Sometimes people ask why the Nazarene Israelite faith looks Jewish. It is a good question, so let’s answer it, because it will prove very instructive. It should also help those who are afraid of Nazarene Israel’s Jewishness to understand why they should not be afraid of it (but that it is a natural result of the fact that our Example Yeshua was a Jew who practiced first century Judaism).
In Nazarene Israel and other studies, we show how the Nation of Israel split into two kingdoms after the reign of King Solomon. The northern ten tribes became known as the Northern Kingdom of Ephraim. This Northern Kingdom was taken into the Assyrian Dispersion around 732 BCE, and it was prophesied that they would begin to return to the covenant after some 2,730 years in spiritual captivity. The time of punishment ran out around 1998 CE. This is why the Hebrew Roots movement (by whatever name) got started around 1998 CE, and also why Nazarene Israel got (re)started in 1999 CE.
In addition to the Northern Kingdom of Ephraim, there was also a Southern Kingdom of Judah. This Southern Kingdom of Judah is the nation from which the Jews of today descend. In Torah Government and other places, we explain that the Jews went into captivity in Babylon, starting around 586 BCE. However, Judah’s captivity was different, and Judah has a different history, which we need to understand in order to understand Yeshua.
Yahweh gave His people the Torah of Moshe (Law or Instructions to Moses) as a wedding contract. This Torah of Moshe tells the people to support the Levitical priests by bringing their tithes and offerings to the temple three times a year. However, because there was no temple in Babylon, the people had no place to bring their tithes and offerings, and so the Levitical order soon collapsed. Without Levitical leadership, the people soon began to assimilate into the Babylonian culture and began to lose their identities as Jews. To stop this attrition, the great men of the day needed to establish a new basis of authority which did not rely on the Torah that Yahweh had given through Moshe, and specifically which did not depend on the existence of a temple in order to gather operating funds. The solution these great men (ravs) arrived at was to suggest a change to the nature of their authority.
While it used to be understood that the Torah had been given to Moshe, and that the Levites had a sacred duty to teach it and live by it without making any changes to it, the ravs (great men) began to teach that Yahweh had given them the authority to establish their own “Torah Law” for each generation. With this, the rabbis no longer relied on a temple, but could tell the people to pay tithes and offerings because they said so. While it was not right, at least it gave some basis for spiritual leadership in Judah, and it stopped the attrition.
The rabbinical order works according to majority ruling, and tradition. The ravs (or rabbis) teach that if a certain majority ruling lasts for three or four generations, it then carries the weight of law, even if it contradicts the Torah that Yahweh gave through Moshe. There have been many changes and alterations by tradition over time, and it was these changes and alterations to the Torah His Father gave that Yeshua was so vehemently against.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 15:3
3 “He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of Elohim because of your tradition?”
Had the rabbinical order disbanded when the Jews came back to the land of Israel some 70 years later, and had they re-instituted the Levitical order, and re-adopted Yahweh’s Torah as their basis of authority, everything would have been well, and the rabbinical order would probably be thought of as heroes for doing what needed to be done during a time of great crisis. However, for whatever reason, the rabbinical order did not disband, and they continued to teach that they had the authority to establish traditions and legal precedents superseding the Torah of Moshe, based on their majority opinions.
In the first century, Yahweh sent His Son Yeshua to raise up a renewed order of Melchizedek, and gave them a Great Commission, which was to go into all nations and bring back the lost and scattered Ephraimites and Jews (Matthew 28). As we explain in Acts 15 Order and other studies, at first the plan was to bring them into the Jewish synagogues, where they would join the nation of Israel, and learn to keep the Torah over time. However, after the destruction of the temple in 70 CE, the rabbis wrote a curse over believers in Yeshua (called the Birkhat HaMinim) and instituted it as part of the worship service. This drove the Nazarenes and other believers in Yeshua out of the synagogues. It also helped fuel the rise of the replacement theology Church system.
Since 1998, Ephraimites and Jews who are being called out of the Church system are coming to realize that not only did Yeshua not teach against the Torah, but that He wants us to keep it even better than the scribes and the Pharisees (Karaites and Orthodox) keep it.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 5:17-20
17 “Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but [only] to fulfill [part of the prophecies in them].
