A Shonda!

This week, a photo, and later a YouTube video was circulated about an impostor, posing as a Messianic Jewish rabbi, desecrated a Torah Scroll by wrapping it around a Christian pastor and blessing him, by making strange and outlandish claims. My feelings of revulsion have been shared by Messianic leaders around the globe, as comments and bloggers have been decrying this action for several reasons.

First of all, this man, Ralph Messer, is no Messianic Jew, and no rabbi. No Messianic Jewish organization endorses or accepts this man. Second, he isn’t even a Jew. He was raised as a Catholic and a former altar boy. He is part of a group called “Ephraimites,” made up of non-Jews who take on a Jewish affectation, and claim to be the Lost Tribes of Israel, and also claim to be Messianic, but have no heart or interest in genuine Jewish concerns. They are the Dungeons and Dragons of the religious world. They create a character, and assume it, in a fantasy Jewish existence. While its offensive to us in that they are engaged in the ultimate identity theft, on another level, what they are doing is as repulsive to us who are really Jewish, as a minstrel show would be offensive to African-Americans. Messianic Jews have it hard enough being who we are. We don’t need it made worse by people who are not us, masquerading as us, doing things we consider unholy, sinful and blasphemous!

The sight of this man taking a Torah scroll and abusing it was beyond painful for us to see. The reason this is such a disgrace is that a Torah Scroll is one of three things in Judaism considered holy in and of themselves. The other two are Tefillin, and Mezuzah parchments, because they are the very words of Torah, written on parchment prepared for the purpose of holy writing, with special ink, made with the purpose of holy writing, by a sofer, a man dedicated to writing holy writings. Within normative Judaism, these items are holy, in and of themselves, not by their use. To misuse a Torah Scroll in this way, is for us what taking Communion wafers, and using them as croutons in soup would be for a Catholic. I would hope our Christian friends would stand with us in condemning this act.

The sight of a sacred Jewish object being used in a way so far removed from its normal usage, and as no more than a prop for this bizarre ceremony was sickening. It was reminiscent of an account in the book of Judges in the Jewish bible, where the Ark of the Covenant was taken into battle against the Philistines. It was not how it should have been used. Israel lost the battle, and the Ark was taken captive by the Philistines, who put the Ark in the temple of their god Dagon. The Philistines noticed a problem when their Idol kept falling down before the Ark, and they suddenly had an epidemic of hemorrhoids and an infestation of rats. They sent the Ark back to Israel, where it was received and properly treated.

I’m not saying this misuse of this sacred object will bring a curse on Mr. Messer, the pastor or his church, but one never knows. Rabboni Shel Olam, the Master of the Universe doesn’t look too kindly on the intentional misuse of his Holy Things. I personally do know of people who have taken vows while holding a Torah scroll, did not fulfill the vow, and someone wound up dying. I’m not saying a Torah Scroll is lethal, but misusing a Holy thing can be bad for your health! Yes, to me, a Torah Scroll is holy, and one doesn’t fool around with what’s holy.

I add my voice to the many others protesting this despicable act and ask others to join us. I hope that people will understand this man and this horrible action has nothing to do with Messianic Judaism.

I suddenly feel like watching Raiders of the Lost Ark.


57 thoughts on “A Shonda!

  1. Pingback: Ralph Messer is not a Messianic Jewish Rabbi | Messianic Jewish Musings

  2. LOL, Rabbi Schiffman. I used to love playing D&D! I guess Messer is like a Shaman or Illusionist or Cleric character. Charisma score 18. Intelligence score 5. Wisdom score 3.

  3. “They are the Dungeons and Dragons of the religious world. They create a character, and assume it, in a fantasy Jewish existence.”

    Then I guess this constitutes rolling a 1 on the d20.

    Yes, I’m a geek.


      • Oh, I wasn’t taking this lightly, believe me. I hadn’t even heard about this until I got into work today and three different co-workers came to me asking about it (we’re just outside of Atlanta, so it was local news for us). When I got the details . . . well, I managed not to curse, but an English equivalent to _racha_ might have escaped my lips. Two or three times.

