Gentile Yeshua-Believers Praying in the Synagogue: Why and How


I have been praying in the synagogue for more than twenty-five years-yet I am not Jewish. This essay explains in both theoretical and practical terms how and why Gentile Yeshua-believers may pray the traditional Jewish liturgy in the company of Jews.

It is with a measure of trepidation that I discuss how Jewish and Gentile believers might worship together, using Jewish forms. First, I have a serious concern about Christian theological anti-Judaism, including supersessionism, and anxiety about how my essay might be used. [1] Second, I have a personal stake in how non-Yeshua-believing Jews react (though this essay is not written to them), because I pray in their midst.

My argument is directed to Yeshua-believing Gentiles without ignoring Yeshua-believing Jews. I argue that it is important for Gentiles to both identify with, and distinguish themselves from, Jews in prayer. By establishing clear boundaries, more freedom within the boundaries becomes possible.

The foundation, the “why” for Gentile Yeshua-believers to pray the traditional Jewish liturgy in the company of Jews, may be sketched as follows. First, God has elected the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and made a covenant with the Jewish people that continues today. Second, the Torah and its practices are a part of God’s covenant with the Jewish people. Third, the worship practices transmitted by rabbinic Judaism, and rooted in the Torah, are a means of preserving the Jewish people, and are usable by Yeshua-believers. Fourth, the church participates through Yeshua in Israel’s covenantal privileges.[2] Fifth, Gentiles who come to faith in Yeshua are not required to convert to Judaism nor to assume the commandments uniquely given to Jews. Sixth, the social expression of the gospel is reconciliation among peoples who are, and who remain, different.[3]


Personal Background

I am a Christian who since 1982 has used the traditional siddur (Jewish prayer book) in worship services at Orthodox synagogues and in my prayers at home. I am well-received in most Orthodox synagogues. I tell the synagogue’s rabbi who I am. I come in order to pray, and am fluent in the prayers.

I also pray in a Messianic synagogue[4] and in Christian worship services. My wife often joins me in these settings. Participating in the life of several religious communities has both blessings and drawbacks.

Although I once seriously thought of converting to Judaism, I feel that I can serve God better without becoming a Jew. Some years after reaching that decision, I joined a Mennonite congregation through baptism and confession of faith. Mennonite identity is important to me. Mennonites are rare where I now live, so this takes all the more effort.

In conversations prior to baptism, I related my intention to continue attending services in an Orthodox synagogue. I drew upon historical and theological writings concerning the relations of Jews and Christians, the church as social embodiment, and the relationship of one’s social location to one’s interpretation of the Bible. I agree with Willard Swartley, who wrote:

Test your co-creative experience of interpretation with brothers and sisters in the believing community, and perhaps also with some unbelievers. The purpose of the testing is not merely to ascertain whether a particular understanding is correct or appropriate, but to make one’s own life-world a part of a corporate life-world and thus contribute to the reality of Christian (or Jewish) community, fulfilling the edificatory function of Scripture.[5]

Richard B. Hays also wrote:

Under the guidance of the Spirit, we discover the operation of God’s grace among us to be prefigured in Scripture, and we find the Scripture that we thought we knew transfigured by the grace at work among us.[6]

When I began attending a Messianic synagogue, I decided to continue worshipping at an Orthodox synagogue. (I alternate between them on Saturday mornings.) I had already developed a habit of reading large portions of the traditional prayers when I decided not to convert to Judaism. Therefore, I evaluate many Hebrew prayers, not with the question of whether to start praying them, but with the question of whether to continue praying them.


Love and Hate for Things Jewish Among Gentile Believers

In an essay about Karl Barth, Michael Wyschogrod concludes: “I have said that it is for gentiles to love Israel. This, of course, is wrong, it cannot be asked of gentiles. But it can be asked of Christians.”[7] Wyschogrod and others recognize the special theological affinity of Christians for Jews. “The God of Israel is not separable from the people of Israel. It follows that to be in relationship with the God of Israel is to be in relationship with the people of Israel.”[8] Knowledge of Judaism is essential for Christians who wish to understand their faith. As Wyschogrod put it, “the loyalty to the scriptural is therefore a spiritual conversion to Israel’s mind.”[9]

In the ancient Roman world, Gentile God-fearers were present in synagogues and were a source of many early Christian converts. Paula Fredricksen remarks that “there is no reason to think that Paul’s gentiles, now that they’ve made the incredible commitment to the God of Israel by not worshipping their own gods anymore, would stop going to the synagogue and listening to the Bible.”[10] Judaism was popular enough that Juvenal satirized Roman citizens for keeping the Sabbath, food laws, and other Jewish practices.  Centuries later, John Chrysostom gave sermons against Christians attending both church and synagogue, providing evidence for the popularity of the practice. Chrysostom and others dissuaded Christians from praying with Jews by outlawing the practice and by espousing a teaching of contempt for Jews and Judaism. This teaching has in recent years been repudiated by the Roman Catholic church and several Protestant bodies,[11] yet much estrangement still exists.


Identity, Boundaries, and Estrangement

Marc Gopin has suggested that it is not boundaries that create conflict, but the interpretation of the boundaries. He believes that all people need to feel unique as well as to integrate with others. An inappropriate response to these needs is to couple group solidarity with a view of strangers characterized by fear, hatred or indifference.  As a biblical corrective, Gopin notes that the stranger (ger) is to be included in celebrations of the faith community.[12]

Abraham is the quintessential stranger in his self-perception and in his embrace of the unknown other. Abraham introduced himself to the residents of Canaan with the words, “I am a stranger and a resident among you” (Gen 23:4). Abraham’s definition of his dual status describes the historical position of the Jew who resides in a predominantly non-Jewish society.[13] Countless people are now living away from their land of origin, and the Abrahamic story gives meaning to their situation. The key is how we negotiate the boundaries with the stranger. Moreover, the stranger may turn out to be kin. The heart of Gopin’s peacemaking is the mythic recovery of the “lost brother,” for Jews, Christians, and Muslims all trace themselves to Abraham in one way or another.[14]

The estrangement of Jews and Gentiles in the people of God is similar to the “failure in peoplehood” of whites and blacks in the American church. James McClendon argues that, extending from the time of American slavery, blacks and whites have had different hermeneutics, cultures, and church discipline.[15]

Both corporate and individual response to this estrangement of peoples may be appropriate.

