They spent most of their time fault-finding others. Benjamin Disraeli said, “How much easier it is to be critical than to be correct.” Anyone can be critical, but it doesn’t show what you know, it only tells people you reject others or their views.
They misquoted the New Covenant to back up their positions saying they didn’t need to observe anything rabbinic, and acted condescendingly toward me, as if I had a superior attitude. Is it arrogant to honestly identify that I am Jewish? Is it acting superior to expect legitimate education from someone who calls them self a rabbi? I would think not. But these people accuse me of acting superior because I don’t act like it doesn’t matter to be Jewish and now, we are all the same. I don’t buy that. Sorry if it offends people, but we are not the same. There is a difference between being made One and being made the same.
The damage these people do is serious. First, when they call themselves rabbis, I don’t want anyone to think their credentials are the same as mine. I worked and studied hard for many years. These people took a few online seminars, sent in a check, and poof! They are a rabbi. Not the same thing.
Second, when they call themselves rabbi, the church world doesn’t know and maybe doesn’t care that there is a difference. I don’t want them representing what I would call the Legitimate Messianic movement, giving the wrong impression of what and who we are.
Third, when they call themselves rabbi, if what they say gets heard in the Jewish world, it is embarrassing and takes away from our credibility, which may not be that much, but its more than that. More than once I have cringed when I heard a traditional rabbi quote something a so-called Messianic Rabbi said that was very wrong. All I could do was tell him that didn’t represent me. He was decent about it and said he knew I didn’t believe that way, but just wanted me to know. I pointed out something some right-wing Orthodox rabbi said, and let him know I knew it wasn’t his view either. We could do that because we have a friendship. What does it say to those who don’t have a friendship with us? The so-called messianic rabbis didn’t care. I guess that’s the crux of the matter. I care, as do my colleagues. A rabbi, Messianic or otherwise, is to be a shepherd of Israel. So called rabbis who don’t care how their actions affect the Jewish world, are not true shepherds. A shepherd has to care about the sheep. If they don’t give a damn about the people, a rabbi they are not.