This interview is a follow up to my previous posting about messianics and Rabbi Singer
Q: What is your success rate?
A: I cannot place a specific number or “rate” of successes. The success rate is so enormous you wouldn’t believe me. The success is getting someone just to talk with me. They can’t ignore the information. The problem is with the people who are not interested in listening. There must at least be some sort of family relationship with the person. Without a [family] relationship you can’t do anything.
Q: What motivated you to pursue a career fighting missionaries?
A: Like most Jews I could not stand to see what they [the missionaries] were doing. But I just started to do something about it. I just had to do something.
Q: A friend said to me, “How are the messianics different than the Chabad? The Chabad just want everyone to be like them and believe that they are right. ”
A: They are exactly polar opposites. When the Chabad approaches you it is impossible not to know who they are and what their message is. Their dress is the Chabad dress. They are saying to you, this is our message. They are about as honest a Jewish organization that anyone can conceive.
What the messianic community is doing is two things. Number one they are trying to get people to believe what they believe. But the worst part is that it is consumer fraud. If I were to, as a rabbi, want to convert Catholics to Judaism and I dressed up as a Catholic priest and I looked for people who had a crucifix and said do you want to be a true Christian would you study the Talmud with me that would be consumer fraud. The Chabad, no matter what you think of them, are totally honest. Chabad does not believe that if you do not believe in their Judaism you are going to go to hell.
The messianics are posing as Jews when what they are selling is Christianity. Their leaders are all ordained Christian ministers.
Q: Is Jews for Jesus a cult?
A: I couldn’t use that term. You cannot join Jews for Jesus. You can work for them and be an employee. But they don’t have a membership. They are a Baptist mission to the Jews. The head is not a Jew. They are run by Baptists. It is a Baptist mission to the Jews.
Q: How do you distinguish the messianics from cults?
A: In a sense the messianic movement is more dangerous than the traditional old time cults, for the reason that cults typically are transitional. People get involved in a cult for only a few years and then move on. Whereas the messianic movement is really a term for Christian churches that try to appear as synagogues.
Q: Don’t all Christians believe that everyone in the world must believe in Jesus?
A: Technically yes, but there are many liberal Christians like Episcopalians who do not subscribe to that. Fundamentalists who believe that the tenants of the Church are unbending believe that the world has to convert, but the Jews are the most important. The Jews [conversion] is related to the second coming. We were the ones who rejected Jesus so therefore only the conversion of the Jews can bring the eschatology. Mathew 10/34 says go to the Jew first.
Q: What about the Christian friends of Israel and the groups who have a parade here in Jerusalem every year on Sukkot?
A: Christian Friends of Israel Gospel ministries is a [church] that wants to convert Jews. They are involved in that parade. Many groups are involved in that parade.
Q: What of all the pro-Israel sentiment amongst the fundamentalists in America? Is their support of Israel genuine or just part of a belief that the Jews must be in Israel to convert and bring about Jesus’ return?
A: Every Southern Baptist wants to convert the Jews. Does Christian Zionism nurture philo-Semitism? The answer is yes it does. This is how it needs to be handled. There is a great deal of support [for Israel] from evangelical Christians. The relationship should be on a leadership level, not on a lay level. If you have leaders working with other leaders, that’s fine. The danger is when we have these big gatherings of evangelicals supporting Israel together with lay Jews then there is a social networking that takes place and the evangelism goes on. It’s very important when it’s done on the leadership level. It should never be on the lay level.
Q: So is their support of Israel conditional on getting Jews to convert?
A: They are not connected. They are simply two different separate theologies. It is just not correct that they are pro Israel because they want to get the Jews to convert. They are pro Israel because their theology dictates that Israel belongs to the Jews. That is completely separate from the fact that they want the Jews to convert. They believe that God’s covenant with Israel was always intact.
They believe that God has two covenants. One covenant is with the physical people of Israel and the physical land of Israel that belongs to the Jews. There is a separate covenant with the Church.
Q: In your radio debates with messianics you seemed to hold back from criticizing Christianity directly. For example, you do not refer to the fact that the first Christians did not call Jesus the son of God. Is that because you don’t want to offend anyone?
A: On air you always want to stick to the issues. You don’t want to make it personal. I do have a personal relationship with some missionaries who trust me enough to talk to me.
I did refer to the Council of Nicaea. But my most important audience is the Jew who is considering converting to Christianity. So I stick to the Jewish scriptures and what they actually say. Like Numbers 23/19 which says that God is not a man.
The word Mashiach (messiah—literally the anointed one) appears 38 times in the Tanach. It is never used to refer to what we call Mashiach. It can refer to a leader or a priest. It even can refer to a gentile like Cyrus in the book of Isaiah.
Q: When you pointed out in a debate that Christian belief in a messiah being the son of God cannot be found in the Tanach the other side said that what you do as an Orthodox Jew is not in the Bible either. What the Rabbis did 2,000 years ago isn’t in the Torah and there is no mention of an oral law in the Torah.
A: It’s precisely the opposite of that. For example, praying three times a day is in Daniel chapter six. Daniel prays three times a day facing Jerusalem. We find the oral Torah ensconced throughout the written scriptures. We actually find quotes from the Mishna in the New Testament before the Mishna was even compiled.
In Isaiah it refers specifically to fasting on Yom Kippur as the way to [afflict yourself as the Torah says]. It is factually incorrect to say that the oral Torah cannot be found in the written.
Q: Do you maintain a line of communication with Jews who have become messianic? For example, would you welcome them into your home for Shabbat meals?
A: I can’t imagine a place where a Jew who converted to Christianity needs to be more than in my home. I’m not going to expose my children to them. But I can’t imagine a place where they need to be more than in my home. But everyday Jews should not engage them. Send them to me.
Q: What should people do about the new messianic center that they are building in Nachlaot? Should they hold protests or hand out flyers in front of the building when they hold services there?
A: You might as well make a donation to these organizations if you do that. Because what they’ll do is use that and go to churches to raise money. What you can do is warn other Jews and alert them that this is not a Jewish organization but a church made to look like a synagogue. This could be a blessing in disguise. It could alert the Jewish community that they can’t take their Judaism for granted.
Q: Why is this the red line in that we accept all the secular and atheist Jews as Jews but all Jews agree – Conservative, Reform and orthodox — that the messianics are outside of the Jewish people?
A: You can’t turn back the wheels of history. Instead of just saying that I don’t believe, now someone is divorcing himself from the Jewish religion and joining another religion. Its one thing to say that I am withdrawing from membership in a Jewish life and another thing to join another religion. Believing in Jesus means that you are a Christian.