What do religious Jews think of the Lord’s Prayer?

Over at Jewish Life & Learning, a new Jewish Q&A site, the question came up, “Is a Jew permitted to say the Lord’s Prayer?

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us, and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil."

This is the Catholic English version of the "Lord's Prayer." Its direct antecedent can be found in the New Testament and according to their tradition, was basically said by Jesus as a prayer to God.

Would a Jew be permitted to say this as a prayer?

The answers were fascinating.

One commented that the prayer is familiar:

I don't know Greek so I don't know what the original says or what "Thy kingdom come" means but it looks to my untrained eye like some of the things we do pray for every morning before p'suke d'zimra.

The same commenter did think the line “forgive us as we forgive others” was fishy, saying it was foreign to ask God to emulate us.

I responded that Yeshua may not have been suggesting God emulate humanity, but rather, God reward human forgiveness with divine forgiveness. I cited Gamaliel II:

Whoever has mercy on other people, Heaven will have mercy upon him; whoever does not have mercy on other people, Heaven will not have mercy upon him.

Another commenter, giving the accepted answer, found nothing wrong in Messiah’s Prayer itself, instead suggesting that Jews should not pray the prayer simply because it’s from another religion:

We find that there are in fact practices in prayer (kneeling, raising our hands) that are attested in Tanach but were later abandoned as Jewish practices, precisely because non-Jewish religions made these parts of their own rituals. How much more so, then, that we shouldn't adopt prayers that they originated!

Another commenter, also unable to find fault in the actual prayer, appealed to the sufficiency of the Torah:

Why does anyone need such a prayer, anyway? The Torah has everything that's needed. Saying this 'prayer' would seem to be conferring tacitly some legitimacy on the entire concept of a so-called 'new testament'.

Another commenter rejected it because it gave legitimacy to Christianity, a religion that actively converts Jews:

I am certainly not paskening here, but it is essentially a sectarian prayer, and gives credence to that religion. What is the motivation in saying it? Breaking down boundaries in this area is surely a slippery slope, when dealing with a religion that actively wishes to convert Jews. So it is, at the least, a very bad idea.

Another commenter also used the “Christianity is idolatry!” argument:

Even if you hold that Christians worship HaShem in some ludicrous way and aren't worshiping an idol, it still is not the JEWISH way of worshiping. As such, Jews may not participate, join, copy, or in any way emulate this practice.

It's at best Hukath HaGoyim [decree of gentiles], at worst 'Avodah Zarah [idolatry].

What I found particularly interesting here is, no one really found fault with Messiah’s prayer by itself.

One commenter at first protested,

The ‘arting in heaven’ for one thing seems a step away from anthropomorphism to me.

However, another commenter quickly replied that “Our Father who art in Heaven” is actually a Hebrew phrase, Avinu Shebashamayim, common in many of Judaism’s own prayers.

Another commenter, perhaps grasping at straws to find fault with Messiah’s prayer, could only find problems if the prayer was applied in all circumstances:

One could pick apart various parts of this prayer. For example, "forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us". This seems akin to Jesus saying "judge not, lest ye be judged." But there are places this applies and where it does not. The gemara in Bava Kamma 50a states “Kol HaOmer HKB”H Vatran Hu, Yevatru Chaiyav”, “Anyone who says Hashem is a pushover, Hashem will push over his life”.

Ultimately, the answers given by these knowledgeable religious Jews were enlightening: Jews don’t have a problem with Messiah’s Prayer so much as they have a problem with Christianity.

And try as some did, ultimately the arguments against Messiah’s Prayer were really arguments against Christianity.

This reminds me of how, even among militant atheists, the best arguments against Yeshua are not really against Yeshua himself, but against Christianity:

Note that the Salvation Army gets defended even by atheists. Why? Because they do what Yeshua taught.

This says something, something great, about Messiah’s life, I think. Even those who oppose him can find little of his life or ethics to oppose.

