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.