Jewish leaders have assumed that messianic congregations are really churches with bits of Jewishness sprinkled on top for effect. Contrary to this, we say we are legitimately part of the Jewish community.

We take our cue from the apostles, including Paul, who not only observed Jewish practices and continued to worship in the temple (Acts 2:46; 3:1; 18:18; 21:20–26), but celebrated the holidays as well (Acts 20:5–6, 16; 27:9). In fact, Paul defended himself by asserting that he had “not transgressed the customs of our fathers” (Acts 25:8; 26:5; 28:17). Irenaeus, an early church leader, attests to this: “But they themselves … continued in the ancient observances.… Thus did the apostles scrupulously act according to the dispensation of the Mosaic law” (Against Heresies 3:23:15).

Building on this apostolic model, messianic congregations, or synagogues, have developed a worship and lifestyle incorporating Jewish traditions and synagogue practice to varying degrees. For example, in our congregation we use the traditional synagogue prayers, and our worship is similar to a Conservative synagogue except that we include the New Testament. Our members observe the holidays, and most light the Sabbath candles. The compatibility of the traditions—most of which were in place before Jesus’ time—with messianic faith makes this possible. In fact, it appears that Jesus drew on parts of two standard Jewish prayers, the Amidah and Kaddish, for the Lord’s Prayer.

The traditions and holidays provide beautiful pictures of God’s actions in history centered in Jesus, or Yeshua (Hebrew for Jesus). A knowledge of the holidays is crucial to a complete understanding of numerous biblical passages (e.g,. John 7:37–39; 8:12; 1:29). This messianic fulfillment ...

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