One of the criticisms often leveled against Messianic Judaism is that we cannot truly keep the whole Torah because the Temple, and with it, the sacrificial service, has been destroyed. However, those arguing from the temporary removal of the Holy Place forget that 70 CE was not the first time the Temple was destroyed and the service taken away. In 586 BCE, Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon, following his third siege of Jerusalem, leveled the Temple along with the city. For seventy years, almost twice as long as we had wandered in the wilderness, Israel was taken in exile to Babylon.
The prophet Daniel was taken captive after the first siege (about 607 BCE) and Ezekiel in the second. Both of these men (and their friends) continued to keep kosher, even at great risk to themselves (Ezk. 4:14, Dan. 1:8-16). Daniel continued to pray three times a day towards Jerusalem (Dan. 6:10), doubtless at the times of the shakarit (morning), minchah (late afternoon), and ma’ariv (evening) prayer times, which coincide with the Temple services. Daniel observed these times with a mind of complete unity with the Jewish people (Dan. 9:1-19). He and Ezekiel looked forward to the promised restoration of the Temple. Neither saw its destruction in punishment for Israel’s sins as an annulment of the Torah. On the contrary, they saw it as the vindication of the Torah, which had prophesied all of the punishments that had come upon Israel.
In Daniel’s case, this is particularly noteworthy because we are told that that he was among the sarisim, the eunuchs of the Babylonian court (Dan. 1:3; often mistranslated as “officials”). Having been castrated, he would never be able to enter the Temple again (Deu. 23:1), which doubtless was the reason that he did not return when the captives were released by King Cyrus the Persian. In Daniel 10:1-4, we find out that after the captives were set free, he himself remained behind, and actually mourned and fasted for three weeks that ended just after the completion of Sukkot, a feast in which we are commanded to rejoice (Deu. 16:14). Was he breaking the commandment? No, he was mourning that he would never be able to keep it again in this life by making a proper pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Yet despite being excluded from the Temple service, despite being forced to learn the pagan lore of the Chaldeans, and despite knowing that he would never see sons of his own, Daniel’s heart remained true to his God, to his people, and to his Torah.
In many ways, Daniel is a prophetic prototype for the Jewish followers of Yeshua over the centuries. Both were taken out of the Land of Israel for no sin of their own. Both were forced to assimilate to a great extent into a Gentile culture, yet clung to their Jewish identity. Both had their writings preserved in a Gentile language; Daniel chapters 2-8 are written in Aramaic, while the New Testament is preserved in Greek. Daniel and his friends were repeatedly subject to persecution and the threat of death due to Gentile jealousy, just as we have seen were the Jewish believers in Yeshua over the centuries. The Holy One preserved both.
If Daniel the prophet, forever excluded from the Temple service because of his mutilation at the hands of the Babylonians, could nevertheless remain true to his God, his people, and his Torah while in exile, how much more so should those Jews who have been made truly whole by the Messiah of Israel do the same? After all, unlike Daniel, we have not been left without a Temple or a service. On the contrary, as the book of Hebrews teaches, there has been a transference of the high priesthood to the Messiah which was prophesied in Psalm 110. Though the early Temple was destroyed, the true Temple in heaven, the heavenly throne room seen by Isaiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and John, still remains. Since we have a great Priest interceding for us before God’s throne, the laws of the Temple service are indeed being fulfilled in their truest spiritual sense. This means that every time a Messianic Jew keeps kosher, celebrates the Feastdays, circumcises his sons, hangs a mezuzah,or puts on tzitzit and tefillin,he can do so knowing that the Temple service is likewise being fulfilled, and therefore the Torah remains unbroken.