Trust, Gratitude and the Joy of Obedience

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Trust, Gratitude and the Joy of Obedience

Various theories have been proposed to explain the pervasive attitude of unhappiness that plagues our generation. I want to propose a new theory that can perhaps explain the negative mindset that is all too common. It is the advertisement industry that is to blame. The underlying message of every advertisement is: “You will not be happy unless you get this product/service/vacation etc.” in other words, since you don’t have what we are selling, you should be miserable.

It’s just a theory, take it or leave it. But it may help us understand the episode described in Genesis chapter 3 where the serpent persuades Eve to eat from the fruit of the forbidden tree. How did he do it? Adam and Eve were in paradise! What were they lacking?

The serpent used several arguments to induce Eve to violate God’s commandments. One argument that…

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Eternal Covenant

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Eternal Covenant

“When you are in distress and all these things have befallen you, at the end of days, you will return to the Lord your God, and hearken to His voice. For the Lord your God is a merciful God, He will not abandon you nor destroy you, and He will not forget the covenant of your forefathers that He swore to them. For inquire now regarding the early days that preceded you, from the day that God created man on the earth, and from on end of the heaven to the other end of the heaven: Has there ever been anything like this great thing or has anything like it been heard? Has a people heard the voice of God speaking to them from the midst of the fire as you have, and survived? Or has any god ever miraculously come to take for himself a nation from…

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Not to Bow

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Not to Bow

 

“And all the servants of the King that were in the gate of the King kneeled and bowed to Haman but Mordechai would not kneel nor would he bow” (Esther 3:2)

Mordechai’s refusal to bow infuriated Haman. It infuriated him to the degree that he was moved to destroy all of Mordechai’s people.

It seems that the Jewish refusal to bow does not sit well with God’s enemies. These people see the Jewish refusal to bow as legalistic, arrogant, and self-centered. Why can’t you be like everyone else? Everyone else is inspired by the wealth of Haman, by the power of Caesar or by the mystery of Jesus. Why does the Jew have to stand apart?

This is the question that fueled the fires of hate for generations. This question was in the mind of the Crusaders, the Inquisitors and the propagandists who inspired their crimes…

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Focused Decision – Responsible Devotion

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Focused Decision – Responsible Devotion

When you need to make a decision you don’t want to be distracted. You certainly don’t want to be intimidated by ridicule or by fear. You also don’t want to be confused by complicated argumentation. You want to be able to cut through the confusion and focus on the question at hand clearly and calmly so that you can arrive at your decision on the basis of the relevant factors.

From the standpoint of religion the most important decision that you could possibly make is the decision to whom to direct your worship. If you direct your worship correctly then you are developing a relationship with the one true God. If you misdirect your devotion then you are engaged in idolatry. If you have a question about directing your devotion you want to remain focused on the one relevant issue – does this entity that…

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Forms of Communication

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Forms of Communication

There are different methods that can be used to communicate ideas from person to another. Some of these modes of communication are more effective than others. Some forms of communication are more prone to error and failure than are other forms.

Speech is one mode of communication. The written word is another, similar, form of communication. A living demonstration of the concept that is being conveyed is yet another form of communication.

These forms of communication can be further subdivided and categorized in varying measures of efficiency. A direct statement is a more effective way of communicating than is a subtle hint. A statement worded in the format of a command packs a more powerful punch than does a narrative.

One who communicates through the written word has several tools at his or her disposal to empower the communication and to make it more effective and less…

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Milk, Meat and Firstfruits

Originally posted on 1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources:

Exodus 23:19, 34:26

“The first-fruit of your land shall you bring to the house of the Lord your God; Do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk”

What is the connection between these two commandments? What does cooking a kid in its mother’s milk have to do with the bringing of first-fruits to the Temple?

When we turn to the passage that describes the bringing of the first-fruits (Deuteronomy 26:1-11), we see that the farmer praises God, not only for the first-fruits of the land but also for all of the history of Israel. The farmer goes back to Jacob and describes how God brought us out of Egypt and gave us this beautiful land. “And now” the farmer declares “I have brought the first-fruits of the land”.

Let’s get a reality check. For all we know this farmer may be an elderly man who has been bringing his first-fruits to…

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Shallow Similarities, Deep Differences – by Annelise

Shallow Similarities, Deep Differences – by Annelise

In Proverbs 8 we hear a speech in the voice of Wisdom, who is portrayed as a desirable and life-bringing woman. Wisdom speaks here about how she was created before the universe; how creation was made through her, and the way she delights in its order and beauty. She is seen all through creation as the path of good things for those who choose her.

This character of Wisdom has frequent parallels in other ancient Jewish sources, besides Proverbs. These describe wisdom and, with a similar image, the ‘word of God’ as a tool through which He upholds and interacts with created beings. The people who developed this picture had a careful sense of respect for God, wanting their followers to know that although He holds creation close, and is known within it, He is not to be mistaken for a created thing. They portrayed His actions in the world as created things: a tool in His hand, a humble viceroy and delighting servant. In the Aramaic commentary translations, they even went so far as to describe God’s word as the tangible agent of His actions in the world, rather than saying directly that He did it. They didn’t want any blurring or confusion to enter people’s minds when it came to the relationship between visible creation and its invisible Creator, who can be known deeply by heart but not comprehended in the slightest by mind.

There is some conceptual link with the Greek philosophical idea of a logos, and it is clear that when the Christian scriptures (written in Greek) portray their messiah as the ‘logos of God’, they are drawing on these Jewish concepts of chochmah, wisdom (from the Hebrew wisdom writings) and memra, God’s word (from the Targums and rabbinic literature).

Christian missionaries to the Jewish community jump on this fact, saying that their concept of God’s ‘eternally begotten son’, the ‘image of the invisible God’ who is seen to be both ‘God’ and ‘with God’, is not foreign to Judaism at all but is a natural parallel to the chochmah and memra imagery. And yet the beliefs of those who portray multiple relationships ‘within God’ involve serious new developments on these themes.

We need only turn to a key moment in the establishment of Christian orthodoxy to illustrate the problem. One of the verses that the Church Fathers were pressed to interpret is Proverbs 8:22, where wisdom describes how she was created first. They particularly needed to address the Arian claim, which said that Jesus was not God but was still lord of the world as the first created being. To orthdox Christianity, this is a heresy as serious as idolatry. A number of Christian teachers taught in their commentaries on Proverbs 8:22 that Wisdom had always existed, eternally with God, but that this verse only described a kind of ‘second phase': the ‘incarnation of Wisdom’ into the cosmos as the beginning of all things.

This interpretation is clearly a new addition to the earlier Jewish concept, and one not supported by the imagery that it was first taken from. The missionaries need to acknowledge that their claims of an authoritative Jewish parallel to Christian theology are simply empty and misrepresented. As well as hijacking an idea that seems at first to have deliberately avoided incarnational theology, especially in the Targums, these missionaries are actually speaking about something new; they reinvent traditional Jewish imagery to say something that the scriptures and the rabbis never said at all.

So often in their speech and prayers, Christians speak about God and then in the same breath they speak about Jesus as another reality. Is this the resonance of true scripture tugging at the seams of Christian theology?

We should let light shine from the lesson of the church commentators, who unconsciously acknowledged a good starting point. That is, every time we can relate to wisdom in any discrete, finite, or tangible sense, we are looking at the created servant described in Proverbs 8:22. Not someone to be worshiped, but a path for our hearts as we find God Himself. Never would a Torah-careful Jew pray to wisdom as its own entity; they would pray simply to God, who knows and holds our hearts along the path of His wisdom and His good ways.

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