18 For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled.
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
20 For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.”
For this reason, sometimes Hebrew Roots believers ask why we cannot just sit in a room and read from the Torah, rather than practice any form of Judaism. They say that the rabbis have changed Judaism so much, they are not sure that Judaism is clean (or what part of it is clean). Therefore, they find the idea of sitting and reading from the Torah to be much safer, and easier. However, there are a great many things wrong with simply sitting and reading from the Levitical Torah. First, the Melchizedekian order is not the Levitical order, and as we explain in Torah Government, although both of these orders derive their authority from the Torah of Moshe, the instructions given to each order are entirely different. (For details, see Torah Government.)
Second, to sit and read from the Torah does not fulfill the Great Commission, or to help the body to practice what is called the Fivefold Ministry. The Fivefold Ministry is a set of operating principles dictated by Yeshua Himself. When these principles are followed, they will lead to the establishment of a global Melchizedekian kingdom, in which Yeshua’s saints will rule—but to be part of the ruling body, we have to do everything that Yeshua says.
27 Then the kingdom and dominion, And the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, Shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, And all dominions shall serve and obey Him.’
Those who do not want to participate in this Fivefold order should realize that it is Yeshua Himself who gave this fivefold order, and that it is to last until we all come to the unity of the faith (in global governance). This calls for all of Yeshua’s faithful to operate according to some very specific principles and protocols.
Ephesim (Ephesians) 4:11-16
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers,
12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Messiah,
13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of Elohim, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Messiah;
14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting,
15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head — Messiah —
16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
In Acts 15 Order and Torah Government we explain the foundation of this government within Yeshua’s body, and how this will lead to a single global governing body.
Ephesim (Ephesians) 2:19-22
19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of Elohim,
20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Yeshua Messiah Himself being the chief cornerstone,
21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a set-apart temple in Yahweh,
22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of Elohim in the Spirit.
Sitting in a room and reading from the Levitical Torah as independent study groups does nothing to accomplish these tasks, and so it is disobedience to Yeshua’s will.
But someone may ask, “Why should we obey Yeshua’s Great Commission, or the Fivefold Ministry, when the Torah of Moshe does not say to do these things? Isn’t Yeshua adding to the Torah?” Not only do these kinds of questions stem from a legalistic mindset, but they also indicate a fundamental lack of understanding as to what the Torah is, and how we are to walk it out.
As we explain in Torah Government, there have been six priesthoods in Israel so far, and the Levitical order is only one of those six priesthoods. The instructions to the Levitical order only apply when we live in the land of Israel and have a cleansed temple. That is not the case today. Until after Armageddon, we are in the dispersion, in a different phase of the drive to establish a global government for Yahweh’s Son. And because we are in a different phase of the operation, we don’t need to focus on the order given to Levi right now, but on the order given to Melchizedek. (For more details, see Torah Government and Acts 15 Order.)
But because Ephraim is the bride, someone will ask, “Why should we practice Judaism? Why not establish our own form of Ephraimite worship?” One answer is that even though Ephraim is the bride, Yahweh is using His Son the Jew to regather them, and to establish His international kingdom (as Judah is the kingship tribe). It is not by accident that Yeshua was a Jew, and since He is our Example, we also must do as He did.
Yeshua was probably born and raised as a Pharisee, and when we read the Scriptures through Jewish eyes, it seems clear that Yeshua worshiped according to first century Jewish tradition. For example, He “stood up to read” during the synagogue service. In context, this is an honor that is only given to regular participants in the synagogue, who are also contributing financially. This lets us know that Yeshua did not have issues with the style of worship service in the synagogue.
Luqa (Luke) 4:16
16 So He came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.
We will talk about the synagogue service in other places, but the style of the Torah service has not changed much from Yeshua’s time until today. Some prayers have been added, but the Torah service and the core prayers have remained the same.
