Questions & Answers - Should we listen to the Rabbis?
July 11, 2019
Questions & Answers Rabbi Stuart Dauermann
In the Holy Etiquette section of Shulchan Shelanu you talk about halacha, which you say refers to the way Jews “walk out” their way of life. But halacha is a rabbis’ term! It’s from rabbinical Judaism! You don’t mean that we should ever listen to the teachings of the rabbis, do you? After all, didn’t they reject Yeshua? Shirley Surely
Well, that is a good question. And I could give a long and detailed answer to it, but I don’t think now. Let me give a short answer.
I do believe we should listen to the teachings of the rabbis, especially when they address matters of Jewish practice. Let me give you just a couple reasons why I say this:
1) We should listen to the teachings of the rabbis when it comes to standards of Jewish practice because Yeshua told us to in Matthew 23:2-3: ”The Torah-teachers and the P’rushim,” he said, “sit in the seat of Moshe. So whatever they tell you, take care to do it.” He goes on to say that we should not imitate their example because they fail to practice what they preach. But this means that what they preach about Jewish practice is good: it is their failure to live up to it that is bad.
2) We should listen to the teachings of the rabbis when it comes to standards of Jewish practice because Yeshua did. For example, consider the rabbinic custom of saying b’rachot before eating something. In Luke 22:17-19 we read some fascinating details on this matter:
a. 17 “Then, taking a cup of wine, he made the b'rakhah and said, ‘Take this and share it among yourselves. 18 For I tell you that from now on, I will not drink the fruit of the vine until the Kingdom of God comes.’ ”
b. We should take note of two things. First, as the rabbis had taught us to do, he says a blessing before drinking the wine, he or his disciples. Second, in verse 18 he refers to it as “the fruit of the vine,” which is a direct reference to the wording of the rabbinic blessing for wine. “Blessed are you O Lord, King of the Universe, who creates the fruit of the vine’. Clearly then, Yeshua did not repudiate the teachings of the rabbis.
c. 19 Also, taking a piece of matzah, he made the b’rakhah, broke it, gave it to them and said, “This is my body, which is being given for you;
This word is also an acronym for “beit otzar ruchani—spiritual treasure house.” do this in memory of me.” He does the same thing with the bread, the staple of every Jewish meal: he says a b’rakhah before eating it. But there is more.
d. Now, after the resurrection, you would think, “For sure, now the Messiah is freed from all that rabbinic stuff. Not so’. After the resurrected Messiah walked a while with the disciples on the Road to Emmaus, they turn aside into an inn, where they have a meal. And we read this, “As he was reclining with them at the table, he took the matzah, made the b'rakhah, broke it and handed it to them” (Luke 24:30). There’s lots more evidence about Yeshua’s obeying rabbinic halacha, but this will have to do for now.
We should listen to the teachings of the rabbis when it comes to standards of Jewish practice because the apostles did. There’s lots of evidence, but let this suffice for now. Toward the end of his life, the Apostle Paul finally gets to Rome, where he has wanted to go for years. Three days after arriving there he convenes a meeting of the Jewish community leaders there. Here is what he tells them: “Brothers, …I have done nothing against either our people or the traditions of our fathers” (Acts 28:17).
Had Paul broken away from Jewish law? If so, how could he say he had done nothing against the traditions of our fathers? He is claiming to be a religious Jew. In fact, in Jerusalem he went through a Temple ritual at the request of Ya’akov (James) for the purpose of proving that “you yourself also walk orderly, keeping the Law” (Acts 21:24, NASB). This phrase “walk orderly” refers particularly to halacha.
So yes, I do believe we should follow the teachings of the rabbis when they instruct us about Jewish practice. We may disagree, and we may modify, but we ought not to disrespect those whom of Yeshua himself said, “sit on Moses’ seat, therefore do whatever they tell you to do.”
What do you think? (you can send your views to firstname.lastname@example.org)