Religious Zionists in Uproar Over Messianic Jew in Bible Contest

May 5, 2008

The Israeli anti-missionary organization Yad LAchim is calling for a boycott on the annual Zionist Independence Day International Bible Contest, to be held in Jerusalem this Thursday, May 8, after learning that one of the four finalists is a Messianic Jew, a member of a sect of Jewish-born believers in Christianity. The finalist is 11th grader Bat-El Levi, from the Pisgat Zeev neighborhood of Jerusalem. Yad L'Achim argues that she should not be allowed to participate on the grounds that the contest is only for Jews and Levi should not be considered Jewish.

Yad L'Achim director Shlomo Dov Lipschitz circulated a letter to several religious Zionist rabbis: Shlomo Aviner, Tzvi Tau, Shmuel Eliyahu and Yaakov Yosef. He asked them to put pressure on the Education Ministry to disqualify Bat-El Levi from the contest.

But Education Ministry officials ruled that Bat-El Levi is to be considered a Jew and so her participation cannot be questioned.

In a letter sent to Education Minister Prof. Yuli Tamir, Agudath Israel activist Rabbi Menachem Porush points out that if Levi emerged the winner in this Bible Contest, it would serve the agenda of Christian missionaries seeking to pull Jews away from their religion. Porush added that the Levis are leaders in the Messianic movement, they host meetings in their home, and family members are major activists.

Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Yaakov Ariel expressed his opinion that Levi cannot be considered a Jew since she crossed a line that may not be crossed by expressing her belief in the founder of the Christian religion.

There are currently about 8,000 Messianic Jews living in the State of Israel.

Our comment:

The Torah teaches that the ashes of the red heifer had the unique ability to purify the defiled and at the same time defile the pure. Here too, if a Christian is allowed to participate in the Zionist Bible Contest, there will be two outcomes.

On the one hand, the religious Zionists will be disillusioned about the state they love, and they will realize that it is not to be trusted to uphold principles that even they agree are fundamentals of the Jewish faith. As a result, they will distance themselves from the state and will be more receptive to anti-Zionist arguments.

On the other hand, in the non-Zionist Orthodox world, we can expect to hear and read passionate condemnations of the state which allowed such a breach to occur under its auspices. Innocent listeners and readers will draw the incorrect conclusion that Orthodox Jews are against Zionism because it is not religious enough. The true meaning of the word "Zionism" rebellion against G-d's decree of exile will be forgotten and instead people will think it merely means disregard for the Torah and its principles.

Thus, even as the religious Zionist community will improve as a result of this event, the non-Zionist community will be given yet another opportunity to make the error of thinking that one can eat pork prepared according to the strictest standards of kosher laws. They will find themselves wishing for the absurdity of a Bible Contest held by the Israeli government on Israeli Independence Day, in which only "real" Jews are allowed to participate.

But the true lesson of this story in its symbolism. Let the religious Zionist rabbis take their accusations against the Messianic Jews and turn them against themselves! A Messianic Jew, even if he keeps all the laws of the Torah down to the last detail, is not to be considered a Jew because he believes in a distortion of the Jewish concept of the messiah: that a person who died without bringing the redemption could be the messiah. If so, what about the religious Zionists? They too may keep all the laws of the Torah, but they too believe in a distortion of the Jewish concept of the messiah: that Jews can just get up on their own and restore Jewish sovereignty and gather in the exiles, things we have been waiting for hundreds of years for the messiah to do!

With this in mind, perhaps it is fitting that a born Jew who distorts the concept of the messiah should participate in a contest run by born Jews who distort the concept of the messiah.