35 comments:

  1. "This says something, something great, about Messiah’s life, I think. Even those who oppose him can find little of his life or ethics to oppose."

    True. This includes Yeshua approach and participation in Judaism as well. A common and false objection is that Yeshua opposed Judaism and halacha or viewed Jewish interpration of Torah as non-binding. But, if a traditional Jew (or a Christian, for that matter) looks past common Jewish and Christian accusations and presuppositions and actually reads Yeshua's own words, he/she will see that Yeshua explicitly endorses validity of rabbinic authority and upholds its ruling, while opposing hypocrisy. In a word, Yeshua is fully compatible with Judaism of yesterday and today. He's part of Judaism and its greatest Rabbi and its greatest "Son".

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  2. Gene, everything need not tie back to the theological argument you were making in previous days. :-)

    Yeshua argued within Judaism, true, but he didn't accept Judaism's traditions wholesale. (There were at least some traditions he rejected.)

    That's a model for us.

    Now, I don't want to turn this into a big Grandpa Tevye debate thread. You old people are too set in your ways to see the light of the younger generation.

    :wink:

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  3. "Now, I don't want to turn this into a big Grandpa Tevye debate thread. You old people are too set in your ways to see the light of the younger generation."


    Easy...hold your horse there, Cowboy (Religionist):)

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  4. I'm curious, Judah. You generally oppose Jewish tradition across the board, and yet you visit a jewish discussion group which is a "Q and A for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition". Since you don't value those traditions, why expose yourself to them, let alone contribute to the conversation?

    The response of the posters on that board is completely predictable and understandable. The long history of forced conversions of Jews to Christianity has left a kind of "racial" (for lack of a better term) distrust of Jews toward Christianity. The church (including the Messianic realm) continues to try and voluntarily convert Jews, which Judaism opposes. It's reasonable that Jews should want to distance themselves from any practice that could be attributed back to Christianity, even if the practice, in and of itself, is not objectionable (such as reciting the Lord's Prayer).

    While I, as a Christian, find it fascinating to study Jewish texts and find parallels of my own faith, the reverse does not happen all that often (and when it does, the Jews are usually Messianic).

    I might explore this discussion group. Seems interesting. I recently joined a Christian discussion group but, after about 10 or 12 posts, I found (this will be a shocker) that I didn't have a lot in common with most people or the topics they presented. My viewpoint is too idiosyncratic. The MJ sub-forum on that board is like a massive One Law convention and my perspectives weren't particularly welcome there. Guess you're stuck with me as far as "Interwebs" discussion, Judah. ;-)

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  5. @Gene, LOL.

    @James,

    >> You generally oppose Jewish tradition across the board

    Wrong. That is you and Gene caricaturing my position.

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  6. "<> Wrong. That is you and Gene caricaturing my position."

    OK, Judah, which ones do you observe??? (or do you just simply not "theoretically opposed" to some of them for OTHERS, just not for yourself?)

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  7. Wrong. That is you and Gene caricaturing my position.

    I'm not caricaturing anything. My conclusion seemed reasonable given recent conversations. I go along with Gene's question. Can you let us know what your position is on Jewish law and tradition?

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  8. "Can you let us know what your position is on Jewish law and tradition?"

    My quick summary of Judah's position on the above as applied to his own life (vs. theory): "Interesting at best, certainly not at all binding and of more weight that Judah's own personal private interpretation of what it means to do Torah, harmful and to be avoided and opposed at worst if taken seriously by others".

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  9. As a somewhat side issue, I've been browsing the Jewish Life and Learning boards and they're really informative. I found the Is using the Internet on Shabbat against melachos thread very interesting, and I had no idea of the texting issue among Orthodox teens that's been dubbed half-shabbos. From someone on the outside looking in, reading these conversations truly illustrates some of the fundamental differences between how Christians and Jews think about living a life of faith.

    Sorry to get off on a tangent Judah, but since you introduced the discussion forum to your blog, I thought I'd see what it had to offer.

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  10. It's amusing how terribly we mischaracterize each other's positions.