        When I’m ticked, I tend to try to find some humor to diffuse my anger. The D&D reference in your excellent write-up of the situation made me chuckle, and it’s a good analogy: A bunch of guys pretending at something they really don’t understand, just like how not too many of the guys I gamed with back in the day really had much of a grasp on the medieval mindset or mythology that the game was attempting to model either.

        In a lot of ways, the Ephramites who pulled this stunt are to the Jewish people as the pulp game-inspired fantasy schlock of the 80s and 90s is to Professor Tolkien. Tolkien understood his source material down to his bones, while his emulators were just aping the trappings of his work (dwarves, orcs, etc.), and generally doing it badly, if entertainingly to my immature teenage self.

        Because this actually means something and actually affects the real world, this stunt didn’t just fail, it critically failed. In acting without understanding, they basically rolled the dice with their reputations and the reputation of the Messianic movement as a whole, and it came up a 1 (or snake-eyes, for those not following the geek-talk).


  4. Pingback: A King, a Torah … and Ralph Messer | Yinon Blog

  5. Dr. Schiffman,

    As someone involved in the Hebrew Roots and Two House communities, I totally abhor this. What made me even more uncomfortable than his misuse of the Torah was his televangelist-style whip-up-the-crowd kind of speaking. I’ve grown to recognize that as a red flag in itself.

    Religious showmen shame the name of Yeshua.

      • For what it’s worth, Dr. Schiffman, Ralph Messer was part of the Two House organization Messianic Israel Alliance (MIA).

        He left about a decade ago, I’m told. I just spoke with some friends who knew of Messer. They told me he was booted from the MIA after a hostile takeover.

        They also told me both Messer and his wife have a Jewish parent, and that Messer may have been involved with Jews for Jesus at one point.

        Bottom line: though Messer may have a Jewish parent, and may have been involved with Jews for Jesus at one time, and may have been affiliated with a Two House organization at one time, the Jewish world doesn’t approve of Messer’s antics. I don’t, either. I can tell you my Two House friends, some of whom are leaders in the movement, are outraged and embarrassed by what Messer has done. Please understand that Messer represents Hebrew Roots and Two House no more than Jim Bakker represents evangelical Christianity. These religious showmen shame Yeshua’s name and are an embarrassment to our faith.

      • Judah, as I said, I know not all two housers are like that, giving you as an example of someone I have respect for. I know there are others. The problem is always the extremes, never the middle. The one thing that troubles me about statements from the MIA, is that they are falling over themselves NOW to disavow any connection to Messer, but why was he considered a respectable teacher by the two house movement until this weekend? If they disavowed him a month ago or a year ago, there would be more credibility. Personally, you know I have a live and let live approach to things, but when his actions reflect so very badly on the Messianic Jewish movement before the Jewish world, I had to speak up. He put a blotch not only on you guys, but on us as well, and we never considered him legitimate. You know the statements the UMJC and MJAA have made about Two house theology over many years, yet we are having to defend ourselves over it. To put it another way, He farted in my living room and now I have to smell it.

      • Just to clarify, Judah. You said that Messer “was booted from the MIA after a hostile takeover.” This sounds like someone else took over the MIA, so Messer was forced to leave. The MIA issued a statement about the situation this weekend and explained that Messer himself had tried to take over the organization over a decade ago, but when that was refused he left and took as many people with him as he could. The statement said that the MIA has not associated with him since, and they thoroughly disavowed his actions at New Birth Missionary Baptist.

      • Julie,

        Great info. It’s important to know the primary Two House organization, MIA, disavowed this and exposed how Messer tried, and failed, to take control of that organization, then was shown the door.

        Messer’s dealings with MIA, trying to take control of the organization and then leaving and taking everyone he could with him, shows an absence of the fruit of God’s spirit. Seeing this, and his past history of deception, I suggest Messer may be a religious con-man. I hope that’s not the case.

