Jews, Joes, and Gentiles for Judaism

Arutz Sheva reports on the latest development within the Kahanist “Sanhedrin” in Israel:

A council of non-Jewish observers of the Seven Laws of Noah has been selected and will be ordained by the reestablished Sanhedrin in Jerusalem this January.

B’nai Noach, literally “Children of Noah,” known as Noahides, are non-Jews who take upon themselves the Torah’s obligations for non-Jews – consisting of seven laws passed on from Noah following the flood, as documented in Genesis (see below)… Rabbi Michael Bar-Ron, with the Sanhedrin’s blessing, travelled to the United States to meet with representatives of the Noahide movement and select members for the High Council.

The best-known of these Noahides is Vendyl Jones, the self-styled archaeologist previously profiled on this blog, who keeps claiming to be on the verge of revealing the Lost Ark of the Covenant. Bar-Ron met with Jones at this event.

The “Sanhedrin”, of course, has no official recognition in Israel, and its members consist of the Israeli theocratic right. It has received glowing reports from Christian Zionists like Hal Lindsey, who believe that its existence is a sign of Israel’s increasing restoration, and of the last days. However, the Sanhedrin’s plans to include recognition of these “Gentiles for Judaism” may cause some tension. Back to Arutz Sheva:

A third goal of the creation of the High Council and the Sanhedrin’s efforts in regard to the Noahide community, is to “transform the Noahide movement from a religious phenomenon – a curiosity many have not heard of – into a powerful international movement that can successfully compete with, and with G-d’s help bring about the fall of, any religious movement but the pure authentic faith that was given to humanity through Noach, the father of us all,” said emissary Bar-Ron.

The idea is not to make converts to Judaism, since only Jews by birth are required to follow all the commandments laid out in the Torah. The rest of us, though, should be following these seven rules:

Shefichat damim – Do not murder.

Gezel – Do not steal or kidnap.

Avodah zarah – Do not worship false gods/idols.

Gilui arayot – Do not be sexually immoral (engage in incest, sodomy, bestiality, castration and adultery [Glad that “and” isn’t an “or” – RB] )

Birkat Hashem – Do not utter G-d’s name in vain, curse G-d or pursue the occult.

Dinim – Set up righteous and honest courts and apply fair justice in judging offenders and uphold the principles of the last five.

Ever Min HaChai – Do not eat a part of a live animal.

So is Christianity among the “religious movements” which deserve to “fall”? Some more of Bar-Ron’s views are available in English on a website named Torah Voice, which deals with a third category; we all know about Jews and Gentiles, but there are also the “Joes”, descendents of the lost tribes. In discussing how the “Joes” can be included in Israel, Bar-Ron gives his views about Christianity (emphsis in original):

R. Bar Ron states: Because certain members of the Lubavitch community hold that the late Rebbe Menachem Schneerson, z’’l, was/is the messiah, the Sanhedrin “may” decide not to discriminate against those who hold Y’shua/Jesus to also be “an anointed one.”  Although believing in Jesus as a prophet, messiah, or tzadik is contrary to Jewish tradition and highly improper; such beliefs do not preclude the believer from becoming a kosher returnee to the Covenant of Abraham and the Israelite nation, according to Jewish law.  The absolute qualification is that no shi’tuf (association with the Deity) be made with Y’shua/Jesus, and that no prayers be directed to him, even as an intermediary.  Any Sadiq, a righteous man, be he Israelite or Gentile, must only have the most direct, unmediated, personal  relationship with HaShem (G-d).

The author of Torah Voice is Maggid ben Yosef (or “Maggid ben Yosseif”, “Maggid ben Yoseif”; formerly Dell Griffin), and he himself is a “Joe”. He got a brief mention in the Forward back in 2003, in a report of a Christian Zionist rally:

Many in the crowd identified themselves as “Joes” — Christians who have an affinity for Torah and try to adopt Jewish worship practices. The name refers to prophecies about the House of Joseph being scattered in the winds but being gathered in again before the end of days.

Maggid ben Yosef, president of Jerusalem Torah Voice, said Sunday’s event presented his “Joe-ish” group with a chance to take a dramatic stand. Ben Yosef’s organization has already mailed a copy of the King James Version of the Holy Bible to the White House, with more than a dozen specific admonitions and prophecies cited, to warn the president against pressuring Israel.

This definition is not quite accurate, though. For one thing, as with a Jew, it’s possible to be a Joe without realizing it, since in fact it’s genetic. Ben Yosef tells us:

Interest by non-Jews in the land and people of Israel and Torah has never been more noticeable.

This unexplainable “Israel thing” may have an explanation, however. A biblical one. Hashem (G-d) may be preparing vast numbers of long-assimilated descendants of the Northern Kingdom of Israel to return to their ancient homeland. These stirrings, motivated by the Ru’ach HaKodesh (Holy Spirit or Spirit of Holiness) of Hashem, point to the future reunion of the Jewish descendants of Judah with the non-Jewish “Joes,” (descendants of Joseph), if not a remnant from all of the Northern Kingdom.

