Maintaining Holiness Through Confronting Error

There are a number of verses that in some way sum up, or encapsulate the whole message of the Almighty and His Word.

Micah 6:8 springs to mind as does the Sh’ma (Deut 6:4 …).

Another of these is Gal 5:14 where the Apostle Paul states: “For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: “Love your neighbour as yourself”.

Two important points to note here. The Apostle Paul is quoting from Leviticus 19:18 (part of this weeks Torah Portion, Kedoshim – Leviticus 16:1-20:27).

Here we read: Don’t take vengeance on or bear a grudge against any of your people; rather, love your neighbor as yourself; I am Adonai.”

I believe, both from the context, and what I am about to share that the phrase ‘tacked’ on the end here, ‘I am Adonai’ or ‘I am YHVH’ (the God of Israel), actually means, ‘love your neighbour BECAUSE, or IF, you love Me’.

Consider Lev 19:17 “‘Do not hate your brother in your heart, but rebuke your neighbour frankly, so that you won’t carry sin because of him.”

I believe that argument and wisdom being presented here is that, when someone wrongs you in some way, loving them is clearly not easy, but just avoiding them or keeping silent is not good either. If you do not speak with them about the issue(s) and try to get them to see where they have erred and hopefully, help them to recognize their sin and seek forgiveness, you are likely to resent them, and anger and bitterness are likely to grow in your heart and lead you into some error, mistake or sin.

If we recognize our Yetzer HaRa (our evil inclination or fleshly heart) as well as our Yetzer HaTov (our good or spiritual heart), we will recognize our tendency to err in this way and the call of the Shema to turn both our hearts to the Almighty (see my articles on the Hebraic Mindset for more on this).

Consider the case of Absalom. When he heard how Ammon had raped his sister Tamar, he keep his anger hidden in his heart for some two years and then had Ammon killed. This is the exact sinful consequence that Moses warns against in Leviticus 19:17 and also very much the theme that the Apostle Paul is speaking on in Galatians 5 when he quotes from Leviticus 19.

Returning to the idea that IF or BECAUSE we love God we are to love our neighbour, we see here a summary of the Ten Words and a summary of Yeshua’s answer to what were the two greatest commandments. The Ten Words were on two tablets. The first involves 5 commands that all relate to loving God and the second tablet has 5 commands that relate to loving our neighbor.

So again we are drawn back to the Ten Words, to the ‘moral code of the universe’.[1]

This Torah Portion is about holiness, about being holy because He is holy. This call to ‘rebuke your neighbor frankly’, is about acting to avoid sin entering your heart and therefore removing your holiness.

Chief Rabbi Lord Sacks paraphrases this in a very practical way:

“Love your neighbor as yourself. But not all neighbors are loveable. There are those who, out of envy or malice, have done you harm. I do not therefore command you to live as if you were angels, without any of the emotions natural to human beings. I do however forbid you to hate. That is why, when someone does you wrong, you must confront the wrongdoer. You must tell him of your feelings of hurt and distress. It may be that you completely misunderstood his intentions. Or it may be that he genuinely meant to do you harm, but now, faced with the reality of the injury he has done you, he may sincerely repent of what he did. If, however, you fail to talk it through, there is a real possibility that you will bear a grudge and in the fullness of time, come to take revenge – as did Absolom.”

I again strongly recommend the Rabbi’s Torah Portion, Of Love and Hate’ at Aish.com

– see http://www.aish.com/tp/i/sacks/202908911.html

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April 18th 2013


[1] For more on this see my articles ‘Siblings of the King’ and ‘The Path of the Circumcised Heart’ at www.circumcisedheart.info

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Deeds matter more than creeds

Prof Paul Johnson:
“… another characteristic of Judaism: the relative absence of dogmatic theology. … Their view of God is very simple and clear (he’s comparing it with the huge problems of dogmas and innumerable heresies within Hellenistic Christianity). Some Jewish scholars argue that there is (also) in fact, a lot of dogma in Judaism.

That is true in the sense that there are many negative prohibitions – chiefly against idolatry. But the Jews usually avoided the positive dogmas which the vanity of theologians tends to create and which are the source of so much trouble.  They never adopted, for instance , the idea of Original Sin. Of all the ancient peoples, the Jews were perhaps the least interested in death, and this saved them from a host of problems. It is true that belief in the resurrection ansd the afterlife was the main distinguishing mark of Pharisaism, and thus a fundament of rabbinic Judaism. Indeed the first definite statement of dogma in the whole of Judaism, in the Mishnah, deals with this: ‘All Israel share in the world to come except the one who says resurrection has no origin in the Law’. But the Jews had a way of concentrating on life and pushing death – and its dogmas – intro the background.”

The first creed of Judaism (Gaon around 900 CE) did not come into acceptance until Judaism was some 2500 years old! Even Maimonides 13 articles of faith, which have given ‘little rise to controversy’ have not been ‘endorsed by any authoritative body’.

“Judaism is not so much about doctrine – that is taken for granted – as behaviour; the code matters more than the creed.”

Quote from Johnson, ‘A History of the Jews’, p 161 

Or as put in the Mishnah: “Deeds matter more than Creeds”.

While Prof. Paul Johnson is a Roman Catholic, I doubt that few, even Jewish historians (and I love the work of Rabbi Ken Spiro), have given as good a history of the Jewish people as Prof. Johnson – he clearly loves the Jewish people; he explains the rise of both anti-Semitism and Jewish self-hatred so well, and he shows how dependent the entire world really has been on the wisdom and endeavours of the Jewish people.

His book should be read by all Jews (to encourage and uplift them) and by all Gentiles to enlighten them!

It is a big book – it took me awhile to digest but it was so worth it. 

The only time he goes a little wrong in my opinion, is when he tries to explain certain Christian perspectives rather than any Jewish ones!

His personal website is: http://pauljohnsonarchives.org/