        Dr. Schiffman, your post describes Messer as an “Efraimite with a Torah.” Now that we have more information about the situation, that description is about as accurate as calling Messer a “Messianic Jew”. Yes, as it turns out, he may be Jewish and a follower of Jesus and have Two House and Hebrew Roots beliefs. But he doesn’t represent these organizations, any more than Madonna represents Judaism. He’s a bad apple. I respectfully ask you do the right thing. This post should not associate Messer with Hebrew Roots and Two House movements.

      • Judah, not so fast. As I pointed out earlier, MIA and other organizations in which up until last week he was a respected leader now claim he is not one of theirs. If it werent for the embarrassment he caused, he would still be considered a two house teacher. The description is accurate. Messer has admitted he is not Jewish. He may have remote Jewish ancestry, but that doesn’t make him a Jew. I can say that as much as I find it an embarrassment that he calls himself a Messianic rabbi, when he clearly is not and never was, I understand the embarrassment of the two house organizations he has caused, and I am glad they are distancing themselves from him. If this serves to separate the nut jobs from the honest decent people in the two house movement, its a good thing. Batya Wooten “sadly” distanced her organization from him yesterday according to a statement she put out. If I said something that wasn’t true, I’d retract it, but honestly, what I said was not inaccurate. Today the situation has changed, but when I wrote the post on Friday, he was not disavowed.

    • “MIA and other organizations in which up until last week he was a respected leader now claim he is not one of theirs. If it werent for the embarrassment he caused, he would still be considered a two house teacher.”

      Dr. Schiffman, that’s a pretty cut-and-dried comment that should be backed up with hard facts, and it contradicts the MIA’s own statement about their lack of relationship with him for the past decade and the sour way they ended their association with him. Can you please provide specific evidence that he was, until last week, considered a respected leader in the MIA? What about other organizations?

      So Messer himself may claim to be a Two House teacher? His actions have revealed that he is a LIAR across the board. There is no point in believing anything he has to say.

    • Dr. Schiffman, you stated “MIA and other organizations in which up until last week he was a respected leader now claim he is not one of theirs.” In the link you provided, the only reference I found (halfway down) to Messer’s involvement with the MIA was this, in 1999:

      ORLANDO, FLORIDA —- (September 3-6, 1999)
      Our conference… with greetings from Angus and Batya Wootten and Rabbi Moshe Koniuchowsky…. sessions will be conducted by Messianic Israel Alliance leaders and teachers: David Barski, Rene Bloc, Eddie Chumney, Steve Costello, Scott Diffenderfer, Randy and Lori Dryer, Ephraim Frank, Davis Hargis, Hale Harris, Monte Judah, Ralph Messer, David Pavlik, Mordechai Silver, Terry Swedlund and others….”

      I did not see any mention of Messer being considered a respected leader in the MIA at any time in the last decade, let alone up until last week. Can you please provide specific evidence that he was, until last week, considered a respected leader in the MIA? What about the other organizations to which you vaguely referred?

      • Julie, I have freinds in Colorado, where Messer is based, and I have been traveling there for the past 15 years. Messer is well known there as a two house guy, and his involvement with the Ephraimite movement. This is his reality. I’m not basing this on documents, but on what I know to be the case about him from my involvement in the Messianic Community in Colorado, as well as from the many people I have met with personal experience with him.

      • That’s all fine and good, Dr. Schiffman. He may very well be known as a two-house teacher is Colorado because that is how he markets himself, but you made a cut-and-dried comment linking the specific organization, the MIA, with Ralph Messer, indicating he was considered a respected leader up until last week. When pressed you apparently can give no proof that your statement is true. You vaguely mentioned “other organizations”, yet you also have given no names and provided no sources for his upstanding relationship with these “other organizations” until last week.

        Under the circumstances, it would be best for you to recant your statement since you can’t back it up with facts.

