How does one become a Messianic Rabbi? e.g. Where can a person train to be a Messianic Rabbi? And how does a person qualify to train?
A simple question, but one that requires a complex answer as well as personal observations.
First, there is no central authority within Messianic Judaism that grants ordinations. Unfortunately, Messianic Judaism is in a flux at this time. There are at least two primary associations that grant ordinations. Each has its own criteria. One is the MJAA (Messianic Jewish Alliance of America) and the other MIA (Messianic Israel Alliance). You will have to peruse their websites for details. They stand in opposition on one doctrine, and that is Two House, so your belief system would inform you which to pursue. There is one Yeshiva that has been around for some years; the Messianic Bureau International that has a course of study that results in ordination. Another way is by ordination from a rabbi or congregation. Also, one that shows promise is a Yeshiva that is in the process of being established by Dr. Rabbi John Fischer at the St Petersburg Theological Seminary in St. Petersburg, FL. Link http://www.sptseminary.edu/ This course is offered on line as well. You should inquire of them for details.
I’ll tell you what I was told when I considered ordination: if there is anything else you can do, do it! It is good advice, but unfortunately, many do not heed it. Many individuals who are ordained have no real calling for the ministry because they sought ordination for many reasons that involve personal issues and agendas, and do not answer to the outlines found in 1 Timothy.1: 1-9. The Biblical citation of “many are called but few chosen” applies. In general, you need sponsors. Clergy and other established believers who can attest to your character, growth, and spiritual maturity. Biblical knowledge is usually ascertained by test if you are accepted. These courses range from 1-4 years depending on the school and the certificate or degree you are seeking. Graduate study is not necessarily required for ordination. We always have to be aware that not all schools provide the best education. Some ordinations are not accepted by every “covering” (authority). We are talking about the basic requirements. Although some Christian denominations will ordain without any formal education. It is a little different in true Messianic Judaism. On the other hand, education is not the where with all for consideration. There are many highly educated individuals that should not be ministers or rabbis.
In the broader aspect of Messianic Judaism today, there are those that have absolutely no training in Judaism. My rebettzin coined a phrase for those leaders of congregations as “Messianity,” meaning Christian congregations in focus and doctrine that employ a modicum of Jewish trappings, calling themselves Messianic. Yet, they understand nothing about the doctrines or theology of Judaism. Their theology is as diverse as the 2000 or more Christian denominations in the world today. They cannot teach the New Testament (refreshed, renewed covenant) from its original source. There is little difference between them and Christian churches except they honor Shabbat, and some keep G-d’s Festivals. They wear tallit and kippas, but are hard pressed to explain the biblical citations proving the practice. They practice different degrees of Torah Observance; some eliminating the dietary laws, no knowledge of Hebrew, which is essential, etc. They are a disservice to Messianic Judaism and give a false impression of what it is. A candidate who truly wants to be ordained into Messianic Judaism must know Judaism as well as Christian doctrines.
Forgive me for being personal, but in my own case, I was first ordained as a traditional rabbi. I attended Yeshiva for ten years and when I came to place my trust in Yahshua’s faithfulness, I attended Christian colleges and Seminaries for 10 years, which gave me a well-rounded education for a position as a Messianic Rabbi. I was ordained as a Christian minister as well as a Rabbi. However, none of this would mean anything if I had not been “chosen” in the biblical sense. You might ask how do I know if you are “chosen,” and this goes back to the advice I received, mentioned earlier. Though I was secularly successful by worldly standards I found I could do nothing else, and could not deny my calling. By accepting this call, I gave up financial security and comfort. I believe that candidates for ordination in the Messianic community need both Judaism and Christian perspectives. Too many biological Jewish Messianic Rabbis have little knowledge of the refreshed, renewed covenant (NT), and their ministries suffer because of it. They teach primarily from the Tanakh and cannot correlate the teachings between the Old and the New. Many do not see the foundation of Judaism that is essential to New Testament understanding. One of their greatest drawbacks is that of eschatology (prophecy). We see the opposite, but the same effect when the rabbi is an acculturated Christian with no or incomplete knowledge of Judaism.
Some governing bodies will not ordain a non-Jew and some will ordain anyone as long as they proscribe to their central doctrine, which may not be belief in the faithfulness of Yahshua that results in reconciliation to YHVH Elohim. So again, it takes investigation on your part as to which governing body you approach.
I even know of some Messianic Rabbis that do not believe in the deity of Yahshua which should be in my opinion the central belief for Messianic rabbis..
If a person has the requisite education of both Judaism and Christianity, and meets the spiritual requirements, the most expedient way of ordination is through a Messianic rabbi or body of believers who will set you apart. In most cases the body of believers with which you are associated. When I was ordained many yeas ago, on both occasions I had to appear before a committee of men of letters who grilled me for over three hours to ascertain if I was qualified, and let me remind you that this was after many years of schooling with no guarantee of ordination in either case. I might have answered their questions satisfactorily or even brilliantly, but if I were not “chosen” I would have obtained an ordination falsely, and it would eventually show in my ministry. You will recognize men and women of this caliber when they give the congregation “what they want to hear and not what they need to know.” We need a servant heart and the giving of ourselves for the edification of others. We need to practice self-nullification and be concerned about the welfare of others more so than our own creature comforts. See my answer to “Call no man rabbi” on the Web site in the area of “Ask the Rabbi.” It briefly outlines the attributes of a true rabbi and addresses Yahshua’s statement. In our synagogue, I have ordained two people over a period of five years, and now have a candidate that I recently took on. Initially, I try to discourage a candidate, and if that fails, and if he has the required spiritual requisites, I will take him own. Two underwent three years or more of training plus an additional eight months of training by an Orthodox rabbi. One was a Christian Minister who had a seminary background, but who had to acquire Jewish training. His training took less time. A lot depends on the candidate’s dedication and willingness to sacrifice of himself. This includes the family’s devotion to the candidate’s calling. You cannot over emphasize the importance of the attitude of your mate for the spouse also serves. When I ordain not only does the candidate kneel before the congregation, but the spouse as well. We are echad and the responsibilities of a ministry fall upon both individuals in a marital union. A practical consideration is also the cost, which varies from rabbi to rabbi and institution to institution.
In closing, if you are “chosen” you will find your way to ordination and a successful ministry. Place yourself under the authority of a G-dly rabbi who can guide you and search out all the institutions that provide such education. Also, learn the practical aspects of leading a ministry. A rabbi has to be proficient in many fields.