Messianic Leader's Apostasy: What We Can Learn
James Scott Trimm
As many of you may have heard, Ira Michaelson, former Messianic Jewish leader, has rejected the Messiah. I know many of you are wondering why. Michaelson was a former Orthodox Jew and had professed a belief in Yeshua as
Messiah and become leader of a Messianic Jewish congregation called Beth Tefillah. As a Messianic Jew he had
come into contact and eventual association with Nehemiah Gordon, leader of a large segment of the modern Karaite
movement, and a major anti-missionary.
Michaelson's apostasy is unfortunate, but perhaps it can serve as a teaching moment for the Nazarene Community.
Why would an Orthodox Jew accept Messiah, only to later reject him as Messiah after coming into association with
The fact is that it makes perfect sense for an Orthodox Jew to accept Yeshua as the Messiah. As I have laid out
in our free e-book Mashiach: A True Jewish Perspective at http://nazarenespace.com/page/books-dvds the
Messiahship of Yeshua can be demonstrated by examining the Talmud, Midrashim and Zohar. In fact my old mentor
Rabbi Moyal was an Orthodox Rabbi how had come to the conclusion that Yeshua is the Messiah by studying the
Talmud, Midrashim and Zohar. I can easily show from these sources that Yeshua had to have been the Messiah. And
through the efforts of this ministry a number of Jewish people have come to Messiah. (in the last year we have
distributed some 400 copies of this important book).
Now as I said back in May, I have found in seeking to debate an anti-missionary that they want to limit the
material to be cited in the debate to be the Tanak only. This is odd because the anti-missionaries I am speaking
of are Rabbinic Jews. Why should they want to eliminate the Targums, Talmuds, Midrashim, Zohar and other
Rabbinic literature from the debate? Neither of us are Kaaraites, so why take a Kaarite position in the debate?
The reason friends is... (and you Kaarite sympathizers out there, hold onto your hats) The concept of the Messiah
is largely an Oral Law concept! And the anti-missionaries KNOW THIS WELL. The Messiah is almost never mentioned in the Tanak by that title (The possible exceptions being "YHWH has anointed me" (Is. 61:1); "His anointed" (Ps. 2:2) "an anointed shall be cut off" (Dan. 9:26). Even these passages are unclear in the Tanak alone, as they could simply refer to a "an anointed one" rather than "The Messiah." The only way to demonstrate clearly that
any given passage is in fact a reference to Messiah is to rely upon the Oral Law (thru such sources as the
Targums, the Talmuds, the Midrashim and the Zohar). For example the word "Messiah" never appears in Isaiah 53,
yet we know form the Targum, the Talmud, the Midrash Rabbah and the Zohar that Isaiah 53 speaks of the Messiah.
This is why, while some Rabbinic Jews and even Orthodox Rabbis have accepted Yeshua as the Messiah, I know of no
case where a Kaarite has come to Messiah. There is virtually no way to make the case to a Kaarite that Yeshua is the Messiah. By contrast I can show any open minded Rabbinic Jew that Yeshua is the Messiah of Judaism, and I have done just that in our new book Mashiach: The Messiah from a True Jewish Perspective.
In fact it is for this very reason that Yeshua's original followers came from the Pharisees and Essenes and few
if any from the Sadducees. That is because the Sadducees rejected the Oral Law and thus had no framework for the
very concept of the Messiah and they could not accept Yeshua as a Messiah when they did not even accept the
concept of Messiah at all.
Now the idea of Yeshua as the Messiah makes perfect sense in terms of Jewish tradition, but without Jewish
tradition, there is no concept of a Messiah at all, Yeshua or otherwise. Nehemia Gordon does not need to
directly attack the idea that Yeshua is Messiah, he need only attack Jewish tradition, for without Jewish
tradition, there is no Messiah concept.
Michaelson insists that his rejection of Messiah has nothing to do with Gordon saying:
"There are those that will claim that I have been influenced by my relationship with Nehemia Gordon. Nothing
could be further from the truth, and it would offend me to think that anyone would see me as that weak minded to
be affected by someone else. Nehemia and I never discussed theology, and never studied any scriptures that were
considered Messianic, and we did this purposely. We had no desire to debate these issues. Nehemia comes under
attack all the time, and is labeled an anti-missionary. I can assure you that this is not the truth."
Of course Nehemia does not need to discuss Messianic passages (without the Oral Torah there is no way to
determine that any passages are "Messianic) he need only convince one that the Oral Law is to be rejected, and
the Messianic claims of Yeshua are discounted as a natural result. This indirect attack is why Nehemiah Gordon
has been more successful as an anti-missionary than Orthodox anti-missionaries.
Furthermore while Michaelson denies that Gordon drew him away from Messiah he does say:
"I am not a Karaite, and have no intention of labeling myself a Karaite. I have no intention of returning to
Orthodoxy, and do not label myself as such. I look to find the balance in my faith, and while I maintain some
positions that line up with Karaism, and others that line up with Orthodox Judaism, I see no reason to hang my
hat on either."
