- The Washington Times - Sunday, January 25, 2004

Excerpts of a sermon delivered Saturday by Rabbi Barry Rubin at Emmanuel Messianic Jewish Congregation in Ellicott City, Md.

Many Christians have tossed out the Torah, seeing it as just a law for the Jews, a document that has passed away.

Some see it as another valuable moral code, not unlike the moral codes of other great religions. But many don’t see most of the Torah as relevant at all for today.

As for the body of Jewish tradition that existed from before the days of the Messiah, this has been disdained, discounted and generally ignored. Sadly, many followers of the Messiah continue to miss a rich source of blessing: Jewish tradition. …

When we speak of Jewish tradition, we’re really speaking of oral tradition, that supposedly began when God gave it to Moses on Mount Sinai, along with the written law, the Torah; it was then passed on to Joshua, the judges, the prophets and the elders of ancient Israel, and finally to the rabbis.

Ultimately, these oral traditions were codified and written down in what is called the Talmud, begun around [A.D.] 200, completed around 500. They existed at the time of [Jesus].

Look at a few examples from [Jesus’] life and also some statements. …

Even though the temple still stood, he often attended synagogue.

“Now when he went to [Nazareth], where he had been brought up, on [the Sabbath] he went to synagogue” (Luke 4:16).

Also, “He stood up to read, and he was given the scroll of the prophet [Isaiah] to read.” He was asked to read the haftarah, the prescribed portion from the prophets for that particular day.

When the rabbi was teaching his [disciples] how to pray, specifically in Matthew 6:9-13, he picked up the themes of the amidah, the standing prayers, still practiced in synagogues today, particularly the third, fifth, sixth and ninth benedictions.

They had been part of his morning prayers, every day. Now he formed them into what has been called the Lord’s Prayer, a thoroughly Jewish, traditional prayer.

And at his last Passover seder, he broke the matzo and made the blessing over bread: “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who brings forth bread from the earth.” He did the same for the blessing over the cups of wine at that unique seder, “Blessed are you, O Lord our God, king of the universe, who creates the fruit of the vine.”

He was apparently quite comfortable using the formulaic prayers that had been developed by the rabbis before him.

His statement in Matthew 5:17-19 supports the contention that he kept the Torah.

“Don’t think that I have come to abolish the Torah and the prophets. I have come not to abolish, but to complete.”

His desire was to give the proper rendering of the meaning of the words of the Eternal One.

He reinforces this concept when he tells the crowds and his [students]: “The Torah [scribes] and the [Pharisees] sit in the seat of [Moses]. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it” (Matthew 23:1-3).

[Jesus] was encouraging his followers to also follow the practices of the rabbinical traditions.

One can find virtually all of his teachings paralleled in the Talmud, the codified body of rabbinical writings. …

[Jesus] never condemned the rabbis as a group. What he condemned was the same thing all the prophets of Israel, and any teacher of morality we would applaud today, would condemn: hypocrisy and lording it over someone else.

Because of what an anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic bias that has existed in the church for nearly 2,000 years, and along with it, a prejudice against that which is decidedly Jewish, like rabbis and Jewish tradition, many statements in the [New] Testament are not examined carefully.

But upon closer examination, it’s clear that [Jesus] never taught anything but respect for the Sabbath and commitment to the laws of Kashrut. …

Pinchas Lapide, the Orthodox rabbi who wrote a book titled “The Resurrection of Jesus,” stated: “Jesus never and nowhere broke the law of Moses, nor did he in any way provoke its infringement it is entirely false to say that he did. … In this respect you must believe me, for I do know my Talmud. … This Jesus was as faithful to the law as I would hope to be. But I suspect that Jesus was more faithful to the law than I am — and I am an Orthodox Jew.”

Understood and practiced properly, [the traditions] will help us walk closer to the Eternal One, and live more and more [like Jesus], the reasons we have for living.

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