Introduction

The MJRC

The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical Council (MJRC) was formally established in May 2006. It consists of a group of ordained Messianic Jewish Rabbis and associated leaders who share a common vision for Messianic Jewish practice rooted in Torah, instructed by Tradition, and faithful to Messiah Yeshua in the twenty-first century.

The MJRC had its beginnings five years earlier. At that time a set of Messianic Jewish leaders from New England invited some of their colleagues from outside the region to join them in working on a common set of halakhic standards for themselves and their congregations.

Standards of Observance

While other areas of Messianic Jewish life are of profound importance, such as worship, ethics, education, and social concern, we believed that halakhic standards had received far less attention than their place in Messianic Jewish life warranted. We saw the need for such standards in our own lives, and as Rabbis also received numerous requests from others for halakhic guidance - guidance which up to this point we had been able to provide only in an improvised, ad hoc, and provisional manner.

The standards of observance contained in the present document are the fruit of our study and deliberation over the course of those five years. They embody in practical form the core beliefs and values that are at the heart of the MJRC.

We, the members of the MJRC, have committed ourselves to implement these standards in our own lives, and to teach and promote them in the congregations we lead. We also commend these standards for the consideration of the entire Messianic Jewish movement, and hope that others outside our immediate sphere will benefit from the work we have done.

We recognize that the Messianic Jewish movement consists mainly of people unaccustomed to or uncomfortable with traditional Jewish religious life, and those we are seeking to reach for Yeshua generally have a similar background. In large part this results from the high rate of secularization and assimilation among twenty-first century Jews. However, this profile also fits our calling as a movement for Yeshua within the Jewish world. Just as he came to seek and save the lost, and devoted his energy especially to reaching the disenfranchised among the Jewish people, so our mission is directed primarily to Jews who have little knowledge of or attachment to traditional Jewish practice.

In light of this reality, the MJRC decided that it should not formulate standards of observance that aim to be a new and definitive interpretation of the Torah's contemporary requirements. Of course, Messianic Jewish Rabbis are sometimes compelled to offer creative rulings adapted to the new circumstances of the Messianic age inaugurated by Yeshua's death and resurrection. Nevertheless, the MJRC found that in most cases it was reasonable to presume the basic teaching of the halakhic tradition, especially as understood by contemporary authorities who appreciate the dynamic nature of that tradition and the need for its wise development in a rapidly changing world.

Our aim instead was to articulate realistic and practical standards and guidelines for Messianic Jewish observance that point us and our communities toward the way of covenant faithfulness. We want to set out on a journey with Yeshua that will lead us all, in diverse ways, to a richer and fuller life as Jews obedient to the Torah through Messiah Yeshua, and obedient to Yeshua through the Torah.

The Document

This document employs two terms that require special explanation. The first term is basic practice. This refers to standards of observance that members of the MJRC are themselves committed to follow in their own lives. They will also seek to order communal events of their congregations in accordance with these standards, and will employ them in instructing those preparing for conversion. While members of the MJRC commend these standards of basic practice to all members of their congregations, they will not be imposed as requirements for congregational membership.

The second term is expanded practice. This refers to a more demanding level of observance, beyond basic practice, that includes a fuller expression of traditional forms of Jewish life. An expanded practice is one that is explicitly commended by the MJRC, but is not required of its Rabbis or those converted under their auspices. The practices so listed do not exhaust the range of worthy expressions of Torah observance that a Messianic Jew might adopt, but provide concrete examples of the shape such observance could take.

This document includes two types of material. The main body of the document, in sans serif font, consists of decisions approved by the full Council. Each of these decisions derives from hours (and sometimes days) of Council deliberation. Together they constitute the Standards of Observance, referred to in the document's title.

The document also contains reflective introductions and explanatory commentaries on the Standards, printed in a serif font. Prepared under the auspices of the MJRC Faith and Halakhic Standards Committee, the commentaries aim to explain the meaning of the Standards, the reasoning behind them, and their importance for our lives. While the commentaries are endorsed by the MJRC, they do not possess the same level of authority for the MJRC as the Standards themselves.

Like most Messianic Jews, we acknowledge the Torah as the constitution governing all Jewish life, and seek to obey it in accordance with the teaching, example, and redemptive work of Yeshua the Messiah while also drawing upon Jewish tradition, especially those practices and concepts that have won near-universal acceptance by devout Jews through the centuries. This commitment to the Torah has motivated us to seek a common approach to its practical observance.

We rejoice in the opportunity to work together as Messianic Jewish leaders who desire to discover together what obedience to the Torah means for our daily lives. Like others in our movement, we are only beginning the journey. But we are determined to walk together, and to grow steadily in knowledge and observance of the Torah, and in faithfulness to our Righteous Messiah.