Rabbi Michael Shevack Outing The Jew

The first article in Rabbi Michael Shevack‘s new series, Re-JEW-venating the JEW.

Imagine, if the evangelical impulse that fired up our Western (Christian-derived) civilization suddenly turned Jewish, as it had been originally.

Imagine if Jews came out of their closets, if we outed ourselves from being religiously-sidelined, and openly began to recruit others to our view of the world.

Could the world handle Jews that were, truly, OUT?

In my last series, Re-Jew-venating Civilization, I made the case that it is not just the Jew who had been banished from their homeland into a Roman Diaspora in 72 CE, but, everyone!  Western Civilization– derived from Western Rome, and the Western (Catholic) Church, after Constantine’s sons split the empire– is still somewhat contaminated by its pagan Roman legacy.

I made the case that in a world poised to raze, by (nuclear) fire, civilizations with which they do not agree (very Roman)—in a world which believes in economic domination and unbridled consumption of material and living creatures as a human right (very Roman)—in a world which, only until recently, despised indigenous peoples, and often enslaved them to their economic machines (very Roman)—it is time to re-root Western Civilization on solid Jewish ground.

However, it is also time to re-root contemporary Jews. Sadly, we have taken on this alien way of thinking as “modern”, and often do not question it. We consider it “world politics”, when it is often the deepest betrayal of our ancestral spiritual identity.

To accomplish the re-JEW-venation of Western civilization, we must find a way to re-JEW-venate the Jew. How do we accomplish this?

First and foremost, we Jews need to come out of our closet, to borrow a term from contemporary gay politics. While we busy ourselves with worthy “Jewish” efforts like fundraising for Israel, multiplying Holocaust museums, and fighting antisemitism, we all too often sideline our deepest, most profound and prophetic spiritual vision: our own “alternative” view to Prophetic Universal History; ironically, this was the original view, before Christian, Muslim or secular variants, became popularized and stole our thunder.

Jews need to come out of our closet, fully OUT: We Jews are the first people of Universal History. The first people to devote ourselves to the prophetic vision that all the nations of the world, and all the peoples in the world, can be united under the One God­­– not the same religion, but the same God, Creator and Redeemer of Israel and the World.

Our authority for our own identity cannot be merely the intellectual categories of Christian-derived pluralism, i.e. the world opinion.

Re-JEW-venating the Jew is a sacred task. It restores our identity under God.  No matter how it might seem to others, our purpose as the Light unto the Nations has not extinguished itself, nor has our ancient goal been fully accomplished and can be disbanded. Nor, can it continue to be interpreted by others who also may identify themselves as “Israel”.

Outing the Jew means taking back civilization as our own. Outing the Jew means being, once again, a Living Challenge to the majority way of thinking and being and doing. Outing the Jew means addressing world politics AS Jews–  as the living foundation of World History– and not just wiggling ourselves into some slim space vacated by more dominant groups.

It is time for each Jew to take back hs/r identity. To reclaim it. We need to re-tether our “modern” identity back to its prophetic roots and re-own our Living Purpose, openly. We need to do this not just for our mere survival, but also for the flourishing our people. And we need to do this not merely for “helping” and “contributing” to the many (non-Jewish) nations in which we resided. We need to do this for the sake of God! Our God! And our God is, in many ways, different than the God of others who even if they too claim the mantle of “Israel” or the ultimate fulfillment of the Prophetic urge.

The World needs the Jew, and the Jew needs the World.

I am outing us here: Hear O World the Jew, AS the Jew.

Imagine, if the evangelical impulse that fired our Western civilization suddenly turned Jewish, as it was originally.

Imagine if Jews came out of their closets, if we outed ourselves from being religiously-sidelined, and openly began to recruit others to our viewpoint. This, in keeping with the Jewish tradition, would not be for the purpose of forcibly converting them to our religion; this pagan Roman imperial “flavoring”, I think, perverted the evangelistic thrust of history. But, instead, this Jewish “mission” would be brilliantly pedagogical: teaching, openly, the Jewish viewpoint that has made us such prolific contributors to humankind,  in spite of our previously-prejudiced status.

Today, the threat of an openly world-teaching Jewish community may not be perceived as dangerous to the majority as it was in the first century CE, when the Roman  Emperor Hadrian forbade our Pharisaic (Perushim) teachers to spread knowledge of Judaism at the risk of total and absolute annihilation.

Such Jewish Universalism was a serious threat to Roman Universalism. We were direct competitors, and contrary! We did not endorse man-gods, like a Caesar, a habit which also got us into trouble when Rome became Christian. We did not believe that the earth should be owned by human beings and their industries, but only by God.  We did not believe that slaves should be mistreated, but, should be set free if they were abused or ran away.

Hadrian won by brute force. Afterwards, we Jews shrank into a religious closet. But why, in this somewhat kinder age, shouldn’t we reach out again?  Actively!  Teaching the non-Jewish world about their Hebrew foundation, their Bible containing (in a slightly rearranged way) ours.

Hear O Israel, the Lord OUR God! 

There are many Jews who are doing just that. They are openly taking up the mantle of prophetic history and reaching out to Jews and non-Jews alike.

They call themselves Messianic Hebrews. They are proudly Jewish, fiercely prophetic, enthusiastic about the People of Israel. But, they also proclaim Jesus to be God, professing this Christian (Not all Christians adhere to it.) faith-fact as well as  the salvific import of his death, resurrection and ascension. Theirs is a different viewpoint, and it should be respected for its different eschatological expectation.

However, why are there no NON-messianic Hebrews who are preaching AS Jews, openly teaching a receptive non-Jewish, majority world culture?  Openly teaching the many Christians who find the doctrines of Christianity questionable and  who might benefit from our sechel? Why are Jews not spiritually engaging the world, head on?  Why are Jews still in our closets?

Outing the Jew is the first step towards re-JEW-venating the Jew. But, the second step is equally hard, if not daunting:  Which Jew should represent the Jews?

Should it be Orthodoxy with its deep fact-faith that “the whole of the oral and written law was given to Moses at Mt. Sinai”, and that rabbinic authority is a continuity of that, unbroken since Moses? Should it be Reform, which, in line with its post-Napoleonic origin, treats Reason and World Citizenship as being foundationally Jewish? Should it be Reconstructionists that affirm the right of Jewish Civilization to exist, but deleted the “Chosen People” concept from their teachings? Or should it be Conservatives, who are conservative, tending to innovate only after it has been safely “market tested” by others?

If we are going to Re-JEW-venate the Jew, we’d must take a deep look at the fracture lines in our camps:  tradition, reason, culture, fear.  If we are going to COME OUT to the world, we need to come out to ourselves.

This what you can expect in this next series, Re-JEW-venating the Jew.  You can expect a frank discussion of the broad sweeping theo-political issues that divide the Jewish klal, with an eye to creating a “sacred umbrella”, to unify our people for the still-alive task of World History.

Welcome to a contemporary Yavneh, of sorts. Whether it is Shimon Bar Yochai, leaving his cave to begin Rabbinic Judaism, or, whether it is contemporary Jews leaving their closet to openly begin Western civilization anew with true-inclusion of the Jew–  I think we Jews are at a dramatic, turning point.

Out out damn Jew! 

Only then, can we be blessed again!

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