… is Far From Being Right
Q: Hi Kevin. I was wondering: we have some friends here that have gotten into the… stuff [being espoused by a controversial Jewish-roots teacher, i.e.], “special” understanding of the calendar, New Moon by email sightings in Jerusalem, etc. We know [from personal experience that the teacher is] bad news. This time around it’s divisive—for example, [while our congregation observed] Rosh HaShannah on 9/8 with the rest of the world, [our friend insisted it should be] on 9/10 when his email says the moon was seen ([and] therefore all the [following holy] days [are to be observed differently] as well). If you choose to observe some other date, [most Jewish people are] only going to be aware of the dates on a generic calendar, and [if they want to attend a Messianic synagogue service]… you miss the chance to witness to them about Messiah. Have you ever had to try and lead someone out of [this] kind of junk? Thanks!
A: On one hand, I’m sympathetic to the desire to follow Israel’s calendar according to observation, rather than the often inaccurate, traditional Jewish calendar. I have to admit that knowledge of the erroneous nature of the currently accepted calendar makes me yearn for the calendar’s restoration.
In my experience, however, most people’s motivation for such a restoration comes not out of a desire for the restoration of the Jewish people, but out of the desire to be “right.” Sometimes this desire is pure, wanting to honor the Word of God, but more often, I have seen it spawn from negative, anti-authoritarian sentiments, usually aimed at proving Christianity wrong—and in this case, it would be to prove everyone wrong, including Rabbinic Judaism. While I am no fan of rabbinics, my personal desire for a restored calendar does not come from a need to disprove a practice of Judaism and assert an alleged spiritual superiority. All that to say, when dealing with such a person, it is crucial to discern the motives of his heart (Prov.16:2) before confronting him about the division that is being caused.
It is quite likely that the reports out of the Land that your friend is referencing regarding the moon are accurate. The teacher to whom you refer has historically worked with a non-Yeshua-believing Karaite Jew who has made inroads among the Messianic fringe. The Karaites in general practice the observation of the moon in the Land, and this particular Karaite broadcasts their findings on the internet.
My issue with altering the traditional calendar based on the word of the Karaites, however, is not due to their suspected inaccuracy, but because I don’t recognize their authority. Why would I submit to one non-messianic authority (Karaites) to subvert another non-messianic authority (the Rabbinic calendar)? I address this issue at length at https://www.perfectword.org/dtc—it might be a beneficial read for you.
From a practical standpoint, if it were me, I would counsel your friends to just celebrate everything twice—once as part of the community, the other time to satisfy their conscience. Even the traditional calendar makes provision for multi-day observance exactly because of discrepancies in the observance of the new moon. That said, if someone is benefiting from being part of the community, then unity ought to be a priority, especially when creative ideas can help resolve conflict.
How do you lead someone out of this “junk”? First realize that the “junk” is probably rooted in a lack of secure identity in Messiah, and in his overall approach to Scripture. In this instance, he is very “right” in his assessment of the facts. The problem is in his motivation for being “right.” It is more important for him to be “right” about a non-eternal, exclusively-Israeli issue* than to find a way to bring consensus among the community (1Co.1:10)—or even consider the possibility that he is mistaken in his making such waves. Unless your relationship with this brother is one in which you are mutually accountable to one another (Ep.5:21), you really don’t have the ability to offer correction—whether it’s correcting the facts, his heart-attitude, or both. A disciple reflects the attitudes and teachings of his master. If your friend is subjecting himself to “bad news,” and he is not open to your counsel, he needs your prayers and compassion, and to be exposed to voices that will nurture positive change in his walk with the Master.
*The whole thing is moot because neither you nor he—nor I—are in the Land, therefore, none of us can truly “keep the feast.”
What do you think? Weigh in with your comments below.
This “Messy Messianics” article was originally published in Messianic Jewish Issues. Messy Messianics, a recurring feature in Messianic Jewish Issues, is provided as a resource for helping troubled friends back from the fringe.