On Conversion – Welcoming the Committed Non-Jew

The Committed Non-Jew is the Non-Jew that has been called to Messianic Judaism and has been drawn to a Jewish life. Beyond the commitment of the average non-Jewish synagogue attender, they seek to follow Torah in all aspects of daily life, including Shabbat and Kashrut.

The Committed Non-Jew’s commitment to Messianic Judaism and the larger Jewish world marks a clear distinction in their commitment and calling. They like the Egyptians that left Egypt and with Israel stood at Mt. Sinai have been drawn to the God of Israel and to the People of Israel in a unique way.

This commitment can lead to “conversion” or “commitment” to Judaism in Rabbinic Judaism. Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist and even Humanistic Judaism have a mechanism/process for The Committed Non-Jew to cast their lot with Israel. Though many conversions to Judaism in Rabbinic Judaism is for marriage to a Jewish person, of those in Messianic Judaism the prime desire of many is a commitment to Judaism and the Jewish people.

A Messianic Jewish conversion process would be an outward affirmation by the Messianic Jewish community of an inward commitment that many have made years ago. These Committed Non-Jews have walked a Torah life and meet the Torah’s requirements of observance, only lacking brit milah or dam brit to complete the process.

As a Judaism we have to deal with this issue of The Committed Non-Jew, if we are going to truly be a Judaism. This does not discredit the other Non-Jews in our Movement, of which the Involved Synagogue Attender plays an important role, but it marks out a process or rite of passage for The Committed Non-Jew, to complete the process of commitment to Judaism that has begun in their life.

There is a concern about a possible “bandwagon effect” if Messianic Judaism established a conversion process. This fear is unfounded if the Rabbis and leaders follow strict guidelines. Of the Non-Jews that I know in my synagogue only 2 or 3 would seek this conversion process and all have been involved in Messianic synagogues for many years. These are people who have a calling to sojourn with Israel and who as Non-Jews seek to make Torah their life.

So then, how can we hold back the “bandwagon effect or “mass conversion” of Non-Jews to Messianic Judaism?

First off, like in Rabbinic Judaism the Rabbis and leaders must rebuff those seeking conversion, so as to test their commitment to the process. This rebuffing is also a test of the calling and commitment to the whole of Jewish life.

Secondly is education in that the prospective convert must be committed to a Jewish life and to their connection to all of Israel not just “saved Jews”. The prospective convert must be actively a part of the life of a Messianic synagogue and have training and knowledge of Torah and Jewish practice. They should also stand before and be examined by a Beit Din made up of recognized Messianic Jewish leaders in which there commitment to Jewish life will be examined.

Thirdly is that for prospective male converts brit milah or dam brit must be done. Circumcision is the sign of the Covenant in the flesh and this must be a part of the conversion process. At least for men this will be a real sign of commitment to Judaism and a Jewish life. The prospective convert should also go through immersion as the final act of commitment to Messianic Judaism. It is also important in the process to have the taking of a Hebrew name, as the convert becomes a son or daughter of Abraham and Sarah.

We stand in an awkward place in that the writers of the Brit Chadasha expected the Messianic Age in their lifetime and they did not address the issue of the Non-Jew within the Messianic synagogue. They did not foresee the two millennia that would pass since the time of Yeshua and we stand to define ourselves without direct guidance from the early Messianic Jews.

Though the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15, addresses required conversion to Judaism of Non-Jews before joining the Messianic community, the Council did not rule on voluntary conversion of which the concluding phrase “Moshe is preached in all the synagogues every Shabbat” leaves open a deeper commitment and even a “conversion” of the Messianic Non-Jew to Judaism.

The requiring of Non-Jews to convert to Judaism is clearly forbidden by the Council and we should seek to speak out against any “Messianic” group that begins conversion as a requirement for affiliation. This conversion to Messianic Judaism is for those who have a calling and commitment to Judaism and to the Jewish people and is truly an external confirmation of an internal “conversion” experience.

If we are going to be a Judaism, a true Messianic Judaism, we have to deal with the issue of the Non-Jews in our synagogues and to especially deal with the issue of the Committed Non-Jew.

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3 thoughts on “On Conversion – Welcoming the Committed Non-Jew

  1. Choosing to not get married is not the same thing as getting circumcised, nor did Paul attempt to corrolate the two. Additionally, American (and British) slavery was not what Paul was referring to either. Paul insisted Timothy, who had a Jewish parent, get circumcised. Yet, he didn’t circumcise Titus, or anyone else that we know of. This is entirely consistent if we understand that Paul believed God when He said that His covenant is with the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

    Additionally, I don’t know what the long period of time has to do with the appropriateness of conversion for 2 reasons: (1) God only covenanted with the seed of Abraham, thru Isaac and then Jacob. If it was open to anyone else, it makes no sense that He would be so specific, that Abraham’s other sons were excluded from the covenant, and that there is no biblical example of a non-Jew referred to a Jew. (2) Jewishness isn’t superior. God creates distinction for a purpose. Men cannot fulfil female roles (and vice versa) and gentiles cannot fulfill Jewish roles.

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  2. “…the writers of the Brit Chadasha expected the Messianic Age in their lifetime and they did not address the issue of the Non-Jew within the Messianic synagogue. ”

    It was addressed – and forbidden – by Paul.

    God made His covenant with the “seed” of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. None of his other sons, or his circumcised servants, were covenant members. Additionally, there was always distinction made between Abraham’s descendants and those who were not descendants, including those Egyptians who were with Israel at Sinai.

    In the NT it is forbidden to “convert” because we have different roles and purposes. 1Cor 7:18 & 20 for example.

    Additionally, the NT pre-dates rabbinic Judaism and therefore isn’t always appropriate to emulate.

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    1. The problem in 1 Corinthians 7 is that Paul also calls for those unmarried to not seek marriage if they are unmarried when they come to faith. Does this prohibit all people that are single when they come to faith? I was 6 years old when I came to trust in Yeshua, must I be forever single? Paul also in this passage tells slaves to not worry about being slaves? Was it wrong for slaves in the Southern United States wrong to hope for freedom? or should they have been content as they were?

      Paul is expressing his belief that Yeshua was returning very soon, so rather than worry about circumcision, freedom from slavery or getting married, the focus should be on being ready for the soon return of the Messiah. Paul did not foresee a 2,000+ year gap from the empty tomb to the Messianic kingdom and his words in 1 Corinthians represent his view of a soon end of the age.

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