    I already explained my position succinctly. I guess you guys missed that, or chose to interpret it in the worst way possible. (Probably the latter.)

    Here it is again, condensed to a single statement:

    Some of Judaism’s traditions nullify God's commandments, while others cause a heavy burden, therefore, we should not elevate them to a place of requirement for faithful living.

    Now, I'd be curious to see your positions, Gene and James, condensed to a single statement.

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  11. @James,

    I'm glad you like the site. When I originally blogged about it when the site first started (I am one of the folks committed to getting the site off the ground), you didn't seem too keen about it. But I'm glad it's of use to you.

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  12. "Here it is again, condensed to a single statement: Some of Judaism’s traditions nullify God's commandments, while others cause a heavy burden, therefore, we should not elevate them to a place of requirement for faithful living."

    Judah, NOT A SINGLE positive thing about Judaism in your own summary above. Scary. Just a purely negative view of Judaism. I detect three parts to the summary - all of them negative: (1) nullify, 2) heavy burden, 3) do not elevate for life. Wow, that sucks and a mistaken broad-brush of Judaism (vs isolated statements of Yeshua to specific leaders of his day that he interacted with), but it does explain your stance and worldview well.

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  13. Judah said: Some of Judaism’s traditions nullify God's commandments, while others cause a heavy burden, therefore, we should not elevate them to a place of requirement for faithful living.

    I think I asked in one of your blogs (though I can't find it now, of course), just how the laws and traditions burden you if you don't accept at least some of them (or any of them) as obligations? I also recall asking how the traditions can nullify Torah since they seem to be designed to only interpret Torah? Can you give examples?

    I guess you guys missed that, or chose to interpret it in the worst way possible. (Probably the latter.)

    I don't think you need to play the "victim card", Judah. I'm not attempting to judge you in this, but rather to understand you. The fact that you and I disagree on issues doesn't require that I interpret your statements "in the worst possible way". We just disagree on some things. There's no need to personalize disagreement.

    I'm glad you like the site. When I originally blogged about it when the site first started (I am one of the folks committed to getting the site off the ground), you didn't seem too keen about it. But I'm glad it's of use to you.

    I vaguely recall that, however since that time, as you well know, I've undergone a "paradigm shift" of sorts (and my middle-aged memory isn't what it was in my youth). I seriously doubt I would ever participate in this board since the level of knowledge of Jewish traditions is way over my head. Also, in just a casual reading, it seems as if only Jews are posting there, so I'd probably feel even more awkward asking a question on that board than I do on the Christian board.

    I have signed up for a number of emails from Chabad.org including one on Pirkei Avot. I get a completely different picture of the Talmudic sages than I think you do. Here's a brief example on a commentary for Chapter 1:

    Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak of Lubavitch told:

    When I was four years old, I asked my father: ``Why did G-d make people with two eyes? Why not with one eye, just as we have been given a single nose and a single mouth?''

    Said father: ``There are times when one must look with a right eye, with affection and empathy, and times when one must look with a left eye, severely and critically. On one's fellow man, one should look with a right eye; on oneself, one should look with a left eye.''


    That could be compressed into, "with others, err on the side of compassion and humanity, but always be very honest about your assessment of yourself and your own faults."

    That seems less like a "heavy burden" and more like valuable wisdom to me.

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  14. Gene, I believe with all sincerity and soberness that I've aligned my view with Messiah's, as laid out in the gospels.

    When confronted with Scripture that doesn't align with your views, the easy temptation is to explain away the Scripture as some isolated micro-statement. The hard, but correct, path is to change your thinking on the matter.

    I would still like to see yours and James' condensed, single statements on Judaism's traditions affecting Yeshua's disciples.

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  15. I would still like to see yours and James' condensed, single statements on Judaism's traditions affecting Yeshua's disciples.

    Judah, I'm exploring Talmudic and Chassidic writings in relation to my faith, I haven't come to any hard and fast conclusions. This is a journey, not a sound byte. Somethings can't be processed using an instant-result, microwave oven mentality.

