A Comparison of Talmidi and Rabbanite Jewish Practice and Culture
The question arises in people’s minds, “If you Talmidi’s stress so much how similar you are to mainstream Jews, and how you are most definitely not Christians, then why aren’t you just normal Jews? What makes you different?”
The major Jewish difference between Talmidi Jews and rabbanite (mainstream Jews, the majority), is that we don’t accept the binding authority of the Oral Law. In ancient times this was known as the Traditions of the Elders; now the Oral Law is contained in the Talmud.
Many modern Jews don’t realise that much of their culture and practise comes not from Torah, but from rabbinical injunctions and commandments. Our stance comes from the views of the Prophet Yeshua`, who felt that these were additions to Torah, which the Torah expressly forbids (Deut 13:1). Most rabbis will openly admit that modern Judaism is based, not on the Israelite religion, but on the teachings of the ancient rabbis.
The forerunners of the rabbis, the Pharisees, believed that the Oral Law was given to Moses on Mount Horeb (Sinai) at the same time as the Written Law. However, some rabbinic changes to Torah were made to make certain commandments easier to fulfil; for example, to to make it easier for tithes to be more calculated, New Year was changed from Nisan the first month, to Tishrei the seventh month. Other injunctions were promulgated so that if a Torah commandment could not be completed to stringent ritual correctness, then it should not be done at all (such as with forbidding blue cords on the tassles of prayer shawls); or even just plain misreading and misunderstanding of text (such as with the rabbinical forbidding of eating meat with milk).
The prophet Yeshua` was for Torah, but against the Oral Law (Sefer Yeshua passage 121). He saw the Oral Law as a burden (SY 114), and a barrier preventing ordinary people working their way to God’s Kingdom (SY 115 & 116). He taught that the Oral Law was in many instances contrary to Torah, actually forbidding the observance of Torah (SY 117). And Yeshua` was often frustrated that rabbis took things to the nth degree, almost to the point of stupidity (such as what constitutes a valid oath, SY 120). As a result, there are quite a few differences between Talmidi and normative Jewish practice.
These are the main “Oral Law”-related differences between us and the Rabbanites:
- we observe New Moon festivals (they are biblically enjoined observances)
- our months begin on the day of the sighting of the New Moon
- we observe the New Year at the beginning of the first Jewish month, not the seventh
- New Year begins in Aviv (determined biblically by the barley harvest in Israel)
- Shavu`ot always begins on a Sunday
- Shavu`ot is the festival of First Fruits, not of the giving of the Torah
- we don’t wave a lulav – the “four species” of greenery at Sukkot (Festival of Booths); we build our booths out of them
- we maintain the option to take the Nazirite vow, it is presented as a valid choice (however, while there is no Temple, such a vow would be a lifelong one)
- we proudly wear techelet (blue cords) on the corner fringes of our tallitot ( prayer shawls)
- we don’t wear t’fillin on our foreheads (phylacteries or prayer boxes); this practise is a literal reading of the passages following the Shema`
- the first day of the seventh month (Tishrei) is Yom Tru`ah (Day of Shout & Trumpet), not Rosh ha-Shanah (New Year); this is the day we celebrate our joy in Torah
- we don’t have Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law) (see Yom Tru`ah)
- the child of any Jewish parent is Jewish, not just the child of a Jewish mother
- we DO use the Holy Name of YHVH in our private prayer
- we don’t have a ban on the eating of meat and milk together (this is a misreading of what not to do at the Festival of First Fruits – forbidding us to follow a Canaanite practise of boiling a kid-goat in its mother’s milk)
- we don’t observe non-biblical festivals (apart from Hanukkah, which is a national festival)
- we don’t require ha-tafat dam brit (ritual cutting to draw blood) of a male convert who is already circumcised
There are other differences which come from historical and cultural divergence:
- we have elders (z’qeinim) and sages (chakhamim), not rabbis
- we have a Sanhedrin ha-shalosh (Council of Three), not a Beit Din
- our bibles follow the Galilean canon, and so don’t contain the Book of Esther; normative Judaism has the Babylonian canon, which does have the book
- we don’t observe Purim (it’s a local Babylonian Jewish festival)
- we count down the candles at Hanukkah (eight on the first day, one on the last), not up
- we don’t have stripes on our tallitot (prayer-shawls)
- we don’t wear kippot (or skullcaps – it is a Muslim practise which Jews took over)
- we don’t “bob” when we say a blessing, or rock when we pray; these are medieval practices based on a saying of one rabbi
- we read Torah in three years, not one
These are the main differences in belief. Talmidis believe:
- that the gift prophecy did not end with Malachi; both Yochanan the Immerser (John the Baptist) and Yeshua` (Jesus) were prophets of God
- that we do not need a messiah to save us; God alone will save us
- that we work towards the fulfilment of God’s kingdom, not a messianic kingdom
- that is the intent of the heart which is more important than the perfection with which a mitzvah is carried out
and there are many, many more.
We try not to make these differences into points of friction between us and other Jews. We only ask mainstream Jews to understand that we feel we are doing the right thing by God and by Torah. We value these differences, they make us who we are. Not do we ever teach that Rabbinic Jews are lesser Israelites than we; such would be contrary to every value of Talmidaism.