The emergence of “one new humanity” in this case is not to be assumed as a cost-free outcome of Christians’ good intentions. Rather than ‘integration’… a valuable first step is crossing over, that is, the deliberate choice of some from each people to connect with a congregation of the other people. This crossing over need not be for a lifetime, and it will not be without its distinct joys. . . . [16]

Glen Stassen and David Gushee add that white Christians, in part due to an individualistic understanding of sin and salvation, are often unwilling or unable to recognize the social dimensions of race relations. Racial justice, rather than racial reconciliation, should be the American church’s primary paradigm about race.[17]

My analogy between black-white relations and Jewish-Christian relations suggests that Christianity and Judaism are different cultures, that some individual crossing over may be appropriate, and that justice may be a more appropriate paradigm than reconciliation.[18]

Rich Nichol has written that “identity confusion has been the hallmark of Messianic Judaism.”[19] While Gentiles are not required to observe all the commandments that Jews do (Acts 15:28-29), they may desire in synagogue worship to observe as many as possible. In Messianic Judaism, Jews are rarely perceived as having onerous tasks which Gentiles would gladly avoid.[20] Rather, any differences are perceived as privileges from which Gentiles are excluded.[21]


Torah Observance among Jewish Believers in Yeshua

Mark Kinzer has made the case for Torah observance and respect for rabbinic tradition by Jews within the body of Messiah:[22]

It is not the particular manner of Torah observance practiced by Yeshua and his followers that is authoritative for us, but the fact that they saw the basics of such practice as a divinely mandated covenantal duty, and the way they engaged with the various attempts to embody such practice that had developed among the Jews of their time….[23]

Kinzer summarizes evidence in Matthew, Luke, and Paul for a theological motive underlying the Torah observance of first-century Jewish Yeshua-believers.[24]

The Gospel of Matthew presents Yeshua the Torah teacher as distinguishing between greater/heavier and lesser/lighter commandments (Matt 5:19). The former take precedence over the latter when obligations conflict with one another; however, the lesser/lighter commandments remain authoritative as divine directives to the Jewish people. This means that Jewish practices such as Sabbath, dietary laws, and circumcision are indispensable, enduring elements within the Torah.

The Gospel of Luke begins with two pairs of devout, Torah-observant families: Zechariah and Elizabeth (and their son, John), and Joseph and Miriam (and their son, Yeshua). The first pair lived “blamelessly according to all the commandments and regulations of the Lord (Luke 1:6), while the second pair did “everything required by the Torah of the Lord” (Luke 2:39). The book ends as it begins, with a group of faithful Jews caring for the body of Yeshua, but in compliance with traditional Sabbath practice, “according to the commandment” (Luke 23:56). The book of Acts continues in the same way, stating that the Jewish Yeshua-believers in Jerusalem were “all zealous for the Torah” (Acts 21:20).

Paul’s teaching about Torah observance has the major premise that all who are circumcised should remain circumcised (i.e. should accept and affirm their circumcision and its implications) (1 Cor 7:17-20). Paul also taught that Gentiles should not seek circumcision or the Torah obligations of Jews (Gal 5:3). Thus, Matthew, Luke, and Paul agree that Torah observance is normative for all Jews, regardless of whether the wider Jewish community is complying with this norm.

“Postbiblical Jewish institutions that had achieved [widespread] acceptance -such as the synagogue with its attendant pattern of public Scripture reading, or the recitation of blessings before eating bread or drinking wine – are received without question by Yeshua, the apostles, and the New Testament authors.”[25] Furthermore, the Apostolic Council in Jerusalem (Acts 15), which was convened to decide whether Gentiles who turn to Yeshua are obliged to be circumcised and keep the whole Torah, had as its premise that Jewish believers in Yeshua are obligated to observe Torah. It follows that this Torah obligation will often be expressed in characteristically Jewish and biblical forms of prayer.


Basis for Gentile Believers to Identify with Jews in Prayer

Robert Jenson sees in the Incarnation the foundation for an ecclesiology in solidarity with Israel.

Paul teaches, and the church follows his teaching, that the church is the body of the risen Christ, and Paul does not initially mean that as a trope. As my body is myself as I am present and available to you, so the church is Christ’s presence to the world… . But what sort of body is this body?

Can there be a present body of the risen Jew, Jesus of Nazareth, in which the lineage of Abraham and Sarah so vanishes into a congregation of gentiles as it does in the church? My final-and perhaps most radical-suggestion to Christian theology… is that … the embodiment of the risen Christ is whole only in the form of the church and an identifiable community of Abraham and Sarah’s descendants. The church and the synagogue are together and only together the present availability to the world of the risen Jesus Christ.[26]

Not only is Yeshua present among the Jewish people who form part of the church, but he is present even among non-Yeshua-believing Israel.

The Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) and Apostolic Writings (New Testament) envision Gentiles praising and praying to God with Israel in the past, present, and future (e.g. Ps 68:31; Zech 8:20-23; Isa 56:3-8; Rom 15:9-12; Rev 7). Markus Barth, based upon the letter to the Ephesians, thought that Jews and Christians ought to pray together.[27] Together, the Torah obligation of all Jews, the presence of Yeshua among the Jewish people, and the expectation that Gentiles will worship God with Jews in the world to come, suggest that Gentile Christians and Gentiles within Messianic Judaism may, as a sign of the new age brought by Yeshua, pray with Jews in Jewish settings.[28]

The apostle Paul wrote to the Gentile believers in Corinth that the Israelites were “our fathers” (1 Cor 10:1). Hays comments:

It may seem odd that Paul would describe the Israelites this way in a letter addressed to the predominantly Gentile congregation at Corinth, who of course are not the physical descendants of Israel, but Paul’s language reveals something essential about his understanding of the church. His Gentile converts, he believes, have been grafted into the covenant people (cf. Rom 11:17-24) in such a way that they belong to Israel (cf. Gal 6:16). Thus, the story of Israel is for the Gentile Corinthians, not somebody else’s story; it is the story of their own spiritual ancestors.[29]

Paul did not say that only the biblical heroes of faith were the ancestors of the Corinthian believers, but particularly the generation that displeased God and failed to enter the Promised Land (1 Cor 10:5f). Thus, even if one were to propose that non-Yeshua-believing Jews in their synagogues are “notorious sinners,” they would still be spiritual kinsmen with whom Yeshua-believing Gentiles can pray.[30] Based on this identification of Paul’s Corinthian converts with the Hebrews whom God led out of Egypt, it seems that Gentiles can say communal Jewish prayers that also name Israelites as “our fathers” and the Israel of all times as “us.”


Basis for Gentile Believers to Distinguish Themselves from Jews in Prayer

In Jewish tradition, God relates to non-Jews through his covenant with Noah. A contemporary Noachide movement has sprung up with rabbinic guidance, and a Bnei Noach siddur was published in 2007.[31] The rabbinic treatment of Noachides may be instructive for Gentile Yeshua-believers, even though the modern Noachide movement often denigrates belief in Yeshua as a grave sin.