    Besides, you didn't respond to any of the things I mentioned in my previous comment, particularly when I asked how the Rabbinic rulings specifically burdened you and when I asked for examples of how the Talmud directly contradicts the Torah.

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  16. Oh, and your two examples from Matthew aren't relevant. They are only applied when a group actually does create a rule that undoes a Torah commandment (in the first case) or when a person behaves inconsistently with what they teach (in the second case).

    I fleshed out my arguments on your latter point a few days ago on my blog. There's a difference between a false teacher and a hypocrite. Jesus was accusing the Pharisees of being the latter but not the former. Their teaching was fine.

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  17. James, I'm not asking for a hard conclusion, nor am I asking you to commit to anything long term, nor am I asking you to discard your volumes of nuances.

    I'm asking that you summarize your view succinctly.

    If people can't concisely articulate what it is that they believe -- if they really need 10 volumes to lay it all out -- then it's not something the average person can apply, let alone something they should care about.

    Just as the Torah can be summarized by the 10 Words, or compressed even further to 2 golden commandments, so I'm asking you to summarize this thing you apparently have such strong views on, this thing you so vehemently disagree with me on.

    Come on, man, out with it.

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  18. Come on, man, out with it.

    I'm tempted to say "you first", since you still haven't answered any of my questions, but I do have an answer for you. You just won't like it. What do I believe? Here it is:

    Mark 12:29-31.

    Consider the example from the commentary on Pirkei Avot I quoted a few comments ago. That certainly is an example of loving your neighbor as yourself and in fact, it could be argued that it's an example of loving your neighbor *more* than you love yourself. Many of the Rabbinic rulings can be interpreted as clarifying how to correctly perform the mitzvot and thus love God with all of your efforts. It's not a Christian/Gentile way of looking at things, but as my wife continues to tell me, Jews really do have a fundamentally different way of conceptualizing their environment, each other, the world, and God.

    To continue, Hillel, who is quoted in the Pirkei Avot more than once, famously said, "That which is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor. That is the whole Torah; the rest is commentary. Go and study it."

    My "10 volumes", as you put it, is the commentary on my developing understanding of the two greatest commandments.

    Now, since information flow doesn't go in only one direction, how about you take a look at what I've been asking you to consider and rendering your responses and opinions, huh?

    Thanks.

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  19. Ok, for clarity's sake, here's our succinct, concise views on "Judaism's traditions affecting Yeshua's disciples":

    Judah:
    Some of Judaism’s traditions nullify God's commandments, while others cause a heavy burden, therefore, we should not elevate them to a place of requirement for faithful living.

    -----

    James:
    Love God with heart, soul, mind, strength, and love others as yourself.

    -----

    Gene:
    You suck!

    -----

    Seriously, guys, you demand answers from me, criticize my answers, then never give meaningful answers yourself.

    If you guys really do hate my view on tradition so much, instead of criticizing other people's views all the time, tell us your take on things. In a single condensed statement, please. Since we can't have agreement, let's at least have clarity.

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  20. If you guys really do hate my view on tradition so much, instead of criticizing other people's views all the time, tell us your take on things. In a single condensed statement, please. Since we can't have agreement, let's at least have clarity.

    Judah, I've bent over backward trying to explain my point of view and I don't believe I've unfairly criticized you at all. I've also said that you are certainly free to disagree with me, and any decisions I have made as a matter of conscience are binding on me alone. I am imposing absolutely nothing on you, except perhaps a request for peaceful, reasonable discussion.

    I've also directed you to my blog many times where my life is pretty much an open book. I don't see how I'm withholding information from you.

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  21. Well, it's a prayer from Judaism by a Jew (and a notable rabbi, at that.

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  22. Judah... you want a nice short summary? Why reinvent the wheel? A few posts back, here's a summary YOU made of my beliefs (and of James's too):

    "Here's my understanding of what James and Gene are saying: Rabbinic authority and judgment is binding on Yeshua's disciples, with the caveat of things like Yeshua's messiahship."

