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For the week ending 10 July 2004 / 21 Tammuz 5764

"Messianic Jew"

by Rabbi Yirmiyahu Ullman - www.rabbiullman.com
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From: Jason from Tuscon, AZ

Dear Rabbi,

I am recently on my way back to becoming religious, and I have started to wear a kippah at work as a Sergeant in the USAF. The other day, a woman that works there asked me if I was a "messiah Jew or the other kind". My immediate response was rather negative, since I dont see the first group she mentioned as Jews at all. What, if anything, should I do to try to clarify the difference to her? Or, should I just rely on my initial response of, "I'm a Jew, messianics are not"?

Dear Jason,

First let me salute you on your return to Jewish observance. It is not easy for anyone to make the changes you have made; and its often more difficult for one who was brought up religious and then consciously left it, to return. Im sure its difficult to make the changes while in the Air Force as well. May G-d give you strength and fortitude to keep flying high.

One of the most challenging aspects of becoming religious is dealing with the comments, remarks, opinions and questions of those who notice the changes taking place whether they be family, friends or co-workers. Their reactions may result from being totally uninformed, positively inquisitive, cynically critical or outright hostile. The Golden Rule in all cases is to be calm, pleasant, courteous and understanding.

After all, remember that it is you who is changing, not them. Youve thought about it a lot, know why youre doing it and see where youre going. Most people have never even thought about the issues youve probably been working through on your own for some time now, but are only recently starting to surface. How would you have reacted a year or two ago to something like this? And whatever your reaction would have been, surely a pleasant response would have only increased your appreciation and respect for the newly religious person and his religion.

Therefore, in your specific case you should apologize for being abrupt and explain that you were surprised by the question. Then, without going into too much detail, respectfully explain the difference as you understand it. If the conversation results in disagreement, politely end the discussion. Most importantly, do not fall into the mistake of trying to elevate Judaism by shooting down other people or religions. Rather emphasize the truth and beauty of Judaism and let it fly on its own.

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