The change from the rabbinical to the Melchizedekian orders also does not call for great changes to the Torah service. Mostly what changes is the leadership. The synagogue rabbi is replaced by a council of elders, and these congregational elders connected with the other congregational elders worldwide by apostles (and not other rabbis). Because there are almost no changes to Torah service, or the ritual prayers, all that really changes is the style of leadership. This may be why Yeshua did not have issues with the synagogue service of His day.
It may also be that the style of the synagogue service in Yeshua’s day remained largely the same as it was before the Jews went into the exile in Babylon. The Tanach (Older Testament writings) tell us that each city was to be led by the elders of the city. Thus, it may be that what really happens in the shift from the rabbinical to the Melchizedekian orders is that the leadership of the congregation is put back under the care of each city’s spiritual elders (which is how it was before the exile to Babylon).
We should also note that the Jews are a highly traditional people. One way the Jews maintain such traditionality is that they teach the people to imitate their leaders. In this context, notice how the Apostle Shaul tells us first to imitate Yeshua, and then to keep the traditions, just as he delivered them.
Qorintim Aleph (1 Corinthians) 11:1-2
1 Imitate me, just as I also imitate Messiah.
2 Now I praise you, brethren, that you remember me in all things and keep the traditions just as I delivered them to you.
In Judaism, the people seek to imitate their leaders in everything, from the way they pray, to the way they live (or “walk”, in Jewish parlance).
Yochanan Aleph (1 John) 2:6
6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.
In context, Yochanan (John) is telling us to live just as Yeshua lived, and to imitate Him in all things, but especially in His manner of worship (which was first century Judaism).
In Judaism, when one imitates one’s teacher completely, one is said to be “following” his teacher. However, when one is not imitating his teacher completely (but only in some things), he is said to be “not following” his teacher. Notice, then, that in Mark 9:38, Yochanan (John) tells Yeshua that there were some Messianic believers who apparently believed He was the Messiah because they casting out demons in His name. Yet John said that they were “not following” Yeshua, meaning that they did not self-identify as Nazarene Israelites, or at least they were not doing everything Yeshua said to do. Let’s read it carefully.
Marqaus (Mark) Mark 9:38-41
38 Now Yochanan answered Him, saying, “Teacher, we saw someone who does not follow us casting out demons in Your name, and we forbade him because he does not follow us.”
39 But Yeshua said, “Do not forbid him, for no one who works a miracle in My name can soon afterward speak evil of Me.
40 For he who is not against us is on our side.
41 For whoever gives you a cup of water to drink in My name, because you belong to Messiah, assuredly, I say to you, he will by no means lose his reward.”
If we read it closely, verse 41 says that only those who are following Yeshua “belong to” Messiah. His disciples “belonged to” Him because they were doing everything He said to do (which leads to the kind of global kingdom He wants). However, even though the other believers were casting out demons in His name, they were “not following” Him, and did not belong to Him, because they were effectively setting up an alternate form of worship (or an alternate body). To set up alternate forms of worship might receive some kind of a reward, but most likely not a full one, because setting up alternates for Yeshua’s kingdom does not lead to the kind of unified kingdom that Yeshua wants.
Another reason to keep the synagogue style of worship is that brother Judah was given the job of safeguarding the style of worship that Ephraim was to come back home to. This is why Shaul tells us that it is the tribe of Judah that we are to be adopted into. What he says specifically is that the “adoption” and the style of worship service were given to Judah (verse 4).
Romim (Romans) 9:1-5
1 I tell the truth in Messiah, I am not lying, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Ruach HaQodesh [Holy Spirit],
2 that I have great sorrow and continual grief in my heart.
3 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Messiah for my brethren, my countrymen according to the flesh,
4 who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the Torah, the [worship] service of Elohim, and the promises;
5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Messiah came, who is over all, the eternally blessed Elohim. Amein.
This means it was Judah’s job to maintain the general style of worship we are supposed to be practicing. It also means that when we graft into Yeshua, that even though we are Ephraimites, we effectively graft into Judah. This does not mean that we graft into Orthodox or rabbinic Judah, but rather that we graft into Nazarene Judah (or Nazarene Israel), whose Root is Yeshua.