Noachides consider it good to bless God in daily activities, e.g. before and after eating, when waking and going to sleep, and so on. If a Gentile knows Hebrew, it is good to pray in that language.[32] Some Noachides have tried to create prayers based only on Hebrew prayers that were designed for Israel. However, other Noachides believe that the inaccessibility of Jewish prayer services to Gentiles is part of God’s larger plan.[33]

Michael Katz, writing for the Root and Branch Association, states that Bnei Noach may not say “who has sanctified us by his commandments,” regarding something that they are not commanded to do, or “who has taken us out of Egypt,” nor may they observe the Sabbath and Festivals in the manner that Jews do.[34]

Despite differences between rabbinic Judaism and the apostle Paul regarding the relationship of Gentile believers to Israel, both retain an important principle -namely that Jews and Gentiles need to remain distinct. (For example, Paul opposed the circumcision of Gentile believers, and continued to use the terms “Jew” and “Gentile” within the body of Messiah.) Jew/Gentile distinction is intrinsic to the biblical vision, one of mutual blessing by groups who are and who remain different (Gen 12:3; 1 Cor 12; Gal 3:28-29).[35]

We remember that Paul’s “mystery” is that Jews and Greeks are reconciled and made one in the church. The relationship between husband and wife, therefore, symbolizes the mystery of unity in plurality and makes it present within the community. This completes the Pauline perception of “neither Jew nor Greek, neither male nor female.”… Man and woman submit to each other in respect and love and service, finding unity and peace not in a false identification but in a pluralistic unity. So should Jew and Greek celebrate their unity in service to each other, so that God’s purpose might be fulfilled, “to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Eph. 1:10).[36]

In a larger picture, the benefits of mutual blessing by diverse people require that those people remain distinct in some ways. God gives different gifts to different people for the upbuilding of the body of Messiah (1 Cor 12). The social face of justification-God’s activity to make things right through Yeshua-is the ekklesia composed of Jews and Gentiles.[37] It is what Martin Luther King, Jr., meant by “the Beloved Community.”


Practical Aspects of Gentiles Praying in the Synagogue

In this last section, I will address prayers in the regular Sabbath services that might be problematic for Gentile Yeshua-believers.


1. Blessing before study of the Torah

The traditional liturgy speaks (a) of being commanded (i.e. “who has sanctified us with his commandments and commanded us to engross ourselves in the words of Torah”); (b) of Israel as “we,” “us,” and “our offspring.” The blessing when called to the Torah scroll includes those words “who chose us from all peoples” and “who gave us the Torah.”

A Noachide blessing before reading the Torah states that God gave the Torah “to be a light to the Gentiles.”  The blessing lacks mention of being commanded, and calls Israel “them.” After reading the Torah, the Noachide blesses God for giving Israel to teach “us” the Torah.[38] These blessings seem acceptable for Gentiles in a Messianic synagogue as well. Some Yeshua-believers prefer them because the distinction between Jew and Gentile is clear.

If a Gentile believer wished to use something closer to, or even identical to the traditional Jewish blessings for Torah study, it is essential to have a proper and special intention (kavvanah). The individual’s intention should be to affirm a unity with Israel through Yeshua as a Gentile, and that all the things spoken are true concerning Israel. In my view, Torah study is an activity that a Gentile believer in Yeshua may speak of being commanded to do. There is even a communal aspect to the blessing. For a Jew who has no offspring, the traditional blessing can be said because the offspring of other Jews are “our offspring.” This provides additional support for the Gentile believer in Yeshua to include himself or herself in the “we” of Israel.


2. The Shema (Deut 6:4-9; Deut 11:13-21; Num 15:37-41)

The Shema is an intellectual commitment to the unity, grandeur, and absolute authority of God. While for prayer, God is Thou (You), in the Shema, God is addressed in the third person (He).[39]

Yehoshua ben Korhah said, “Why is ‘Hear O Israel’ (‘Shema,’ Deut 6:4-9) recited before ‘If, then, you obey the commandments’ (Deut 11:13-21) in the daily prayers? To indicate that one must first accept the kingdom of heaven, and only afterwards the yoke of the commandments” (m. Ber. 2:2). According to Yoel Schwartz, it is worthwhile for a Noachide to regularly repeat basic concepts of belief such as “Shema Yisrael.”[40]

Yeshua taught about the kingdom of heaven in the Sermon on the Mount and in parables and sayings, “Your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt 6:10). Yeshua said that to love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength (Deut 6:5) is the greatest commandment (Mark 12:29-30). It is highly appropriate for a Gentile believer to regularly recite the Shema, which with the proper kavvanah is accepting the yoke of heaven.[41]

However, it is possible that a Gentile believer would do well to recite only the first three sentences of the Shema,[42] rather than the later paragraphs dealing with commandments, or even the first full paragraph where it speaks of tefillin and mezuzah. Having said this, I find it unpleasant to think of changing my habit of saying the entire Shema. The emotions evoked by the intense concentration on God’s unity, grandeur, and authority are not in harmony with an abbreviation that resembles turning away while God is speaking.

Of particular relevance for a Gentile believer is Paul’s connection of God’s unity to the gospel, “God who is one will justify the circumcised out of faithfulness and the uncircumcised through the same faithfulness” (Rom 3:30).[43]

Eberhard Bethge was the closest disciple of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and his biographer. Bethge saw the church under the Third Reich compromise its identity by granting highest allegiance to the Fuhrer. Bethge later formulated a Christian Shema in response to the First Commandment, “I confess my allegiance to the Christ, who brings us God and life, who turns our thoughts against false gods and toward those who are their victims.”[44]


3. Prayer recalling martyrs

A prayer asks God, Av-ha-Rachamim (the Compassionate Father), to recall with compassion “the devout, the upright, the perfect ones, the holy congregations who gave their lives for the sanctification of the Name.” Some siddurim contain a note here about the Jewish communities along the Rhine that were destroyed by Christians at the time of the Crusades.[45]

While I think it is appropriate for a Gentile believer to recite the prayer, I have three preferences with regard to it. First, I ask God to remember the dead; I don’t pray on behalf of the dead. Second, even though many Christian martyrs died in early centuries for refusing to worship the Roman Emperor, and Anabaptist Christian martyrs died during the Reformation at the hands of Protestants and Catholics, and there are Christian martyrs also in our times, I suggest that Gentile believers concentrate upon Jewish martyrs during the first part of the prayer. Christian martyrs may be recalled while reciting the words “with the other righteous of the world.” Third, my practice is to end the prayer with “righteous of the world,” rather than reading the remainder of the prayer, which asks for God’s vengeance for the spilled blood of his servants. In part, that is because of my notions of what is appropriate for Shabbat.