The only alternative, of course, would be that people like Ben Yosef are just ordinary folks, devoid of specially blessed DNA – which simply would not do. Ben Yosef also rejects the idea of Jesus as being God; instead, he was a holy man with a message about the restoration of the lost tribes. He claims to have found

conclusive evidence that Y’shua was not Deity, but rather renewed the Covenant to the Assimilation as a tzadik, consistent with the expectations of noted Jewish mystics concerning the role of the tzadikim

Further, Ben Yosef believes that the West Bank properly belongs to Joes like him, and his site includes a curious map which supposedly proves his point. Don’t worry about the present inhabitants: they can go to Gaza, while “the annihilation of the Palestinian population who remain in Judea-Samaria (the West Bank), is a biblical certainty” (Unsurprisingly, he’s also a fan of the late Meir Kahane). He also gives us some more details about both himself and Bar-Ron:

Maggid ben Yoseif  has Orthodox “smichah,” from the Rebbe Shani Dor, also known as the Breslov Hasid Rav Yisrael Tzvi Yehudah Schneider of Ramat Beit Shemesh, Israel.  His beloved “Rav, esteemed teacher, Nachman mysticist, travel companion, prayer conspirator and Dodi,” of 13 years, was recently chosen to fill the 23rd seat in the Revived 71 Seat of Moshe known anciently as “The Sanhedrin.”

MbY is also in a dialogue with the Rabbi Michael Shelomo Bar-Ron, to whom Rebbe Shani-Dor passed his spiritual baton and blessing for the work of “bringing back Rachel’s kids.” R. Michael is one of the nine members of the revived Sanhedrin’s ruling council and the English spokesman for that council. Due to health issues, in January of 2005,  Rebbe Shani Dor instructed MbY to work with R. Michael.

However, ben Yosef and Bar-Ron are not in complete agreement about everything. Ben Yosef believes that Jesus had a “true message” about the restoration of the ten tribes into the West Bank; Bar-Ron asks ben Yosef to “leave Jesus out of it”. Bar-Ron also makes the following observations in a letter published on ben Yosef’s website:

As I specifically told Dr. Jones, I do believe there is a historical base for Anglo-Saxons to claim mixed Israelite descent, a source of inspiration to many to return to the Hebrew nation, and the Jewish People…Like Mr. Davidy, (albeit in your own unique style, and your own strong sense of purpose and destiny) continue to do what you’re doing, raising awareness of mixed Israelite ancestry of Northern Europe.  It’s powerful stuff.

OK, first off a sort of Christian who believes God will annihilate the Palestinians so he can live in the West Bank, and now a Jew who believes in British Israelitism. And I thought Prophet Yahweh was way out there…But Bar-Ron is not the only one; “Mr Davidy” is Yair Davidy (or Yair Davidiy, Yair Davidi), and his organization Brit-Am is devoted to the subject.

So, what about Bar-Ron and ben Yosef’s mutual guru, Shani Dor/Yisrael Schneider? Schneider is a long-time Greater Israel activist; back in 2003 he sent this message to protestors at an anti-road map rally in Houston, making reference to the Joes:

“Fight the road map! Israel’s greatest threat today is not from Arafat. It is from Bush and the State Department. No one is better prepared to fight this enemy than the children of Joseph in America. Bush and the State Department have raised a Palestinian flag over Joseph’s and Judah’s possessions. That flag must come down. The children of Joseph have the side of right and justice with them. But you must be united. Come down from the theological pinnacles which divide you and unite in the spirit of service and sacrifice. Make your stand united and the world will take notice.”

Like a dodgy British salesman selling fake aristocratic titles, it seems the “Sanhedrin” really knows its market among certain credulous Americans. And those of us cursed by fate to be neither a Jew nor a Joe can at least take solace in one thing: in God’s eyes, you’re only at the bottom of the pile if you’re a Palestinian.

UPDATE: Maggid ben Yoseif graces the comments section! He tells us that the Joes have been “excluded from consideration by the Sanhedrin”.

UPDATE 2: Rabbi Shmuley Boteach discusses the Noachides in the Jerusalem Post:

Already, there are whole Christian congregations that have removed the cross and steeple and transformed themselves into Noachide communities who reject the deification of Jesus, observe the Sabbath on Saturday rather than Sunday, study the Torah for its general prescriptions of a spiritual life, but do not embrace all the rituals of biblical law.

…The Jewish community should be spearheading this movement, and should fund a global campaign to have non-Jews join a Jewish confederation, if not adopt Judaism in its entirety.

This is not to knock Christianity or portray it as a lesser faith. On the contrary, Judaism and Christianity, both Godly religions, simply have vastly different appeals, even as they share a great deal in common. Christianity will always appeal to those who prefer a more corporeal religion, where God is incarnate in human form, just as Judaism will always appeal to those attracted to a more subtle and intangible God, and those who wish to approach God without intermediaries.