The Messianic Jewish Rabbinical
Council (MJRC) was formally established in May 2006. It consists of a group of
ordained Messianic Jewish Rabbis and associated leaders who share a common
vision for Messianic Jewish practice rooted in Torah, instructed by Tradition,
and faithful to Messiah Yeshua in the twenty-first century.
The MJRC had its beginnings five
years earlier. At that time a set of Messianic Jewish leaders from New England
invited some of their colleagues from outside the region to join them in
working on a common set of halakhic standards for themselves and their
congregations. While other areas of Messianic Jewish life are of profound
importance, such as worship, ethics, education, and social concern, we believed
that halakhic standards had received far less attention than their place in
Messianic Jewish life warranted.
The standards of observance
contained in the present document are the fruit of our study and deliberation
over the course of those five years. They embody in practical form the core
beliefs and values that are at the heart of the MJRC.
While the MJRC commends these
standards for the consideration of the entire Messianic Jewish movement, it
recognizes the limits of its own authority. The decisions of the MJRC are
binding only on the members of the MJRC. Nevertheless, we hope that others in
the Messianic Jewish world will benefit from the work we have done.
Strictly speaking, these standards
of observance are not "halakhic rulings." They are not authoritative
determinations of how the mitzvot of
the Torah should ideally be lived out in our contemporary context. While we
began our work intending to provide such rulings, we eventually concluded that
something else was needed.
The Messianic Jewish movement
consists mainly of people unaccustomed to or uncomfortable with a traditionally
observant Jewish life, and those we are seeking to reach for Yeshua generally
have a similar background. In large part this results from the high rate of
secularization and assimilation among twenty-first century Jews. However, this
profile also fits our vocation as a movement for Yeshua within the Jewish
world. Just as he came to seek and save the lost, and devoted his energy
especially to reaching the disenfranchised among the Jewish people, so our
mission is directed primarily to Jews who have little knowledge of or
attachment to traditional Jewish practice.
In light of this reality, the MJRC
decided that it should not formulate standards of observance that aim to be an
authoritative interpretation of the Torah's contemporary requirements, but
instead should articulate realistic and practical guidelines that point our
communities toward the way of covenant faithfulness. We want to set out on a
journey with Yeshua that will lead us all, in diverse ways, to a richer and
fuller life of Jewish observance.
This document employs two terms
that require special explanation. The first term is "basic practice." This refers to standards of observance that
members of the MJRC are themselves committed to follow in their own lives. They
will also seek to order communal events of their congregations in accordance
with these standards, and will employ them in instructing those preparing for
conversion. While members of the MJRC commend these standards of basic practice to all members of their
congregations, they will not be imposed as requirements for congregational
The second term is "expanded practice." This refers to a
more demanding level of observance, beyond basic
practice, that includes a fuller expression of traditional forms of Jewish
life. An expanded practice is one
that is explicitly commended by the MJRC, but is not required of its Rabbis or
those converted under their auspices. The practices so listed do not exhaust
the range of worthy expressions of Torah observance that a Messianic Jew might
adopt, but provide concrete examples of the shape such observance could
This document includes two types
of material. The main body of the document, in normal font, consists of
decisions approved by the full Council. Each of these decisions derives from
hours (and sometimes days) of Council deliberation. Together they constitute
the Standards of Observance, referred to in the document's title.
The document also contains an
explanatory commentary on the Standards, printed in a smaller font. Prepared by
the MJRC Faith and Halakhic Standards Committee, the commentary aims to explain
the meaning of the Standards, and the reasoning behind them. While the
commentary is endorsed by the MJRC, it does not have the same level of
authority for the MJRC as the Standards themselves.
Like most Messianic Jews, we
acknowledge the Torah as the constitution governing all Jewish life, and seek
to obey it in accordance with the teaching, example, and redemptive work of
Yeshua the Messiah while also drawing upon Jewish tradition, especially those
practices and concepts that have won near-universal acceptance by devout
Jews through the centuries. This commitment to the Torah has motivated us
to seek a common approach to its practical observance.
We rejoice in the opportunity to
work together as Messianic Jewish leaders who desire to discover together what
obedience to the Torah means for our daily lives. Like others in our movement,
we are only beginning the journey. But we are determined to walk together, and
to grow steadily in knowledge and observance of the Torah, and in faithfulness
to our Righteous Messiah.