4. Interpreting the Amidah using rabbinic categories of thought

Believers in Yeshua who pray from the siddur may be inclined to interpret the traditional Jewish liturgy in Christian categories of thought. I shall not challenge this preference other than to relate that I have benefited from rabbinic guidance into the spirit of Jewish prayer.

The central prayer in the Jewish liturgy is the Amidah (literally, “standing [before God]”). On weekdays the Amidah consists of three benedictions of praise, thirteen containing petitions, and three statements of thanksgiving. On the Sabbath and festivals, the middle section of thirteen is replaced by a benediction related to the day.

According to Joseph Soloveitchik, the form of the Amidah presupposes that the emotions it articulates-praise, distress, and gratitude–are legitimate and that ordinary human beings are capable of experiencing them, “Education to prayer teaches not only how to verbalize these emotions, but also how to cultivate them.”[46] Soloveitchik develops his analysis out of biblical and rabbinic sources and in conversation with Western philosophy.

Humans have intellectual, ethical, and aesthetic facets to their being.  The intellectual and ethical are oriented toward what is good, true and purposeful, and hence seek expression through permanence and uniformity in prayer. The aesthetic sense is oriented toward beauty, and hence seeks expression through change and novelty. When the aesthetic sense is not connected to purpose, through the intellectual and ethical senses, it results in boredom.

According to Maimonides and Nahmanides, the original sin resulted from the aesthetic sense (tangible, mutable perception) dominating the intellectual and ethical senses (which are abstract and metaphysical). Maimonides considered the knowledge of good and evil to refer not to moral qualities but to aesthetic ones, as shown by the characterization of the tree in the garden as good for success, rather than knowledge, and a delight to the eyes (Gen 3:6). Correspondingly, Adam and Eve perceived after eating from the tree that they were naked, which reflects a social, aesthetic sense (embarrassment), not a moral, self-accusing one (shame).[47]

The aesthetic is redeemed by being brought into relation with something beyond it, i.e. the exaltation of God (Isa 6:1­-3). In fact, only through the aesthetic sense does a person apprehend and not merely comprehend God’s presence, which is awesome, both beautiful and exalted.[48] Jewish prayer joins the aesthetic, intellectual, and ethical.

Judaism maintains that humanity encounters God in both nature and the message of history, but the absence of God is also encountered in both realms. Judaism recognizes these moments of absence as part of a larger story culminating in redemption.  Redemption is not simply an external event that benefits the individual or the group. “It is predicated on the formation of community with God.”[49] Through prayer, which is possible only because God has told us to pray, a community comes into being. This community is an antidote to the loneliness that results from lack of roots and a sense of estrangement.

In the first blessing of the Amidah, the Lord is called the God of our fathers, full of mercy. Like a father, God hears our cries with love and favor. The second blessing emphasizes God’s power in contrast to human weakness, but God shows his power by mercifully raising the dead. The blessing teaches how to approach God from an ethical standpoint. The third blessing teaches God’s absolute separation (holiness), yet that God can be approached.


5. Prayers that appear to express wrong approaches to God 

In the weekday morning and Sabbath afternoon service after Uva L’tsion Goel (a Redeemer shall come to Zion) is a prayer which in English reads as follows:

Blessed is our God, who created us for His glory, separated us from those who stray, gave us the Torah of truth and implanted eternal life within us. May He open our heart through His Torah and imbue our heart with love and awe of Him that we may do His will and serve him wholeheartedly, so that we do not struggle in vain nor produce for futility.


May it be Your will, Lord our God and the God of our fathers, that we observe Your decrees in This World, and merit (or be worthy) that we live and see and inherit goodness and blessing in this world (others read, the years of the Messianic times) and for the life of the World to Come. Grant that I may sing Your praise and not be silent, Lord my God, I will praise you forever.

The first blessing may be problematic for Yeshua-believers because, by thanking God for separating one from those who err, it vaguely resembles the prayer of the Pharisee who thanked God for not being like the tax colletor (Luke 18:14).  The second section asks that one be accounted by God to have merit, which may appear to promote self-righteousness.  By contrast, Yeshua seems to have taught that, when you have done all that is commanded, you should say, “We are unworthy (or unprofitable) servants” (Luke 17:10).

Upon closer examination, neither objection is valid.  These paragraphs ask of God for the right actions and the right heart, and do not claim self-righteousness. They follow the tone established by earlier prayers that request, “Do not bring us into the power of error” and “Not in the merit of our righteousness do we cast our supplications before You, but in the merit of Your abundant mercy.”  Wyschogrod comments on the first request, “When Paul says that humans are not justified by works of the Law, this is exactly what he means.”[50]

Yeshua did not separate from tax collectors, nor did he separate from Pharisees. However, Yeshua did gather a group about him whose composition and way of life were in contrast to the larger culture. Yoder has observed that only such a contrast group can critique and provide a viable alternative to the dominant culture.[51] In this sense, of the body of Messiah and the people of Israel as contrast communities, should the prayer “who has separated us from those who stray” be understood.

The New Testament teaches in many places that persons will be judged by their deeds.[52] Thankfully, the prayer that it may be God’s will that we observe commandments and merit reward does not violate the attitude of humility taught by Yeshua.

Some prayers for healing of the sick ask that God answer the request b’zchar zeh (“in the merit of this”), referring either to the merit of the act of praying, or of giving charity. While I agree that it is good to pray for others and to give to charity, I suggest that the prayers make sense and should be recited without b’zchar zeh. Conceivably, one could also have in mind a merit other than something performed by the ones praying.

In one Messianic congregation, worshipers omit the Amidah paragraph which states that God did not give the Sabbath, or its rest, to the nations of the earth. These words are thought by them not to match the New Testament teachings that both Jews and non-Jews are equally loved and that Shabbat is for everyone who chooses to enjoy its blessing.[53] I suppose this omission may be an improvement, but it is not my practice.


6. Statements that appear to conflict with Christian claims about Yeshua

A stanza, “There never arose in Israel another like Moses” (Deut 34:10), from Yigdal, seems to imply that no prophet greater than Moses has appeared. One possible approach to this prayer focuses on the meaning of “in Israel.” Yeshua, although a faithful son of Israel, has not attained a position within Israel comparable to Moses. It is only outside Israel-in the church (or heaven)-that Yeshua is elevated above Moses.  A second approach is to recognize that Yigdal is what Krister Stendahl calls “caressing, love talk,” the language of confession and worship.[54] As love talk, recitation of Yigdal would be permitted to those for whom Maimonides’ Thirteen Articles of Faith (which Yigdal renders poetically) could not be recited.

