Beit Tefilah Messianic Congregation!
Beit Tefilah is a Messianic Jewish Synagogue comprised of
Jewish and non-Jewish believers in the promised
Messiah of Israel -- Yeshua.
We live out a biblical, Torah-based Jewish heritage and lifestyle
with foundations in the Tanakh and Brit Chadashah.
Rabbi Baruch Bierman & Bishop Dominique Bierman
of Kad-Esh Ministries: Jerusalem, Israel
Shabbat, October 25th, 2014
We are featuring the following article because we feel that it affords some insight into the present day Messianic movement.
Congregation Beth Messiah provides a different approach to Judaism by Julie Torem
The words Messiah and Synagogue are not generally terms found in the same sentence in “mainstream” Judaism. However, in the case of Congregation Beth Messiah, the words are not only in the vernacular, they encompass the basis of the Messianic movement.
Earlier this month, I had the opportunity to meet with Michael Wolf – Rabbi at Beth Messiah – and his wife, Rachel. Knowing nearly nothing about the Messianic movement, I was given a tremendous amount of information. The following is the beginning of a four-part series in which Messianic Judaism will be explored. The purpose of these articles is not to preach; it is simply an effort to get some answers to questions that many in the Jewish community have expressed. This first article in the series will focus on how, according to the Wolf’s, their belief systems developed from Reform and Conservative Judaism to Messianic Judaism.
Michael and Rachel Wolf were both raised in Philadelphia in traditional Jewish homes. Their parents and grandparents emigrated from Eastern Europe although tragically, many of Michael’s relatives perished in the Holocaust. Both attended Jewish Day school, became B’nai Mitzvot, attended Jewish summer camp, and like many of us, questioned aspects of their faith every now and again.
Michael Wolf was ordained at the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (MJAA) which, according to Wolf, provides training in leadership, chaplaincy, and teaching in a non-traditional seminary.
THE MJAA’s overview of Messianic Judaism states:
“Messianic Judaism is a biblically based movement of people who, as committed Jews, believe in Yeshua (Jesus) as the Jewish Messiah of Israel of whom the Jewish Law and Prophets spoke.”
To many this seems a glaring contradiction. Christians are Christians, Jews are decidedly not Christian. So goes the understanding that has prevailed through nearly two thousand years of history. Messianic Jews call this a mistaken – and even anti-Scriptural – understanding. They assert that there is historical and biblical evidence that demonstrates that following Yeshua was initially an entirely Jewish concept. They believe that decades upon decades of persecution, division, and confused theology all contributed to the dichotomy between Jews and believers in Yeshua that many take for granted today.
It was not until he was in college that Michael was exposed to “Messianic Judaism”. Wolf explained that as a teenager, he experienced an “emptiness – a spiritual vertigo”. This was especially prominent when he wondered about the concepts of before and after-life. Wolf stated that the feeling of not knowing what might or might not happen after death brought on a feeling of panic with which he simply couldn’t reconcile.
In January of 1971, Wolf met a Messianic Jewish family in Philadelphia that changed his life forever. It was at the family’s home when Wolf first “experienced seeing G-d in their lives.” Although skeptical, he was open to hearing about the family’s understanding of Judaism – which included accepting Jesus as the Messiah. Wolf explained that he then asked G-d to show him where in the Tanach it indicated that Jesus would be the messiah. He proceeded to read Isaiah 53:6 and stated, “The presence of G-d entered the room. I knew that I needed forgiveness in my life [and I] sensed a loving presence that there was a G-d and I knew right away that I was given this gift of life.” When he woke up the following morning, Wolf recalled thinking, “This is going to be a great adventure…It was as if someone had turned on a light bulb in my heart – it was my spirit”.
Rachel Wolf was raised in a Reform Jewish home. She attended synagogue with her family, kept kosher, and attended Jewish Day school from 7-12 grade, where she had an “integrated sense of being part of the flow of Jewish history.” Rachel stated that Judaism was and is a key part of her identity – as much as being a woman is part of her identity. While Michael had already become a Messianic Jew, Rachel was initially skeptical. During her spring break from college, she met the family with whom Michael had been studying and praying. When she returned to college, she was determined to try and disprove their teachings. However, she came to believe and accept the their interpretations.
Both Michael and Rachel discussed how the family’s home had a kind of open door policy. It was a common occurrence for college-aged kids – some of whom had challenges such as drugs, lack of direction, etc.- to attend informal prayer services and Bible studies at this home. It was there during prayer meetings that Michael began praying, for Rachel while she was away at college, with the intention of helping her to understand the Messianic perspective.
Around this same time, Rachel bought a New English New Testament and began reading. She found herself “liking the character of Jesus” and began to experience what she described as “personal revelations.” Rachel continued to say that she “started to put together the idea that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah within a totally Jewish context.”
When asked how their parents responded to their new found faith, Rachel said, “it was a process…” Her mother did, however, eventually respect her decision and later on defended her position. Rabbi Wolf had a similar experience with his parents and stated that although it was challenging at first, his family grew to “greatly respect” his decision.
Congregation Beth Messiah looks like many temples I’ve seen. Worship is done through extemporaneous prayer, liturgy, music and dance. Members of the Congregation are Jews by birth, Jews by choice, and non-Jews from all over the greater Cincinnati area. The congregation has a religious school that meets on Saturday, a youth group, and Club Maccabee, which is similar to a scouting group. Like some more contemporary congregations that use music as a method of enhancing prayer, they have musical instruments on the bimah. Beth Messiah has a torah stored in an ark and a Ner Tamid (eternal light). There is a nursery for young children, and a “cry room” with glass windows adjacent to the sanctuary which allows parents with very young (and perhaps loud or crying) children to participate in services without interrupting others. There is also a library, and a small gift shop. The walls of the foyer are adorned with an exhibit about the history of Jerusalem with pictures of Israel and many scriptural quotes from the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament. Services are held on Friday evenings and Saturday mornings.
The next installment will explore the origins of the movement, the main principles of the movement, and the basic philosophies of some of the key leaders in the Messianic Movement.