WHAT IS ORTHODOX NETZARIM (NAZARENE) JUDAISM
Throughout the last number of years many people from different walks of faith – Messianics and Christian denominations – have asked or requested information on why Orthodox Netzarim Judaism is different from the rest. Orthodox Netzarim Judaism is a movement of predominately Jewish people who were either brought up orthodox or who have embraced, to one degree or another, an orthodox lifestyle and believe in the Torah, Prophets, and Writings and also embrace all the oral traditions of our forefathers.
Most Messianic groups believe that the Halachic extension of the Torah (New Testament for Christians) is their Talmud while at the same time rejecting 4,000 years of the oral law of Judaism. Of course, this is not clear cut; oral tradition tends to be ‘sprinkled’ throughout Messianic groups, even some forms of Christianity. But Orthodox Netzarim Judaism embraces all the oral tradition no matter what the rabbis have had to say, right or wrong, (we don’t necessarily agree with all they say) but oral tradition maintains the entire history of the Jewish people.
G-d gave the leaders of Israel the right to interpret the commandments handed down orally which reached its fruition through the writings of Moses. Exodus 18 reveals this fact as Jethro encouraged Moses to find righteous men of impartiality, who took no bribes, had a G-dly reputation, and put them over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. Since traditions and determinations had been passed down all along orally and the people were already accustomed to leaders placed over them on a tribal level, this seemed good to Moses that now it would be done on a national level. The creation of the world, the universe, the beginnings of man, population increases around the world, the evil in the world, the flood, and so on and so on, all of this was orally passed down.
The difference between what the world had done orally and the Jewish people have done orally is that we, the Jewish people, have codified everything in what most of the world would say are extreme details. First century Jews would have not thought anything other.
The Torah, Prophets and Writings are set and fixed. It is the record of Jewish history and G-d’s movement. The Oral Law has been written down in all its renderings and remains in flux for the leaders and rabbis of Israel to make proper decisions in every category of Judaism; from sacrifices, high priests, the tabernacle and temple, G-d’s appointed feast days, uncleanliness laws, ethical and moral laws, tradition, ritual custom and keeping kosher.
The Halachic extensions, which include an additional 484 laws, were written primarily to help the Children of Abraham by faith (Gentiles) who have accepted the Jewish Messiah and the faith of Israel live among the Jews, so that the Children of Abraham by faith would not offend the Jews in any way, thereby creating one new man.
Christians think that Christianity formed at this time. Let me say this to those who are Christian and reading this: you could not be more wrong. Most of Christianity’s traditions were formed from the 3rd century onward from Rome. In fact the vast majority of Christian tradition, practiced by most churches today, have absolutely nothing to do with what Orthodox Netzarim Jews would have presented in the first century. There were no churches, no pre-millennial doctrine, no rapture, no Easter, no Christmas, none of those things existed in the first century.
All of the Netzarim Jews were orthodox. They only had one perspective, the Jewish one. Of course they embraced the teachings of Rabbi Yeshua, the divine Tzaddik, the Moshiach, the anointed One. When the Gentiles were starting to believe there was nothing called Christianity to believe in or fall back on. Jews and the Children of Abraham who were grafted into the promises of Israel pretty much looked the same. Their houses of worship were patterned after synagogues; they met on Saturday, which really is the Sabbath day, Friday night to Saturday night. And what morals and ethics did they learn? Make it up as you go? No. It was the same law and oral law. Biblical tradition inspired by G-d, written down by holy men of G-d, the Jews, in which the Children of Israel have always believed.
Today Messianic groups, which tend to be eclectic, are predominately non-Jewish. They either do not accept the oral traditions as valid, or they tend to loosely apply them, which makes it look ridiculous.
In closing, I am sure people are thinking that we are not willing to be open to dialogue with Christians or Messianics. As chief rabbi of several synagogues, I have proven my openness several times over by fellowshipping with pastors and their churches, in participating in unity services, in discussions with groups of men who are Christian. I have done concerts and have even received Rabbis and Christian pastors in my own home.
We talk and bring out these important issues but when you have been raised a certain way it is hard to change. Christian denominations and Messianic conferences have already proven to us here that there will never be a change. But we have hope in individuals and a few smattering groups of churches, Messianics and Jews; those who are hungry for true first century belief and the traditions of our forefathers. For the rest, I say this to you, it is our hope that you go beyond self-righteousness and religious prejudice and open up your heart to a deeper more comprehensive understanding of your Biblical Hebraic roots.
Rabbi Yosef Hilbrant