According to David Stern and Elazar Brandt, some Messianic congregations in Israel omit from the prayer Adon Olam the statement “He is one, there is no second,” because the prayer’s author meant to reject Yeshua. Stern and Brandt rightly counter that (trinitarian) belief in Yeshua is not polytheism, but is in keeping with Isaiah 45 (cf. Phil 2:10-11), from which the stanza is drawn. “Those omitting the stanza may implicitly be admitting the polytheism they are falsely accused of.”[55]

Prayers for the Temple to be rebuilt might seem to contravene the efficacy of Yeshua’s sacrifice for sin.[56] However, one may pray for a physical Temple by adopting one rabbinic opinion that no expiatory sacrifices will be offered in the future.

Alternatively, God’s house may be envisioned as God’s people, as in Numbers 12:7 and Hebrews 3:5-6. The rebuilding of God’s house may allude to the reconciliation of Jews and Gentiles (Isa 56:7-8), but without loss of distinction between parties. Abraham Isaac Kook said in another context that the Temple was destroyed because of hatred for no reason, and it will only be rebuilt as a result of love for no reason.


7. Prayers that can be said in Hebrew but not in the usual English translation

The Hebrew word “goy” can take on either the meaning “Gentile” or “nation.” Exodus 32:10-14 recounts that God “offered” to destroy Israel and make of Moses a great nation, but Moses demurred, and God relented. There is a tradition that Moses recited the blessing “who has not made me a goy” (found in the siddur) right after this. Moses thanked God that God did not make him a “goy” (nation), replacing the nation of Israel. This interpretation is especially appropriate for a Christian because it is a disavowal of displacement theology. The usual translation, which thanks God for not having created one a Gentile, of course cannot be said by a Gentile.

In some siddurim, three prayers in the negative (“who has not made me”) are replaced by one thanking God for having conferred upon the person praying the obligations of a Jew. For a Gentile believer, a substitute prayer might thank God for having laid upon the worshiper the yoke of the kingdom of heaven and the yoke of Yeshua. Alternately, one could thank God “who has created me according to your will,”[57] or “who has allowed me freedom to serve you.”[58]

The opening paragraph of the Amidah concludes, “He will bring a redeemer… .” Some Messianic Jews feel this is unacceptable, since God has already sent a redeemer in Yeshua. I don’t find the text problematic. However, for those who disagree, a solution would be changing the English text to “he brings,” which is consistent with the Hebrew.[59]


8. Prayers that may not be said in the usual form, although the connected activity is acceptable

Writing for Noachides, Yoel Schwartz affirms that a Gentile should not observe the Sabbath in the manner that a Jew does, nor give a Jew an occasion to break the Sabbath.

There are those who say that every Ger Toshav (a non-Jew living in Eretz Yisrael in the time of the Jewish Temple, who has formally accepted the obligation to observe the Noahide laws in front of a Jewish court) has to uphold and keep the Sabbath (Rashi, Kritot 9, Yevamot 40). There is room to suggest that the Noahides, even nowadays, by accepting to fulfill the seven commandments, are in the same category as a Ger Toshav and should, according to Rashi, be required or at least allowed to keep the Sabbath.


So I (Rav Schwartz) would like to suggest that this is the way that the Noahides could celebrate the Seventh Day, a day of refraining from his vocation. On the eve of the Sabbath (Friday night), they might have a festive family dinner with special food and light candles after sundown in honor of the Seventh Day, which was given to Adam and Noah (and to make the Noachide celebration of the Shabbat distinct from the Jewish Shabbat observance). During the meal they may sing songs to strengthen their belief, including songs about creation. They may read from the Torah. They should not call this day the Sabbath, but the Seventh Day as it is written in Genesis.


On the Seventh Day itself, if they can arrange it without difficulty, they should refrain from going to work. If possible, they should go out to the fields or a park so as to feel close to the Creator of the world. If the congregation holds a prayer session, they may recite the Psalms connected to the Sabbath and to the creation (like Psalm 104, “the Blessing of the Soul”). Also they should study portions of the Torah connected to commandments of the children of Noah. They can study from the weekly portion of the Torah being read that Sabbath in the synagogues those subjects which concern all mankind and skipping those topics that concern specifically the Jews.


At the end of the Sabbath (Motzai Shabbat), the end of the Seventh Day and the beginning of the new week, they can recite the prayer for the new week (Havdalah) after having lighted a candle. . . . [60]

Schwartz is a senior lecturer at Yeshivat Dvar Yerushalaim, the author of two books on Bnei Noach, and one who has given an approbation for the Bnei Noach siddur. If he allows some Jewish rituals for Gentiles, they should almost certainly be allowed within Messianic Judaism. I would go further than Schwartz because I believe that Yeshua links the Gentile ekklesia to Israel. I have no objection to a Gentile believer, with correct kavvanah, saying “Shabbat” instead of “Seventh Day,” reading any portion of Scripture, and doing some other Jewish practices. With Schwartz, I would suggest making some changes to Jewish practices for Gentiles, such as not saying “who has commanded us to light the Sabbath candles,” or “who has commanded us regarding the washing of hands,” for the sake of distinguishing Jew from Gentile.[61]


9. Prayers that may not be said by a Gentile, nor may the connected activity be performed

Schwartz writes:

Noahides may perform commandments that were given specifically to the Jews in the hope that they will be rewarded for them, provided that they don’t consider these actions obligatory. It is also important to note that according to some opinions there are some commandments that Noahides should not fulfill because they are connected with holiness and given specifically to Israel. These are the commandments of Tefillin and mezuzah.[62]

There is no agreement in Messianic Judaism as to activities that a Gentile may not perform. A visible example of variation is the wearing of the tallit (prayer shawl) by a Gentile, which in some congregations is routine, or is expected only for special honors such as carrying a Torah scroll, or is never an option. Messianic congregations should at least agree to the principle of making a distinction between Jews and non-Jews, and that for this purpose Gentiles should not engage in some ritual activities.

Yochanan ben Zakkai said that a corpse would not defile, nor would water purify, were it not a decree of God (Pesiq. Rab. Kah. 4:7; Num. Rab. 19:8). The apostle Paul agreed with the underlying position that some biblical commandments transcend reason. Therefore, if they are commanded only to Jews, they are for Jews but not for Gentiles. As Paul diplomatically put it, “nothing is unclean in itself; but it is unclean for anyone who thinks it unclean” (Rom 14:14).[63]

For any Jewish activity that a Gentile declines to participate in exactly as a Jew does,[64] I can see three options: (1) to copy the practice closely so that a casual observer would not notice, while still making a distinction; (2) substituting another ritual whose distinctivness is evident to a casual observer;[65] (3) for the Gentile to abstain from the Jewish activity. The second option of noticeable substitution perhaps in a Messianic synagogue interferes with the institutional goal of being a recognizable Jewish worship space. The problem might be ameliorated by strengthening the Jewish behavior of Jewish congregants, or by using a tradition that is not associated with triumphalism or persecution of Jews, or by placing the activity before or after the Jewish worship service, rather than within it. The second and third options may cause Gentile worshipers to feel disconnected from Jewish worshipers.  If Gentile believers are to feel integrated into a Jewish congregation, they may need to compensate for perceived liturgical exclusion by fuller participation in other aspects of congregational life


