When my editor asked me to write about the Kol Nidre service (held the evening of the holy day of Yom Kippur) at a local Messianic Jewish congregation, I had no idea what to expect. Until then, I thought most Jews did not believe Jesus was the Messiah. The few I knew that did were members of Christian congregations.
That service opened my eyes to much I had not known. I may have heard the term “Lion of Judah” before, but never appreciated it beyond my sense that it had a poetic ring to it. Jesus, Yeshua in Hebrew, is that lion and he is descended from King David through the tribe of Judah. (I would hazard a guess that that is why C.S. Lewis used the lion, Aslan, as a metaphor for Christ in his Narnia series.)
I recalled Jesus taught in the synagogues and worshipped God in the Jewish tradition, as did his Apostles. People even called Jesus “Rabbi.” I knew the Romans considered the first followers of Jesus to be another Jewish sect. It makes sense that, after the Resurrection, members of this “sect” would continue to worship in the Jewish tradition, but with Yeshua as Messiah.
I learned that today many Jews believe that to accept Christ is to cease being Jewish. Not so, say Messianic Jews, who celebrate Shabbat (the Sabbath), Rosh Hashanah, Sukkot, and all the other Jewish holidays as they have for thousands of years. At that Kol Nidre service, I saw a quorum (minyan) of men of men standing in a circle, heads covered with shawls (tallits) and reciting the Sh’ma — that great affirmation from Deuteronomy, “The Lord our God is one…” I heard the Word of God spoken in Hebrew and watched people dancing joyfully in a circle (Davidic dancing).
Another gentile there said he liked to visit this congregation for services because it deepened his Christian faith. I understood what he meant. I really knew so little about Jewish history and ritual. Would knowing more increase my understanding of both the Old and New Testaments? For example, the Rabbi told me that, of the four cups used at his last Passover meal, Yeshua used the Cup of Redemption when said, “This is the cup of my blood…” How complete, literally, to very last drop, is Christ’s redemption of both Jews and gentiles!
Visiting the congregation’s bookstore, I asked the woman there what books would teach me the most about Messianic Judaism. I bought and read the three she recommended:
God’s Appointed Customs – A Messianic Jewish guide to the Biblical Lifecycle and Lifestyle by Barney Kasdan
God’s Appointed Times-A practical guide for understanding and celebrating the Biblical Holidays by Barney Kasdan. Both these book are short and to the point, being only 146 and 160 pages long.
Messianic Judaism – A modern movement with an ancient past by David H. Stern was excellent. Again, not too long but covers such topics as destiny, identity, history, theology, Torah, and holiness.
Now I see my Christian faith extending all the way back to Abraham, when God first called a people unto Himself.
If you would like to read the Kol Nidre article, just request a copy, with your email address, in the comment section.