A Rabbi for the Whole Messianic Movement

Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, of most blessed memory, left this earth on Hoshana Rabbah, the year of 5669 (1908).

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Rabbi Yitzchak (Ignácz) Lichtenstein (1825-1908, זצ״ל) is a rabbi for the whole Messianic Jewish movement. Lichtenstein was a district rabbi in Hungary when an encounter with the New Testament introduced him to Yeshua. He remained in his post and continued to teach in his synagogue, but he argued passionately for faith in Yeshua. His words pulse with life and enthusiasm for the Messiah.

When I first discovered the intoxicating writings of Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein and realized that many of his writings had never been translated to English, I wanted to see First Fruits of Zion translate and publish a collection of Lichtenstein's writings.

Most people in the Messianic Jewish movement have at least heard of Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, one of the founding fathers of the movement, but very few have read his writings. I hoped to introduce Messianic Judaism to a rabbi for the whole movement. He is one of our heroes, one of the luminaries and pioneers we can all look up to and call our own.

It took a small host of vollunteer translators and many years to complete the project, but in 2012, Vine of David proudly published The Everlasting Jew, an anthology of Lichtenstein's writings along with a short biography.

Rabbi Lichtenstein wrote several pamphlets arguing that faith in Yeshua is compatible with Judaism. Eventually community pressure forced him out of his position as district rabbi, but he never accepted Christian baptism, nor did he join a church.

Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, of most blessed memory, left this earth on Hoshana Rabbah, the year of 5669 (1908), during the happy season of Sukkot. Hoshana Rabbah is the seventh day of the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, the 21st day of Tishrei. His Yahrzeit this year falls on Sunday, 4 October.

Here is a short extract from one from The Everlasting Jew, chapter 2, Reconciling Estranged Brothers.

YOUR NEIGHBOR IS YOUR BROTHER

The Torah recognizes no nobility of birth, only personal worth. It allows every individual, whether native-born or foreigner, whether high-born or low, full, unrestricted potential for the development of his physical and spiritual capacities. The Jew is characterized by virtue, morality, industry, pith, and competence, but only the
virtues of modesty, brotherly love, benevolence, humility, reverence,and charity toward others place the crown of Mount Sinai on him. “Who is honored? He who honors his neighbor.” [80] As it is said: “For those who honor Me I will honor, and those who despise Me will be lightly esteemed” (1 Samuel 2:30).

In this exalted spirit the gentle Hillel teaches: “What you do not like, do not do to your fellow man.” [81] That is our proper religion. All that remains is only like the commentary on this statement: “You can now go and study the commentary.” Hillel’s sayings are authoritative for us. He regards love as the chief moral principle of the Jewish religion, as the groundwork of Judaism.

The universal character of Jewish charity finds a still more extended expression in the following sentence: “Your neighbor is your brother; hence the command to love your neighbor embraces the heathen also.” [82] And who, possessing the key of knowledge, can think of a genuine Christian as one without heart and without compassion and love? Love is the watchword and the parole of a true Christian: “The one who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” [83] Love is the Holy Spirit, the eternal flame—the fluid which visibly makes the Father and the Son one.Rabbi Isaac Lichtenstein, The Everlasting Jew (Vine of David, 2013) 72,73.

You can order The Everlasting Jew at our Store for less 30% during Sukkot, and even if you don't yet have a copy of The Everlasting Jew, Vine of David has a collection of Rabbi Lichtenstein's pamphlets in German and English free online.

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About the Author: D. Thomas Lancaster is Director of Education at First Fruits of Zion, the author of the Torah Club programs and several books and study programs. He is also the pastor of Beth Immanuel Sabbath Fellowship in Hudson, WI. More articles by D. Thomas Lancaster

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