Here at RPP, we very much believe that Messianic Jews are free to observe the Torah, or not to, according to their consciences. There is certainly no obligation to keep Torah.
Some Messianic Jews still keep Torah as a “witness” to other Jews. If we keep Torah, the logic goes, Orthodox Jews will realise that it’s okay to be Jewish and believe in Jesus. When it comes to “witness”, however, we think that continued Messianic Jewish Torah observance has the opposite effect.
It sends a mixed message to the Jewish community. According to Judaism, when Messiah comes the Torah is abolished. Messiah’s followers now keep to a new law, not Torah.
So when Jews see us claiming the Messiah has come, but we should still keep the Torah, we are sending a mixed message. We are saying Messiah has come already, but we’ll act as if nothing has changed by continuing to keep Torah.
According to Judaism, when Messiah comes, there is no more Torah.
In order for Messianic Judaism to act consistently with the values of Judaism, Messianic Jews would have to abandon Torah.
Joseph Telushkin is a widely respected Jewish scholar, and his writings are admired by Torah-observant Messianic Jews. They will be interested in Telushkin’s new book Rebbe (2014), which discusses Messianist Jewish believers in the Rebbe as a once-dead Messiah figure.
Telushkin argues that Chabad Jews don’t really believe the Rebbe is Messiah, because they carry on keeping the Torah, therefore they are saying the Rebbe is not the Messiah of Judaism.
You can read this in Telushkin’s conclusion. Here is the relevant passage:
All students of the Talmud are familiar with the rabbinic question, lmai nafka manna? “What are the practical implications of the question you are raising? In the spirit of lmai nafka manna?, one may ask: Why ultimately does it matter whether or not there are Chasidim who consider the Rebbe to be the Messiah? Will a contemporary Chabad rabbi, Messianist or not, issue different rulings on Jewish law as a result? No.
All the laws of Judaism that a Jew is bound to observe remain binding whether one’s beliefs are about the Rebbe’s Messiahship.
Thus, while there are traditional Jewish sources that speculate that many of Judaism’s ritual commandments will be suspended after the Messiah comes, no one within Chabad with whom I am familiar – even arden Messianists – holds that any Jewish laws or holidays should be observed different because he or she maintains that Menachem Mendel Schneerson is the Messiah.
This, in itself, suggests, and is argued earlier in this chapter, that in their hearts the Messianists do not see the Rebbe as the actual Messiah – despite the fact that they proclaim in loud voices that he is. There is a long-standing Jewish tradition (see, for example, Zechariah 8:19) that Jewish fast days will be abrogated in the days of the Messiah, a position not instituted by Chabad Messianists.
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