I blogged a couple of weeks ago about the picture of Messiah that emerges from the Akkedat Yitzchak, the narrative of Isaac’s binding and near-sacrifice on Mt. Moriah, and noted at that time, “Ergo, Judaism as taught by the ancient rabbis–rather than the shallow, reactionary Judaism of the anti-missionaries–would not have a problem with a truly righteous, even completely innocent man who laid down his own life to intercede for the guilty so that they could be reconciled to the Holy One–and in fact finds its prototype for such a sacrifice in the Akedat Yitzchak.”
I got a wonderful confirmation of this view today, when Rabbi Derek noted essentially the same thing:
The midrashic conceptions of God are very amenable to Messianic Jewish faith and counter the rather deistic tradition of much modern Judaism. It will not be easy for Jewish opponents of Messianic Judaism to claim that our faith is un-Jewish as our scholars (present and future) delve deeply into the more immanent and mystical parts of the Tradition.
I particularly appreciated his categorization of much of modern Judaism as deistic–which is to say, having a view of God that does not allow for much interaction with His creation. I had a similar view that I voiced in my post on speculative fiction in Judaism and Christianity, but I failed to actually label the problem with modern Judaism correctly. My thanks to Rabbi Derek for succinctly summing up what I was trying to puzzle out.
Some years ago, I had the opportunity to spend several dinners with an Israeli friend of my in-laws. In the course of our conversations, it became evident that for him, “God” was not an entity who consciously directs history, but just the name people put to the course of history. In fact, the distinct impression that I got was that he had come to America with his family because he expected Israel to eventually fail and wanted his daughters to survive. One might expect such an attitude to come from a secularized Jew, but the truly sad thing is that this gentleman was Orthodox in upbringing and custom! He had one of the more extensive libraries of commentary on the Scriptures that I’ve ever seen, and obviously had spent a great deal of time in the Word. He had grown up in the Land that the Eternal One had brought our people back home to after two thousand years of exile, living and breathing the miracle that is Israel’s survival . . .
. . . and yet, in his heart, he had no trust in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
You know, in the Messianic movement there is a pervasive tendency to idolize all things Jewish. Obviously, I think there is a great deal to be admired in Judaism and Jewish culture, or else I would not have joined to it. Furthermore, I am one of the voices urging those who wish to claim to be a part of the Jewish people to accept the traditions and authorities of the Jewish people. But we need to do so with our eyes open, recognizing and combatting the ennui and despair that typlifies so much of modern Judaism.
And to do that, we need to be able to point to the rabbis of old and say, “We agree with them! The Holy One isn’t distant from the sufferings of His people, the Messiah isn’t just a wise man, and the Spirit still breathes life and joy into us.”
We’ve got a lot of homework to do. Time to get cracking.