Now frankly this is a bit mealy mouthed. If Michaelson now rejects Messiah while staying within Judaism, either
he rejects the Oral Law and is therefore a Karaite, or he accepts it and is returning to Orthodox Judaism. It
cannot be both. And if Michaelson in rejecting Yeshua as Messiah has no intention of returning to Orthodox
Judaism and now maintains "some positions that line up with Karaism" then he has rejected the Oral Law and
whether he chooses to use the term or not, he has become a Karaite.
And if Michaelson has, since leaving Orthodox Judaism and accepting Messiah, now adopted "some positions that
line up with Karaism" it is impossible to believe that this had nothing to do with his association with Nehemiah
Gordon during that very same period of time.
Michaelson is telling us that he initially believed in the Oral Law (as an Orthodox Jew), then he accepted Yeshua as Messiah in that context, then he rejected the Oral Law and therefore ultimately rejected Yeshua as well.
Now I have stood up for Nehemiah Gordon when he was libled and wrongly attacked, but pick no bones about it
friends, he is a very dangerous anti-missionary. The Rabbinic anti-missionaries are at least upfront about their
intentions, but Gordon denies being an anti-missionary while seeking to infiltrate the Messianic movement and
drawing believers ultimately away from Messiah.
The Worldwide Nazarene Assembly of Elohim will not waver, we will continue to profess that Yeshua is the Jewish Messiah of Judaism. I suspect we have brought more religious Jews to Messiah than any other ministry out there. We have distributed hundreds of free copies of Mashiach: A True Jewish Perspective at http://nazarenespace.com/page/books-dvds and our book Let's Get Truthful http://nazarenespace.com/page/books-dvds has become a key source in debating the anti-missionaries.
Help us stand up for Messiah while the enemy wanders to and fro seeking whom he may devour!
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Ira Michaelson's Email announcement of his apostasy (dated October 28th, 2012):
Beth Tefillah Community & Friends,
Some very important information was shared with the congregation during our Shabbat service yesterday. Now, I must share it with those of you who were unable to attend, or are friends of the congregation. There have been some rumors being passed around within the Messianic & Hebrew roots community recently, and I do not feel like you should hear this from anyone but me.
Like all of you, I have my own personal journey, and the journey of life that Lori and I take together. Over the last several years, this journey has caused me to question many of the things that I have believed in. Things came to a head for Lori and I just before Passover, and we could no longer keep going on maintaining the status quo.
It was at that time that we came to the realization, that for us, there is only YHVH and Torah. We no longer saw the relevance of Yeshua (Jesus) in our lives, and could no longer maintain this faith in light of what we saw revealed to us through the Hebrew Scriptures. As the mission and vision of Beth Tefillah has always been about teaching Torah to the nations, we continued doing just that. We have never sought to refute anyone’s faith, and have never attempted to draw anyone away from their faith system, journey, or belief in Yeshua as the Messiah.
This is why we have chosen at this time to speak openly about this, and to share our future plans. Beth Tefillah will attempt to transition into a weekly Torah Midrash Group (Study Group). We would like to continue teaching Torah, but understand that this might be difficult for some to accept. We understand this, and believe each person needs to make their own decision.
We will not longer have a congregational framework, and Saturday, November 24th will be our last service at our present location. After a brief rest, we will begin the Torah study sometime in the middle of December. We have not yet decided what the location will be. Either a home, or if there is sufficient positive response, we would consider renting the Holiday Inn Express meeting room again for a few hours each Shabbat.
We know that this will difficult news for some of you to hear, but we assure you that we are confident in our faith, and believe that we are all able to come together, as long as we put our Father and His Torah first.
Lori and I have also submitted our application to make Aliyah. This is the process of moving home to Israel. God willing, we will be moving in July of 2013. However, we have already begun work on a new website that includes a “virtual classroom” that will allow us to continue this teaching ministry even when we are in Israel. We still want to interact with those of you who have been blessed by this ministry, and seek to continue to learn more about the Torah.
Now, I have to put to rest rumors before they begin.
1. We are not doing this in order to gain citizenship in Israel. I think all of you know us well enough to know that we are people of integrity, and that we would never lie to make this happen.
2. There are those that will claim that I have been influenced by my relationship with Nehemia Gordon. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it would offend me to think that anyone would see me as that weak minded to be affected by someone else. Nehemia and I never discussed theology, and never studied any scriptures that were considered Messianic, and we did this purposely. We had no desire to debate these issues. Nehemia comes under attack all the time, and is labeled an anti-missionary. I can assure you that this is not the truth.
3. I am not a Karaite, and have no intention of labeling myself a Karaite. I have no intention of returning to Orthodoxy, and do not label myself as such. I look to find the balance in my faith, and while I maintain some positions that line up with Karaism, and others that line up with Orthodox Judaism, I see no reason to hang my hat on either. For me, it is simply, all about YHVH and all about HIS TORAH!
It has been a blessing to lead Beth Tefillah, to interact with each of you, and to learn and grow together. You have all been a blessing to Lori and I, and we love you all.
I will be sending out further emails in the next few weeks providing further information on the location, time and meeting place of our weekly Torah Midrash Group.