    I thought it was short, sweet and to the point.

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  23. Very cool! Thanks for posting this Judah.

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  24. Hey, I summarized Gene correctly. I am actually quite happy about that, it means I'm not interpreting their words in the worst way possible.

    Progress!

    @Toby, glad you found it useful, buddy. :-)

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  25. "Hey, I summarized Gene correctly. I am actually quite happy about that, it means I'm not interpreting their words in the worst way possible. "

    Indeed, Judah, even if you may have actually meant to interpret in the worst possible way, you got it right!

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  26. What can I say, God has given me the gift of never being wrong!

    :grin:

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  27. "What can I say, God has given me the gift of never being wrong!"

    Yeah, a fine gift that you seem to misplace on occasion!

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  28. Nice post Judah, thanks, here is another article about the Hebrew Roots of the Lord's Prayer http://roshpinaproject.com/2011/01/14/hebrew-background-to-the-lords-prayer/

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  29. Judah,

    Just wanted to say I really liked this post. Keep it up, man.

    Yahnatan

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  30. Ooo, someone used the "Christianity is idolatry" argument. Maybe its because God is not divided into parts, and that he's not a human being. And that making a human being as God is idolatry. Hmm, still baffles me how someone could call that idolatry...

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  31. Ama"n,

    We don't argue that God is a man, or that a man became God. We argue that God can appear as a man. That's an important distinction; consider Genesis 18.

    As one of our scholars put it,

    "Could God, who is complex in His unity, sit enthroned in heaven, filling the universe with His presence, infinite and uncontainable in His majesty, and yet at and one and same time manifest His glory among us in the tent of a human body for thirty-three years, then the answer is categorically yes, and there is nothing idolatrous about this belief at all.

    In fact, it is harmony with the Hebrew Scriptures, even explaining some of the mysteries of our own Bible, and on some level it has parallels with rabbinic concepts. In fact, in the midrash to Psalm 91 it is written, “At [the moment that Moses finished building the Tabernacle], a great question arose: How could a Tabernacle with walls and curtains contain the Presence of the Almighty? The Master of the Universe Himself explained, ‘The entire world cannot contain My glory, yet when I wish, I can concentrate My entire essence into one small spot. Indeed, I am Most High, yet I sit in a [limited, constricted] refuge – in the shadow of the Tabernacle.’"

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  32. While I would love to jump into the discussion that's errupted here in the comments, I wouldn't have a whole lot to add.

    I will comment on Judah's last statement in his post.

    That was the purpose of Christ walking in perfection, so that the Pharisees, Sadduccees, and the Jews as a whole could not refute him, as much as they tried. So that one day, they would weep for the One that they pierced. That their knees would bow in holy reverence. That they would cry out "Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord!"

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  33. "That was the purpose of Christ walking in perfection, so that the Pharisees, Sadduccees, and the Jews as a whole could not refute him, as much as they tried. "

    Tapuach, you mean to imply that the foremost reason the Messiah of Israel walked as a perfect Jew was so that the Jews couldn't refute his messianiship, and not simply BECAUSE he was(is) the Messiah of Israel (the Jewish People) and because this was his very nature as a perfect Jew to live and behave in the way that he did and not out of some evangelistic expediency (as also commonly attributed to Apostle Paul)?

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  34. Gene, I'm not sure if your purpose for responding to my comment is to be contentious with me, or simply to correct what appears to be something stupid that I said.

    The way I said it, I realize now, makes it seem that was what I was implying. I actually can't remember what was in my head at the time that made me type it out the way I did.

    My statement should have read: That is the reason why the Pharisees/Sadducees/Jews as a whole could not refute Him as Messiah. Because He walked in perfection, fulfilling the entire law.

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Husband, dad, disciple of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua, technologist. Author of Chavah Messianic Radio, MessianicChords, and EtzMitzvot. @judahgabriel


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