We stand in a movement that was revived in force since the Six Day War in June 1967. The return of Jewish control of Jerusalem marked a new day for Israel, to reclaim the historic capital of Israel and it also saw a revival of the Jewish people whether toward Zionism-which was seen among Reform Jews and some Orthodox Jews, who before 1967 were opposed to Zionism and a return to Israel and also a move toward spiritual searching that led to many Jewish people finding the Messiah-of which many leaders in Messianic congregations came to faith in the late 60’s and early 70’s.
Though this reviving of a Jewish understanding of Messianic faith allows us to come to this discussion, I would like to put forward that the “end times revivalism” that is so emphasized throughout our movement, which is a carry-over from the evangelical Christian backgrounds of many Jewish believers, brings about a short-sightedness of the Messianic Jewish vision in that with the impending end of the age there really does not need to be a long-range vision for our movement. This shortsightedness can leave future generations without a vision, if we have future generations.
Not to say that I doubt the hope of the soon appearing of the end of the age and the Messiah reigning and ruling from Jerusalem, may it be soon and in our day, we need to have a vision that holds to the impending return of Messiah, but also if he tarries, we need to keep the vision alive and establish Messianic Judaism for future generations and to establish Messianic Judaism even now as a credible expression of Torah life and a Judaism that is infused with the power of the Messiah and thereby do as the Shema calls us to do, “to love the Lord, our God with all our heart, soul and mind”.
With the focus on this being the final generation, based on the interpretation of Yeshua’s prophecy that the generation that sees the fig tree blossoming will see the completion of all things, this prophecy which has been understood to have been fulfilled by either the founding of the State of Israel in 1948, or more notably the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967. If this is true then this places the end of time in the lifetimes of the readers of this paper, especially of those born near or after 1967.
With the soon return of Messiah, the planning and building of a Messianic future is in doubt. Why seek to establish Messianic yeshivot, Messianic colleges, Messianic day schools and other Messianic institutions when with the end near, we can just use the existing secular, Christian and for some people the Rabbinic Jewish institutions for education and institutional support. Messianic Jewish institutions are really not needed with this end-times fervor.
The focus and importance of education in the larger Jewish world is overwhelming from the many educational programs in synagogues, Rabbinic schools and Jewish universities. The larger Jewish world knows that future generations will be kept and nurtured by a solid education in Judaism. In the larger Jewish world, the training for the rabbinate involves many years of study, either a graduate level of study in Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism or in Orthodox Judaism, a lifetime of study capped by intense Talmudic studies in yeshiva. The fact is that with this rigor comes the title of Rabbi.
The title “Rabbi” is used in our movement by most congregational leaders (even non-Jews) and we have to ask ourselves are we not doing ourselves a disservice to use the title of Rabbi, without requiring a rigorous course of study in Hebrew and Jewish studies for our congregational leaders? The need for making our congregational leaders of the future knowledgeable in the Bible, Hebrew and in Jewish studies is not an option, but a mandate.
I know that the founding of Messianic yeshivot, Messianic universities and Messianic day schools take time, effort and money, but sadly the issue is not even considered by many in our movement that we need these educational institutions. For our leaders to stand under the title Rabbi they must be knowledgeable in the Torah, Hebrew and Jewish Studies.
One of the requirements given to Timothy by Rav Shaul in I Timothy 3, was that the elders of the congregations, Rabbis and other leaders, needed to be respected by those outside the congregation:
And he (elder/Rabbi) is to have a good name among those outside the messianic community, so that nothing may be said against him and he may not be taken by the designs of the Evil One.
(I Timothy 3:7)
If our “Rabbis” are merely those who self-apply the title or those who receive ordination without a solid background in Hebrew, Torah and Jewish Studies then we are misusing a title with great meaning in the Jewish world and we are also allowing for the Messianic community to be open to disrespect before the larger Jewish world, because of our ignorance of Judaism and the norms of Jewish life even without our faith claims relative to Yeshua being the Jewish Messiah.
By developing a strong Messianic Jewish educational system we will allow for a future where we can have a mature Messianic Judaism that honors God and is infused by the power given us by Yeshua to live Torah.