      • Julie, I hate to disappoint you, but I’m not retracting anything. The fact remains that Messer was a respected teacher in the two house movement whether or not I have official documents. He was connected to the Wootens, Chumney, and Monty Judah. I have close friends who went to conferences where they’d all taught together. The Wootens only repudiated him three days ago. The evidence is there. If you don’t want to accept it, you don’t have to, but it’s pretty well there in abundance. I truly hope those in the two house camps will consider how they treat Jewish holy things and realize what they do does reflect on Yeshua and on others outside their own ranks.

        With respect,

        Dr S.

  6. Rabbi Schiffman,

    Thank you for your eloquent words expressing what we all feel. I ‘d like to comment on two wider issues.

    Firstly, even in genuine messianic jewish circles, the general approach does seem to be that of “hebrew pentecostalism”. Whilst this doesn’t approach the level of sacrilege seen here, it still concerns me. Shofar misuse is widespread and condoned, even promoted, by many leaders. But going beyond that, the whole pattern of messianic life and faith seems far removed from any form of Judaism. I know some have been diligently working to correct this for many years, but there’s still a long way to go.

    Secondly, something that provokes a similar level of revulsion in me to this is the tendency in some circles to attempt to say the divine name. My background is anything but orthodox, and I find it distressing beyond words.

    My feeling is that if the messianic jewish world was far more respectful towards judaism, then there would be a lot less people like Messer around.

    Perhaps some comments from people like yourself about both these areas would be a good thing.

    • Thank you David, and I would say I totally agree with you about the “rampant” Shofar blowing and pronouncing the Divine Name. I would point out that most of the Messianic Congregations with which I associate myself neither condone, practice or approve of those practices. I personally believe things like that lead to things like desecration of Holy things. They represent a blatant disregard for what is Sacred in Jewish life and tradition. I can not condemn Messianic Judaism for that, because I believe those things are practiced by those who do NOT represent Messianic Judaism, but have falsely assumed the identity and label. I have criticized both practices in past posts on this blog. Thanks so much for your comments. They are appreciated.

  7. Dr Schiffman

    I appreciate your blog. As someone involved in the study of the Hebraic Roots of the faith for the past 22 years I was apalled by what I saw (so much so that as I was watching the video a family member happened to walk in my room and when they saw the look on my face they asked”What’s wrong!?” They thought I had just found out someone died).

    I stand with youon this and posted on my facebook page an article by Dr Wil Gafney from the Huffinton Post where she repudiates what he did point by point.

    Thank you for your post.

  8. Thank you for these words. I was sickened watching the video last night online and then perplexed that there was no response from the mainstream Messianic Jewish leaders to this desecration.

  9. Dr. Schiffman,
    As a Messianic Israeli, I’m trying to find out who Ralph Messer knows in the Land. (In the process I found your blog.) He claimed repeatedly on the video to have Israeli citizenship. You are the first who seems to know his background, and you say he’s not even Jewish. What are your sources? He’s bringing a tour to Israel in about a month, and Israeli leaders in the Body need to be informed. If you prefer, you can email me rather than replying here…
    Thanks and shavua tov from Israel,
    Hannah Weiss, Restorers of Zion

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  11. Like Judah wrote above, I am also associated with the Hebrew roots movement and Two House teachings. I ALSO abhor what Messer and Long have done. I was literally dumb-founded and speechless ( and I am NEVER speechless) at Messer’s bald-faced lies, his arrogant presumption to speak for the Jews and for Israel, his blatant insensitivity toward Biblicai customs, and the utter disdain he showed for the Holiness of the Most High. For pity’s sake, he treated the pure written Word as an ego-boosting, anti-Kryptonite ‘Superman’ cape for an unrepentant man who deserves to be held accountable for his wickedness.