10. Praying like a Jew, when one has good reasons not to

At home and when alone, a Gentile can emulate prayers and rituals found in the Messianic or other synagogue.[66] Joshua Massey observes:

As Jesus said, “A disciple when he is fully taught will be like his teacher” (Luke 6:40). … If one practices these forms [e.g. prays Jewish prayers] with an inner appreciation of their sacred significance before God – if they have become deeply personal – then there can be no charge of masquerade, façade, or incongruity within or without.[67]

When praying in “Jewish space,” a Gentile believer balances the imperatives of identification and non-identification with the Jewish people, along with other values. When not in “Jewish space,” the Gentile believer continues to balance these values, but the relative weights of each change with the situation. Ideally, one should not be lax about identification with the Jewish people, but strict about expressing and strengthening one’s unique identity, which is essential for the mutual blessing of Israel and the nations.

Throughout their lives, diverse values (such as amity with non-Jewish relatives) may influence Gentiles to avoid certain Jewish activities. Sometimes this is the priority, all the more so since Gentiles are not Jews. They will have different obligations than Jews, not necessarily lesser ones.[68]  I internalize the value of difference and therefore refrain from some Jewish practices even though they are personally gratifying, for the sake of furthering the vision of mutual blessing.

When they work well, religious congregations function as communities of obligation, not as spaces for individual gratification. Communities of obligation pose expectations to which individuals voluntarily submit, and which over time become such a part of individuals’ identities that they are, in a sense, binding.[69]

If Gentile believers in Yeshua are clear about their position before God, their relationship to Judaism, the Jewish people, and all their communities of obligation, they will weigh their choices well, making decisions that please and glorify God.



Gentile believers are joined to Israel through Yeshua. The Jewish people rightly express their covenantal relationship to God in part through behavior that distinguishes them from Gentiles. However, the Tanakh and New Testament envision the mutual blessing, and prayer together, of Jews and Gentiles who remain different. Therefore, Gentile believers need to hold in balance the contrasting values of unity and separation with regard to Jews, both Yeshua-believers and non-Yeshua-believers.

How a Gentile might pray as a Jew can be stated in general, but not in detail, as individual preferences matter, and rightly so. Gentile believers can address God with great freedom, and love him with their whole hearts, within the framework of identification with, yet distinction from, the people of Israel.



Jon C. Olson, DPM, DrPH, lives in the Hartford, Connecticut area with his wife, Susan. He participates in a Mennonite fellowship and religiously identifies as Mennonite, while regularly praying with three congregations: Orthodox Jewish, Messianic Jewish, and Christian. He is an epidemiologist at a state health department, and teaches in a graduate public health program. Professional and contact information for him are online at


[1] Jonathan Kaplan writes, “we must be careful not to engage in a hermeneutic of promise-fulfillment where we merely show how the expectations of redemption present in the prayer book are fulfilled in Yeshua. Such a practice does violence to the liturgy and sustains a supersessionist polemic to the detriment of our community” (Jonathan Kaplan, “A Divine Tapestry – Reading the Siddur, Reading Redemption, Reading Yeshua,” 45 [Hashivenu Forum 2004]).

[2] See Rom 11; Eph 2; 1 Pet 2.

[3] See Mark Thiessen Nation, John Howard Yoder: Mennonite Patience, Evangelical Witness, Catholic Convictions (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2006), 120, discussing Yoder’s The Politics of Jesus.

[4] Congregation Shuvah Yisrael (Bloomfield, CT) led by Rabbi Paul Saal.

[5] Willard Swartley, Slavery, Sabbath, War & Women: Case Issues in Biblical Interpretation (Scottdale: Herald Press, 1983), 227. See also Richard B. Hays, “The Church as Embodied Metaphor,” in The Moral Vision of the New Testament (San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1996). Mark Kinzer, in Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, 46, writes that competing interpretative schemes should be influenced by “(1) recognition that the social location of the authors and initial readers of the text (all part of the Jewish movement) was dramatically different from our own (boxed into mutually exclusive Jewish and Christian categories and social worlds); (2) examination of the ethical implications of each interpretive scheme, as seen in the histories of those who have adopted them; (3) reflection on the theological implications of important historical developments in the life of the Jewish people in relation to the church.”

[6] Richard B. Hays, Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul (New Haven: Yale, 1989), 184.

[7] Michael Wyschogrod, “Why Was and Is the Theology of Karl Barth of Interest to a Jewish Theologian?” in Abraham’s Promise (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004), 224.

[8] Richard John Neuhaus, “Salvation is from the Jews,” in Jews and Christians, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 68.

[9] Wyschogrod, Abraham’s Promise, 216.

[10] “Paul and Paula,” Interview of Paula Fredricksen with David Hulme, Vision (Fall 2005). Online:

[11] Helga Croner, ed., Stepping Stones to Further Jewish-Christian Relations: An Unabridged Collection of Christian Documents (London: Stimulus Books, 1973); Helga Croner, ed., More Stepping Stones to Jewish-Christian Relations (New York: Paulist Press, 1985); John T. Pawlikowski, “Reflections on Covenant and Mission: Forty Years After Nostra Aetate,” Cross Currents (Winter 2007). Online:

[12] Marc Gopin, Between Eden and Armageddon: The Future of World Religions, Violence, and Peacemaking (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000), 3-5. Cf. Jon C. Olson, “Which Differences are Blessed? From Peter’s Vision to Paul’s Letters,” Journal of Ecumenical Studies 37:3-4 (2000): 455-60.

[13] Abraham Besdin, Reflections of the Rav: Lessons in Jewish Thought adapted from the lectures of Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik (Jerusalem: Department for Torah Education and Culture in the Diaspora of the World Zionist Organization, 1979), 169-77.

[14] Marc Gopin, Holy War, Holy Peace: How Religion Can Bring Peace to the Middle East (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002), 33. Cf., Jon Olson, (review) Holy War, Holy Peace Kesher 16 (Fall 2003), 146-58. In Isaiah 57:19, “Peace, peace, to the far and the near,” the far are those Jews who were taken into exile, the near those left at home in Judah. Ephesians 2:12-13 uses the Isaiah passage to reclassify Gentiles as those who were exiles and far. “The proclamation of peace to the far becomes thus a search for alienated and lost family members-for ‘us away from home.'” [Tom Yoder Neufeld, “‘For he is our peace’ Ephesians 2:11-22,” in Mary H. Schertz and Ivan Friesen, eds., Beautiful Upon the Mountains: Biblical Essays on Mission, Peace, and the Reign of God (Elkhart, IN: Institute of Mennonite Studies, 2003), 227.

