Why is it that so many Christians mistakenly think the Jewish roots of the faith is the same as Rabbinic Judaism? Christians on a pursuit to understand the Jewishness of Jesus, the apostles, and early church run to the traditions of modern Judaism for spiritual enlightenment and knowledge, not understanding that Rabbinics has nothing at all to do with the practices of first century Israel. Rabbinic Judaism would have been foreign to Christ and the early church, because it was not established until long after the death and resurrection of Christ. In fact, Rabbinic tradition and theology would have been foreign to the apostles and early leaders of the church as well.
Yet, so many Christians in the pursuit of the Jewishness of their faith, rush to buy a Seder plate for Passover, order candles for Shabbat, make Challah bread, wear a Tallit, Kippa, and Tichel, thinking that all of these things help them to understand Jesus and the early church better. However, most of these things are practices invented by rabbis a thousand years or more after the New Testament was written.
The Kippa: There is nothing in the Torah requiring a Kippa (male) or Tichel (female) head coverings. However, Rabbi Joseph Karo, in the 16th century AD, dictated that Jewish men must have their heads covered at all times. And the Talmud made mandates for women. What some might find even more surprising is that the Kippa design is likely a duplicate of the Catholic church head-covering called the zucchetto, which existed before the Kippa.
The Tallit (Jewish Prayer Shaw): The word tallit does not appear in the Torah even once. Most sources that claim a Tallit is required in the Torah only cite the Mosaic law that required a Tzitzit (fringe) on ones garments. The Tallit is a much later rabbinic invention long after Christ, so Jesus and the apostles never wore a Tallit as seen today. In fact, the oldest synagogue in the world (244 CE), the Dura-Europos synagogue in Syria, has many paintings within the synagogue depicting Jewish people and their dress, but none are wearing a modern Tallit. Most of the images are wearing clothing very similar to Greek and Roman dress.
Consider this quote and additional reference for confirmation of the Tallit’s date of origin:
“Perhaps most surprising, the tallit as a prayer shawl was not used until about 1000 C.E.” — Steve Feldman, Biblical Archaeology Society, https://www.prlog.org/10117525-the-worlds-oldest-tallit-may-be-here-in-the-united-states.html
Another reference supporting this timeline is from: https://www.torahapologetics.com/language--word-studies/was-paul-a-tallit-maker
The Seder Plate: How about the Seder plate? That has to go all the way back to the Exodus, right? Wrong! The early Israelite, early church, the apostles, and Jesus, never used a Seder Plate for Passover. Once again, this is a much later Rabbinic invention that became a tradition. Rashbam, a Talmudic commentator in 12th century France stated the following: “[Those who lived during the Talmudic period] had small tables placed in front of the one who led the seder and in front of everyone else as well. But today we move the [Seder] plate…” Rashbam's commentary on the Torah, Exodus 12:8
From there, the plate evolved into the Seder plate we see today. So, the Seder plate is not ancient at all.
Challah Bread for Shabbat: How about the Challah bread? Didn’t Jews in ancient Israel bake this braided bread for Shabbat? No, not at all. The practice of using braided bread for the Sabbath originated with the Ashkenazi Jews of Germany and spread to other Jewish communities around the world. The braiding was a practiced adopted from non-Jews in Europe.
Shabbat Candle Lighting Ceremony: This must be an ancient practice, correct? Again, not likely. Although the Talmud mentions a mandate to light candles during the Sabbath, the modern candle lighting ceremony itself as seen today, appears to be a ceremony started around the 16th century, which evolved and even now continues to change.
The following link contains instructions for how women must recite the candle lighting ceremony, which is from the 16th century AD, Shulchan Aruch. The prescribed ceremony looks very similar to the modern Jewish candle lighting ceremony.
Additional Jewish Shabbat ceremonies and prayers also have Kabbalistic (Occult) origins as well, like the invitation to the Shabbat Queen, or the Shabbat soul that possess Jews during the Sabbath.
As you hopefully may see, none of these rabbinic traditions are from ancient Israel, and even more, none of these rabbinic tradition are going to be helpful to a Christian looking for the “historic” or “Hebrew Roots” of their faith.
Most Christians that run down the rabbit hole of studying Rabbinic Judaism, Torahism, or Hebrew Roots, usually fall victim to many false teachings, legalism, heretical doctrines like denying the deity of Christ, and eventually depart from the faith or convert to Judaism.
If a believer in Christ truly desires to study the culture of early Israel, then there is plenty of insight in the Bible that one can study. Additionally, it is even more important that one study the change that took place in the early church, which reveals the struggle the Jews in Israel went through as they transitioned from the external (legalistic) practices of the Mosaic Covenant, to the New Covenant which was established by Christ and further taught by his apostles that focused on internal change of the heart and mind.
Ultimate understanding about Christ is not through Rabbinic Judaism or Torah gurus online, but only comes from relationship with him. Pray to the Father, put faith in the work of Christ, and let the Holy Spirit be your teacher and guide.
We match teaching against the scriptures to point out error and call people back to truth in love and with the desire to save and restore.
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