    That said, I would like to share how saddened I am by the vitriol for the ‘Two House Movement’ which I read in Dr Schiffman’s response and a few other posts above. I don’t care that Messer may or may not claim to be an Ephraimite/Two Houser (I don’t know since I have never been able to stomach this man’s teachings and am therefore unfamiliar with most of them). He also claims to be a Rabbi, and yet various Messianic Rabbis have shot that claim to pieces. So, why then, are so many of you willing to believe that this foolish, unregenerate liar (who is NOT the Rabbi he claims to be) IS in fact a Two-houser (if that is indeed what he claims)? He has already been proven a fraud and a liar; why believe him on any account? Why, then, even mention “the Ephramites who pulled this stunt” or how “done (you are) with the Two House movement and all of their nonsense…”? I didn’t realize that there was more than one couple who had anything to do with this “stunt” and “nonsense.” The video showed only Messer and his wife, not “Ephraimites” (plural) or a “movement.”

    I am not here to debate what I believe, but I want you to know that I was drawn into Hebrew roots and Two House teachings simply because I fear the LORD and began to see and understand teachings in His Word that contradict what is frequently taught in many Messianic Jewish congregations. I don’t mind taking heat for that. I figure, if Yeshua led me here by the still small voice of His Spirit (and He did), and if I have diligently searched the Scripture for myself to show myself approved (and I have), then it stands to reason that my belief can take a little criticism. If Yeshua is real in me, then I ought to be able to take that criticism graciously and without returning it in kind. Yet, to be linked (through no action of my own) with a liar and a fraud merely because of someone’s false claim is the worst insult of all, and an even greater insult to the One Whose heart you and I are both seeking.

    • Julie,

      I had no intention of demonizing you. I know of some two house people like Judah and yourself who abhor what Messer did. HOWEVER, the vast majority that I have met are represented accurately by Messer. The two house beliefs are based on the idea that by following the Torah, Gentiles are somehow part of the house of Israel. That is not the clear teaching of Scripture, and is fantasy. Thats like saying an illegal alien who lives in America, but follows the local laws is now an American. It doesnt work that way.

      Gentiles who follow the Torah do a good thing. According to Paul, they are grafted in to the natural olive tree, the commonwealth of Israel. The way a commonwealth works, is that a Canadian citizen is part of the British Commonwealth.. He has the Queen of England as his queen, and she is on his money, yet he is NOT a British Citizen. Gentiles grafted in are still Gentiles, they have the King of Israel as their King, but they are not Israel, the people. Israel is the physical lineal decendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. You get that from birth, not from lifestyle and belief. Sojourners are not people who just live the lifestyle. It means someone who converts. The word for convert in hebrew is the same word for sojourner. If a person wants to become an american citizen, they need to apply for citizenship, not just live here. In Romans, paul addresses Gentile believers as Gentiles, not as Israel. The Two house theology is replacement theology.

      Sorry if this offends you. That is not my intent. Its just the reality of things.

      Wishing you well,

      Dr. Michael Schiffman

  12. Oh, my! I had a problem trying to see the video on YouTube, but the photo at the top of the post was enough to make me want to vomit.

    I’ve been involved in Messianic Judaism for about 20 years, first as a Gentile, and later as a convert to Judaism. Having lived on both sides of the street, I feel qualified to have an opinion here. Rabbi, I agree with and support every single word you wrote, including your negative comments toward the “Ephraimites.” When I was a Gentile, I was approached by a woman who informed me that I was probably Jewish because I had Scottish heritage, and that was where many Jews went to flee the inquisition. She said that since I had taken it upon myself to follow the Torah, that cinched it, and I should consider myself a Jew. The truth is, my mother was not Jewish, and my father probably had Jews in his ancestry. I knew incontrovertibly that none of that made me Jewish, and that it would be an offense to my God to say otherwise.

    I’m not any smarter than the average bear, so I cannot understand how it is that people can use the Ephraimite nonsense to pronounce themselves Jewish. Agreed, it is easy, it is convenient, is probably makes them feel good, but it does NOT make them Jewish. I got to be Jewish by humbly approaching legitimate representatives of the Jewish Community, and complying with their requirements without complaint over several years in order that I become familiar with the heritage and the society that I wished to join. Then I underwent Hatafat Dam Brit, went in a mikvah, made some very serious committments, and in a Jewish congregation I was formally accepted into the Jewish Community.