[15] James McClendon, Witness: Systematic Theology (Nashville: Abingdon, 2000), 375.

[16] McClendon, Witness, 378. For reflections about crossing over, see John Paul Lederach, The Moral Imagination: The Art and Soul of Building Peace (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005).

[17] Glenn H. Stassen and David P. Gushee, Kingdom Ethics: Following Jesus and Contemporary Context (Downers Grove: Intervarsity, 2003), 406.

[18] Cf. John H. Yoder, The Jewish-Christian Schism Revisited, Michael G. Cartwright and Peter Ochs, eds. (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 265 (Appendix B). A model for Jewish-Christian reconciliation  (with diaconal service; Rom 15:27) is provided by the Nes Ammim community in northern Israel. A positive model for Messianic Jewish interaction with various groups is Keren HaShlichut in Jerusalem (

[19] Richard C. Nichol, “The Case for Conversion: Welcoming Non-Jews into Messianic Jewish Space,” Kesher 19 (Summer 2005): 10.

[20] This perception might change if more of the onerous (fasting) or countercultural (no Sabbath driving) Jewish practices are adopted within Messianic Judaism. Still, religions that make demands upon adherents are also appealing.

[21] Paul Saal (“Toward a Messianic Moral Vision,” Hashivenu Forum 2005, 20) writes “of the difficulty in drawing boundaries when mediating between equality and sameness, and … the emotional response that is elicited when inviting people only part way into the family.” Douglas Harink (“Celebrating the Gentiles Among You: A Response to Richard Nichol,” Kesher 19 [Summer 2005]: 82-83) writes, “The practice of Judaism is a participation in an identity that is historically rich, tested by fire, ritually thick, and spiritually satisfying. Given the thin and unbearably light identities typically mediated by postmodern, late-capitalist, consumerist, American culture, it is no wonder that the encounter with a cultural identity bearing the substance and weight of Judaism leads Gentile believers to want to identify with all things “Jewish” (as they see them).” Mark Nanos (“Rethinking the ‘Paul and Judaism’ Paradigm: Why Not ‘Paul’s Judaism?'” 35) writes of the apostle’s view, “Non-Jews were not under Torah; they were nevertheless obliged to observe the appropriate halakhah for this association as equals to take place. That is an idealistic notion within the constraints of the present age, when discrimination ineluctably accompanies difference. But Paul believed the age to come had dawned, changing the terms, so that discrimination was to be eliminated by way of living according to the Spirit, that is, according to the age-to-come-way-of-life the Spirit made possible within this community, if they will dedicate themselves to walking in the Spirit.”

[22] Kinzer, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism. See also responses in Kesher 20 (2006) and Mishkan 48 (2006); Pro Ecclesia 16:1 (2007); Mark Kinzer, “Post-Missionary Messianic Judaism Three Years Later” (2008), online:

[23] Mark Kinzer, “Response to Mishkan Reviewers of My Book,” Mishkan 48 (2006): 59-60.

[24] Mark Kinzer, “Rejoinder to Responses to Postmissionary Messianic Judaism,” Kesher 20 (Winter/Spring 2006): 56-64.

[25] Kinzer, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, 260. Following the gift of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the early church “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers” (Acts 2:42 NRSV). Arthur Glasser interprets “the prayers” to mean the liturgical prayers of the synagogue (“Messianic Jews and the German Church Today,” Direction 28:1 [Spring 1999]: 46-64. Online: Philip Segal proposes that Luke 11:2 (“say this when you pray”) means that the disciples are to recite the Lord’s Prayer at the conclusion of the Amidah (“Early Christian and Rabbinic Liturgical Affinities,” New Testament Studies 30 [1984]: 74).

[26] Robert W. Jenson, “Toward a Christian Theology of Judaism,” in Jews and Christians, ed. Carl E. Braaten and Robert W. Jenson (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 12-13..

[27] Markus Barth, The People of God, JSNT Suppl. Series 5 (Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1983), 65.

[28] Markus Barth’s argument supports a reciprocity by which Jewish believers should from time to time pray with Gentile believers in demonstrably Gentile places of, or forms of, worship. I think this is a good thing to do as long as the activities are not prohibited to, or offensive to, either party. See for example prayer among members of the World Christian Gathering of Indigenous Peoples and Keren HaShlichut.

[29] Richard B. Hays, First Corinthians: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching (Louisville: John Knox Press, 1997), 160. See also Robert W. Jenson, “Scripture’s Authority in the Church,” in Ellen F. Davis and Richard B. Hays, eds., The Art of Reading Scripture (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 30.

[30] More accurately, they are a holy congregation. I also believe that prayer with non-Yeshua-believing Jews is a safeguard against Christian-based supersessionism.

[31] Excerpts from Service of the Heart: Renewing the Ancient Path of Biblical Prayer and Service (Rose, OK: OKBNS Press, 2007), are available online:

[32] Boruch Ellison, “A Universal Prayer Guide for Hasidic Gentiles” (from the Jews and Hasidic Gentiles United to Save America website associated with Chabad Lubavitch and combative toward other Noachide groups). Online:

[33] Michael Dallen, “Prayer, How Should Noahides Pray?” Online: The sense of inaccessibility to Jewish prayer is true for many people, including Jews.

[34] Http:// (“Daily Prayers,” iii). I agree with Katz that Gentiles should not say anything in prayer that is a lie, such as “who has commanded us” about something they have not been commanded to do. In contrast to Katz, I think that Gentile believers can say that God took “us” out of Egypt, based on 1 Cor 10:1, as presented above.

[35] R. Kendall Soulen, The God of Israel and Christian Theology, 111.

[36] Luke T. Johnson, The Writings of the New Testament (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1986), 378-79.

[37] The Roeh Yisrael Messianic Jewish congregation in Jerusalem has this goal. It strives to imitate the community of Yeshua’s first-century disciples, Jews who were diligent in their observance of the Torah, who lived as an integral part of the Jewish community, and who believed in Yeshua as Messiah. The pattern in that community is one of cultural pluralism-Jews who remain Jews and Gentiles who remain Gentiles, all worshiping the Lord together.

[38] See Chavurath B’Nei Noach, online:

[39] Joseph B. Soloveitchik, Worship of the Heart: Essays on Jewish Prayer (ed. Shalom Carmy; New York: Toras HaRav Foundation/KTAV, 2003), 96.

[40] Yoel Schwartz, “The Noahide Commandments,” Chapter 1,

[41] In “Prayer in Yeshua, Prayer in Israel: The Shema in Messianic Perspective” (2008 Hashivenu Forum), Mark Kinzer proposes a kavvanah in which Yeshua infuses the traditional liturgy.

