Tuesday, December 30, 2014


I didn't inherit a whole lot of tradition from my family. Before we got into Torah, we were sorta non-denominational floaters. Never could really find a church where we felt at home. Didn't really have any special holidays--fireworks for 4th of July and a family gathering for Thanksgiving was about the extent of it. You could say Silver Dollar City was a bit of a vacation tradition. But, it's a struggle to recall much else.

I want my children to have a tradition that they can hold onto and pass on to their children, but I face the same struggle that my parents did. I don't belong anywhere. I'm not a Jew; I don't fit in with the Christians. This whole Messianic thing is, well, a mess. My family took a bit of a Karaite approach to Torah, though we didn't consider ourselves strictly Scripture only. We were not anti-traditionalists by any means.

I've seen anti-traditionalism and its fruit. It starts with distrust. Distrust of the rabbis, distrust of the church. They've added so much to the Torah. So, everything is stripped down to its bear Scriptural bones. Everything else is either pagan or legalistic or simply violating the command to "not add to." So, you get a Passover with no seder plate, a Sabbath with no kiddush, and a ban on Chanukah, liturgical prayer, and anything else that can't be substantiated by the plain text of Scripture. In some circles this distrust runs so deep that people turn to things like lunar Sabbath or Sacred name, because "the rabbis corrupted everything." It is a skeleton religion with little to no foundation.

Like I said, I don't identify with any particular denomination or sect, outside of the ill-defined Messianic movement. I'm not arguing for any particular tradition--just the concept. It's tradition that binds us together as a community. It's tradition that glides through the barrier of the generations. It's tradition that reminds us who we are. Rituals, symbols, holidays, etc. make up a language for communicating our faith to those around us, to our children, and to ourselves. If the Word of God is living water, tradition is the bowl to hold it.

The Messianic movement set out to re-invent the wheel as we discovered the one we inherited was square. It is a reformation of sorts, a noble task. But, in totally rejecting even the concept of tradition, we've condemned ourselves to continually re-invent the wheel, generation after generation after generation. In refusing to even consider what orthodoxy has to teach us, we are teaching our children to reject what is handed down to them in favor of finding their own way. This way of living is not sustainable. The very principles that got us started on this path must be abandoned if we are to grow.

So, I face the challenge of finding a tradition for my family. I have the rich histories of Judaism and Christianity from which to draw, but I cannot accept anything blindly. I stand upon a blank slate--I have a responsibility to guard it carefully. The questions I must ask myself: What will I take from Christianity? What will I adopt from Judaism? What traditions will we form ourselves? And how will I harmonize these different elements and make them meaningful to my family?

There's actually one tradition my father taught me that I will carry on. Always seek the heart of the commandment. Understand why we do what we do. Never let ritual get in the way of substance. That's legalism. That's a bowl without water. That's why I will remain a heretic. You see, I have great respect for the Jewish and Christian traditions that have come before me. Indeed, I need orthodoxy. It keeps us straight, keeps us stable. But orthodoxy needs heretics to shake the ground and prove the foundation. It needs heretics to challenge the status quo and lead us forward in this faith. That's the role I've been given. That's the mantle I will carry.


  1. I have never seen anything wrong with having traditions, and it bothered/concerned me whenever people rejected traditions outright just because they weren't detailed in the Bible. How else will children (or anyone) learn unless they have something memorable and poignant to do? It makes everything way more meaningful and real if it's, furthermore, a tradition passed down through centuries of religious practice. I like your metaphor---it gives us a bowl to hold onto. Care must be taken, but with that one tradition you mentioned at the end, always seeking the heart of the commandment, things should go well and be kept in their proper order.

    1. Thanks for the encouragement. You make a good point about a tradition being much more meaningful when it comes out of ages past. It gives it a sense of mystery, but also a sense of being rooted in something ancient and enduring, something bigger than ourselves. That's one reason I like to give more weight to adapting an old tradition than inventing a new one.

      I also agree that care must be taken. When tradition begins to take the place of God's Word, we're running into dangerous territory. Tradition is a tool, and like any tool it's only effective when used properly.

      Thanks for the comment! =)

  2. Great post about a topic that has become all too familiar.

    I think that the stripping away of traditions is only symptomatic of a hurting and bleeding heart. I suppose I’d compare it to a young boy who has had his feet bitten by fire ants while playing in the backyard. The boy desperately yanks off his shoes and socks to tend to the ant bites. Though he’s only a young boy, he knows perfectly well that had he played somewhere else and not close to the ant pile, the ants wouldn’t have hurt him. The case with the adult stripping off the traditions from his life is similar to the boy pulling off his shoes and socks, except that instead of viewing the religious teachers (ants) and place of worship (backyard) as being a major cause of his pain, he places the responsibility of his wounds on the shoes and socks. I don’t think that he will be able to recognize the role of the traditions and put them back into his life until he first tends to his wound which lies deep within his heart. And of course applying the Torah to our hearts requires us to be emotionally honest and that is by far something that takes a lot of time and courage to learn how to do.

    I appreciate your posts! Keep writing.

    1. Thanks for commenting!

      I believe what you say is so true. Sometimes I forget to be sensitive to that fact when I'm writing, as my own frustrations come out. I think a lot of us have experienced hurt, both from the church and from our own Messianic movement. After so much, we simply want to disassociate ourselves from it all.

      How can I help spread a message of grace and patience and forgiveness instead of contributing to the problem? How can I find healing for my own heart? The Messianic Movement is not perfect by any means--it's made up of imperfect people like myself. But, I think it's worth holding onto. It's family.