Romim (Romans) 11:17-22
17 And if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive tree, were grafted in among them, and with them became a partaker of the Root and fatness of the olive tree,
18 do not boast against the branches. But if you do boast, remember that you do not support the Root, but the Root supports you.
19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in.”
20 Well said. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear.
21 For if Elohim did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either.
22 Therefore consider the goodness and severity of Elohim: on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off.
To graft in is to abide in Yeshua. And when we abide in Yeshua, and He in us, then His Spirit will lead us to do the same things that He is leading His body to do.
Yochanan (John) 15:4-6
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.
5 I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.
6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.”
So, when Yeshua’s Spirit abides in us, won’t we want to do the same things Yeshua does? And won’t we want to practice the same form of worship Yeshua practiced? (Or how can His Spirit abide in us, if we don’t walk the same way He walked?)
One of the prayers Yeshua practiced in the first century is called the Amidah, or the Standing Prayer. This is the central prayer of all Judaism. Notice how Yeshua tells us that we need to forgive our brothers whenever we “stand praying” (i.e., whenever we pray the Standing Prayer, or the Amidah).
Marqaus (Mark) 11:25
25 “And whenever you stand praying, if you have anything against anyone, forgive him, that your Father in heaven may also forgive you your trespasses.”
The Amidah is a study all to itself, but it was most likely composed in the early second temple period (i.e., just after the Jews came back from Babylon). That is, it was composed in the early rabbinic period, and yet Yeshua prayed it. We should also note that on weekdays, men wear tefillin (phylacteries) when praying the Amidah, and Yeshua never spoke against tefillin. He only said that it is wrong to wear broad (fancy) straps (verse 5), and that we should not lengthen our tzitzit so that they drag the ground (as some still do in Israel today). Rather, we should just wear normal tefillin and tzitziyot.
Mattityahu (Matthew) 23:1-5
1 Then Yeshua spoke to the multitudes and to His disciples,
2 saying: “The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moshe’s seat.
3 Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do.
4 For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers.
5 But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders [tzitzit] of their garments.”
Neither the Amidah nor tefillin existed when the Torah was given at Mount Sinai. Rather, these things came later, during the early rabbinic period. Yet while Yeshua was against the rabbinical order in general, and while He spoke against every rabbinic tradition that went contrary to the Torah of Moshe, He seems to have practiced all of the traditions that did not contradict the Torah of Moshe. These include the Torah service, and the ritual prayers in the siddur. (While there are a few issues with the modern siddur, in general they do not contradict the Torah. When it is time, we will issue a version that does not have any known corruptions.)
(Note: we do NOT endorse the Zohar, Kabbalah, or the Talmud. While the Talmud is an interesting historical reference, it also often contradicts the Torah.)
What we need to realize is that Yeshua was a Jew who embraced the totality of Jewish culture in His day, minus the corruptions of the rabbis. That means that, if we are to walk like Him, and worship as He worshiped, we need to become culturally first century Jewish. We don’t necessarily need to wear the same style of clothes, but other than that, our thought and worship patterns should be exactly the same as His. And we should do as He did.
If you have understood this study, it may raise more questions than it answers (and that is good). However, what I hope you can see is that it is wrong to think that the Torah can be fulfilled by sitting in a room and reading about what Yahweh wants the Levites to do, when we all live in the land, and have a cleansed temple. Rather, the Torah (or Instruction) is an active plan that calls for Yahweh’s faithful to establish a unified global kingdom for His Son, and this global kingdom is established when we all work together according to the Fivefold Ministry principles of Ephesians 4, which He Himself dictated.
First, Orthodox Judah’s anti-Yeshua kingdom will be established, and we will be persecuted. However, then their anti-Yeshua kingdom will fall, and we who worship the true Messiah (Yeshua) will be brought to rule. There is a tremendous amount of work to be done in order to prepare for that day, and all those who love Yeshua in Spirit and in truth need to get involved, to help prepare. And while we are preparing, let us remember to walk even as He walked, and worship even as He worshiped, because it is this first century Melchizedekian Jewish style of worship that is the basis of His coming unified kingdom.
Come quickly, Adon Yeshua.