“Jesus is the Messiah expected by the Jewish people, and he is the Messiah for all peoples.” The phrase surprises from the mouth of a rabbi, but David Sedaca, like almost half a million “messianic” Jews around the world, celebrates this Saturday in its New York synagogue the “Yom Yeshua” (Jesus Day, in Hebrew), joining the millions of Christians who celebrate Christmas today.
Rabbi Sedaca, a Harvard graduate who had a successful career as an executive in the automobile industry and is now an academic at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, led for 25 years the International Alliance of Messianic Judaism, one of the main branches of this religious movement. .
Undoubtedly, among Messianic Jews, the most famous is the American poet and composer Bob dylan. Born in 1941 to a practicing Jewish family, Robert Allen Zimmerman (his real name), 2016 Nobel Prize Winner for Literature, revealed that his approach to Jesus, without denying his Judaism, occurred when he was 37 years old, during a musical tour of Arizona. While he was in his Tucson hotel room, suddenly “There was a presence in the room that could not have been anyone other than Jesus…. I felt my whole body tremble. The glory of the Lord brought me down and lifted me up “, he counted.
Then he wrote in his song “Saved”, “I have been saved by the blood of the lamb / And I am so happy … I just want to thank you, Lord.”
The question that Messianic Jews must answer over and over again is almost obvious: If you believe that Jesus is the Messiah, why don’t you convert to Christianity? “It happens that actually it was the Christian church that was distancing itself from its Jewish roots, especially since in 313 the Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, ”Sedaca pointed out.
The Messianic Jewish leader born in Uruguay to Jewish parents, who lived in Latin America and Europe before settling in the United States, later gave a biblical explanation for his claim. Even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, in the 22nd chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, the apostle Paul himself presents himself, speaking in the Hebrew language, as a raised Jew ‘in strict observance of the Law of our fathers’. And furthermore, the one who guided Paul after his encounter with Jesus was Ananias, also presented by the apostle as ‘a faithful observer of the Law‘. So, Jesus did not set out to found a new religion, but to bring to perfection the work for which God designated Israel as his chosen people.
Although there are several hundred different Messianic Jewish congregations, each with its own customs and rites, their synagogues are generally modern, sober rooms, without too many ornaments. The symbol with which they are identified is a Jewish candlestick (the menorah), and a fish (symbol of the ancient Christians) united by the Star of David.
For ceremonies, the rabbi usually covers himself with the tallit (Jewish cloak) with fringes, the prayers and songs are in the Hebrew language and readings are made from the Old and New Testaments. In addition, they have the Lord’s Supper in which the bread “symbolizes” the body of Jesus, and the wine, his blood.
“Until the end of the 1st century, Christianity and Judaism were almost the same religionRabbi Sedaca pointed out. Christians were viewed as a branch of Judaism, and both were considered a threat by polytheistic Romans. Later, although throughout history there were still Jews who believed in Jesus as Messiah, it was in 1813 that the first Hebrew-Christian groups were formed in London, followed by similar movements in the rest of Europe and the United States. In 1864 the first congregations appeared. The second great flowering of Judaism in general, and Messianic in particular, occurred after the 1967 Six Day War, when Israel regained complete control of Jerusalem and was seen by many as a kind of fulfillment of biblical prophecy. That greening in the United States coincided with the rise of the Pentecostal evangelical movements. Most of the Messianic Jewish congregations are today in the United States and Israel, but there are scattered throughout the world, even in Buenos Aires there is the Derej Haemuna Messianic Center, in the Once neighborhood, directed by Rabbi José Lewin.
Sarah Posner, editor of religious issues in the United States, who received a scholarship from the University of Southern California to study the life of Messianic Jews, explained to LA NACION how these congregations are perceived in the United States and in Israel. “From a political point of view, Messianic Jews tend to coincide with the agenda of evangelical Christians and the religious right regarding his opposition to abortion, LGBT rights and Islam. Many times they even carry out joint activities with evangelicals, ”Posner told LA NACION.
But in Israel, especially the orthodox, the haredim, they see them as a threat, they reject their presence and pressured so that the legislation does not consider them “Jews” who can qualify for “aliyah”, the possibility of immigrating to Israel that all Jews of any country of origin have.
“The fulfillment of the mandate of Jesus Christ to ‘go and evangelize all nations’ and proselytism, places Messianic Jews in an antagonistic position with the government of Israel, and in particular with the Ministry of the Interior, which is controlled by the extreme right. The haredim accuse Messianic Jews of preying on unsuspecting secular Israeli youth, immigrants and others who are not sufficiently in touch with their JudaismPosner explained.
From Israel, the rabbi Daniel Juster, one of the historical leaders of Messianic Judaism who leads the organization Tikkun Internationalexplained the complications that this rejection generates in the daily life of his community. “The Population office is controlled by people from the right-wing religious party Shas, and It continually hinders us for any procedure, be it services, visas, etc. There are also boycotts of buses owned by Messianic Jews”.
However, from his community in Mevaseret Tzion, west of Jerusalem, Rabbi Juster claims that This opposition does not hinder his evangelical work. “We are a congregation of very united members, who we know who we are in Yeshua, and we can announce the Good News with the power of the Holy Spirit”.
From the enthusiasm for the Christmas feast, Rabbi Sedaca concluded by endorsing the words of the prophet Simeon when the newborn Jesus was taken by his parents to the temple in Jerusalem for his “purification”. “Since I discovered Yeshua as Savior, I can say as Simeon; ‘My eyes have seen the salvation that you prepared for the glory of your people, Israel’”.
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The Christmas of the Jews who believe that Jesus is the Messiah