[42] At the Narkis Street Christian congregation in Jerusalem, the first paragraph of the Shema and the commandment to love one’s neighbor as oneself (Lev 19:8) are recited together in Hebrew, following the example of Yeshua (Mark 12:29-31; Luke 10:27). In the B’nai Noach siddur, the Shema consists of Deut 6:4 (and response), Gen 2:16, Gen 9:4, and Deut 6:6-7.

[43] The faithfulness (“keeping faith”) of God through the faith/faithfulness of Yeshua. For an introduction to the translation issues, see Harink, Paul Among the Postliberals, 26-30.

[44] Eberhard Bethge, “Christology and the First Commandment,” Holocaust and Genocide Studies 4:3 ( 1989): 261-72.

[45] See the ArtScroll siddur, Nusach Ashkenaz. The prayer is not part of the Sephardic liturgy.

[46] Soloveitchik, Worship of the Heart: Essays on Jewish Prayer, xii.

[47] Ibid., 45-49.

[48] Ibid., 58-62.

[49] Ibid., xxii.

[50] Wyschogrod, “Paul, Jews, and Gentiles,” in Abraham’s Promise, 199.

[51] John H.Yoder, “How H. Richard Niebuhr Reasoned: A Critique of Christ and Culture,” in Authentic Transformation: A New Vision of Christ and Culture.

[52] See Mark S. Kinzer, “Final Destinies: Qualifications for Receiving an Eschatological Inheritance” Kesher 22 (Spring/Summer 2008): 87-119.

[53] I thank Beth Broadway of Roeh Israel/Netivyah Bible Instruction Ministry for this information.

[54] Krister Stendahl, “Christ’s Lordship and Religious Pluralism,” in Meanings: The Bible as Document and as Guide (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1984), 233-244.

[55] David H. Stern and Elazar Brandt, “The Use of Liturgy in Messianic Jewish Worship,” Mishkan 25 (1996).

[56] Derek Leman (“Understanding the Sacrifices of Israel, Past and Future” [n.p.]) points out, however, that in Acts 21:26, Paul presented a sin offering. Leman argues that this was not contrary to the atoning death of Yeshua..

[57] An expression from the traditional siddur. R. Kendall Soulen (The God of Israel and Christian Theology, 88) finds a positive identity in the term Gentile, “The term Gentile implies actual participation in covenant history because it conceives of (non-Jewish) humanity within the horizon of Israel’s particular election.”

[58] Service of the Heart, Daily Prayers, 3. Online:

[59] Stern and Brandt, “The Use of Liturgy in Messianic Jewish Worship.”

[60] Yoel Schwartz, “The Noahide Commandments,” Chapter 1. Online:

[61] Similarly, H. Bruce Stokes writes, “In our home, we celebrate the Sabbath in a manner similar, but not identical, to the traditions of Judaism. All of the Torah’s commands and elements of Judaism are present. But the form is distinct. Our Jewish neighbors who know of our observance sometimes express a desire to have what is rightfully theirs. They see an authenticity in what we do that reminds them of childhood Sabbaths at home. We are often asked why we observe the Sabbath. We respond with the text from Isaiah 56:6-8 which tells of the Gentiles who keep the Sabbath. Jewish and Gentile believers must work together to protect our separate identities while becoming one new man in the Body of the Messiah” (“Gentiles in the Messianic Movement,” online:

[62] Yoel Schwartz, “The Noahide Commandments,” Chapter 1. Online:

[63] Kinzer, Postmissionary Messianic Judaism, 55-57.

[64] Barney Kasdan proposes to define and strengthen Jewish/Gentile distinctives in the Messianic synagogue through education, coupled with processes for affiliation and confirmation. Kay Silberling would resolve tensions through introducing liturgical practices that more fully enfranchise non-Jews qua non-Jews.  Douglas Harink encourages the explicit and intentional affirmation and celebration of the Gentile-ness of Gentiles. See Kesher 19 (Summer 2005): 41, 73, 85. The Tikkun Ministries International staff writers offer suggestions for celebrating the Feast of First Fruits in a Gentile way without ever using Jewish liturgy or Hebrew language (“Which Law Do We Keep?” Online: For a happy addition to the havdalah prayer, see Service of the Heart, “Remembering the Seventh Day,” 33, online: After a traditional listing of distinctions between days, between light and dark, and Israel and the nations, the following is added, “and between Jews and Gentiles, who together are partners in one holy objective, to make your name One throughout the world.”

[65] Not every activity that seems distinctive to Judaism is absent from Christianity. There exist Christian traditions of saying the Grace After Meals, and 1 Timothy 4:4-5 gives a Christian precedent for blessing God in all activities of daily life.

[66] Cornelius kept the Jewish time for prayer (Acts 10:3). See Joshua Massey, “Living Like Jesus, a Torah Observant Jew: Delighting in God’s Law for Incarnational Witness to Muslims,”

International Journal of Frontier Missions 21:2 (2004). Online: Massey explores the dilemma of the Christian missionary among Muslims who adopts Muslim behaviors for the sake of contextual witness, but later comes to feel inauthentic when acting differently in private. Massey offers the alternative of incarnational living. I do not pray like a Jew, and among Jews, in order to convert Jews. Rather, I endorse the following approach to evangelism, when evangelism is appropriate: “As we share our story in the context of authentic relationships, we are liberated from a savior syndrome. We are freed to enter into new relationships with people everywhere supported by the conviction that we have come to learn, to be enriched, indeed to be completed. In that space of engagement, we must still fully share our own narrative. For Anabaptists that narrative includes the Bible, centered on Jesus, the gift of God for the salvation of the world and the One in whom all things hold together (Eph. 1:17-23). The story also includes the centuries of commitment to reconciliation and peacemaking. If such sharing attracts others to incorporate this story as part of their narrative, then we must celebrate this as the work of God who effects conversion by the Holy Spirit. As Anabaptists, it would be disingenuous and antithetical to the core of our identity to deny this possibility. Whether through the vicissitudes of history or intentional theological choice, Anabaptists have embraced a pilgrim identity. For pilgrim people, borders and building bridges are part of the fabric of life.” See Stanley Green’s Foreword in Borders and Bridges: Mennonite Witness in a Religiously Diverse World. Online:

[68] All who believe in Yeshua are called to discipleship. I have found John Howard Yoder to be helpful in explicating the various forms of possible obedience. The crucial roles and inclusion of outsiders in the Bible is the theme of Frank Anthony Spina’s The Faith of the Outsider.

[69] Robert Wuthnow, American Mythos: Why Our Best Efforts to be a Better Nation Fall Short (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006), 215.