    If a Gentile is either unwilling or not considered acceptable for conversion, he is no Jew, and it is an insult to God and the Jewish Community for him to say otherwise.

    Now that I’ve run on so, I will say there is no problem if a Gentile wants to associate himself with Messianic or any other sect of Judaism. Nobody has any complaint, and he is most welcome. What he may NOT do, is assume the trappings of Judaism and begin to pretend that he has crossed the line. The line between Gentiles and Jews is there because God set us aside as his special people. He did not ever, in any way, reject Gentiles or decree them to be lesser people, but he did separate Jews from all the rest of mankind. You cannot cross that line without paying your dues, and you cannot EVER recross it in the other direction.

    The wrapping of anyone in a holy Torah scroll is an abomination. In my opinion, it is tantamount to slapping God in the face, and it surely is attempted identity theft.


  13. I am sorry for all that an imposter has appeared and used that which is sacred for personal satisfaction. I am impressed with the restraint, discernment and wisdom of Dr. Schiffman’s words.

  14. I finally managed to view the video, and I am even more appalled now than I was after just seeing the photo. There was so much phonyism and pure unadulterated hogwash, I wonder that scroll didn’t burst into flames and consume the whole crowd on that stage.

    I also am impressed with your response to this travesty, Rabbi.



  15. Dr. Schiffman,

    When the Normons baptize the dead (including holocaust victim) does it really make it so?

    If Messe says that the scroll is 318 years old, does it really make it so?

    The infamous pictures showes an illistrated Torah, when was the last time we so a scroll with pictures that is authentic?

    • I seriously doubt that he had a holocaust scroll. The Torah in question did not have illustrations, and was probably no more than 100 years old. I apprenticed with a sofer for 12 years, so in this I’m knowledgeable

  16. Pingback: Is Eddie Long Wrong For Apologizing For Ralph Messer’s Messy-Antics, Did Paula White Get Crowed As Queen And Join This Deceptive Pseudo-Judaism King-Queen Coronation Fiasco? | para-DOX parABLEs

  17. Julie Sagissor, I just reread all the comments about Rabbi Schiffman’s post, and your derogatory remarkss about Rabbi hit me this time.

    I have personally known Rabbi Schiffman for about 15 yearts, and very closely for the last 8 He does not, EVER, lie, and he does not EVER publish things of which he doesn’t have personal knowledge or irrefutable proof. What is more likely is that he is on the cutting edge of publishing information about Messer the imposter, and you are judging him based on prior information you picked up from someone far less reliable than Rabbi Schiffman.

    You need to lay off condemning Rabbi Schiffman and implying his comments are inaccurate. He just DOES NOT DO THAT. Nothing suits the imposter or the MIA or any other Ephraimite bunch any more than seeing us fight among ourselves, so please knock it off. You are condemning one of the most respected Rabbis anywhere in the Movement, with the result that you are the one who looks foolish.


    • Shalom all. Just found your Blog Rav. Shiffman. We may met in Ukraine some 20 years ago. May HaShem bless you and works of your hands for your chesed and work there. Yet I would like to comment on Julie Sagissor comments. I’m appalled and dismayed. There is seem present total lack of humility and servanthood on behalf of people like her. I found this so often in “Two housers” and Sacred namers. All what they want is to let them in no matter what. I would recommend to learn some more grace and submission issues to be considered. Humble hart is a must, and it appeared there is non. So to say this will be first before addressing any differences of opinions. And to it, very right David, imposter is imposter will it be MIA of two howses people or any of sort. With thanks and Shalom to Rav Shiffman.

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  19. Pingback: Is Eddie Long Wrong For Apologizing For Ralph Messer’s Messy-Antics, Did Paula White Get Crowned As Queen And Join This Deceptive Pseudo-Judaism King-Queen Coronation Fiasco? | para-DOX parABLEs

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