Freedom

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Freedom

“There is no free man but one who busies himself with the study of Torah” (Avot 6:2)

Freedom means not being tied down by the boundaries and limitations that tend to limit us. There are different types of freedom. An acrobat is someone who has developed and cultivated a certain freedom of his or her physical body. A skilled acrobat is not limited by the forces that limit the rest of us. A musician is another person who cultivated freedom. An accomplished musician can express themselves with an instrument in ways that the rest of us cannot. The same applies to a race-car driver, a stunt pilot, and to so many other skills that people develop.

Each of these people develops a specific freedom. And in order to develop any freedom one needs to limit themselves. The skilled acrobat, musician, and mathematician all need to spend many long hours…

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Do Not Do Unto Others

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Do Not Do Unto Others
The Talmud recounts that a Gentile once approached Hillel with the request that Hillel convert him to Judaism. This Gentile did not want to go through a lengthy regimen of learning, so he told Hillel; “I want you to teach me the entire Torah while I stand on one foot”. Hillel’s response endures as a lesson for the generations.

Hillel taught this Gentile; “Do not do unto others that which you hate done unto yourself – that is the entire Torah. The rest is commentary, go and study it.”

We sense the beauty of Hillel’s teaching, but we will try to go beyond the surface and give some articulation to the depth of this basic truth.

A basic fundamental of Judaism is the concept that man is essentially good. The Bible teaches that God created man in His image which means that each and every…

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The Real Jewish Messiah – Debate

The Real Jewish Messiah: Rabbi Blumenthal Debates Dr. Brown

 

Over the last year, Dr. Michael Brown and Rabbi Yisroel Blumenthal have engaged in a series of back and forth video presentations on YouTube.
These discussions have led to Dr. Brown and Rabbi Blumenthal to agree to a simultaneous online 3-Part “Virtual Debate.”

Dr. Brown and Rabbi Blumenthal will each release their own first 20-minute YouTube video on “The Real Jewish Messiah” at noon on May 15 2017.

At noon on June 19 2017  they will release a simultaneous “Rebuttal” of each other’s “Real Jewish Messiah” and at noon on July 24 2017, they will similarly post their 20-minute response to each other’s rebuttals.

If the viewing audience enjoys this unique debate approach, Dr. Brown and Rabbi Blumenthal may consider doing other Virtual Debates on the issues that stand between them.

https://yourphariseefriend.wordpress.com/2017/05/02/the-real-jewish-messiah/

 

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Rabbi Sacks debate with Richard Dawkins

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The Real Jewish Messiah

The Real Jewish Messiah

Why is this topic so popular? Why does it draw so much attention?

One of the most famous themes of the Jewish Bible is the hope and the promise that a day will yet come when all of mankind will live together in peace and harmony. Isaiah describes this utopian era at the end of the age; “They shall beat their swords into plowshares, their spears into pruning hooks, nation shall not lift sword against nation and they will learn war no more” (Isaiah 2:4). These words give expression to mankind’s deep yearning for peace and harmony. (see also Deuteronomy 4:30, 30:1-10, 32:43, Jeremiah 3:14-18, 16:14,15,19, 23:3-6, 30:3,7-11,16-25, 31:1-39, 32:37-44, 33:6-26, 46:27,28, 50:4,5,19,20, Ezekiel 11:17-20, 20:40-44, 28:25-26, 34:9-16,22-31, 36:6-15,22-38, 37:1-28, 38:1-48:35, Isaiah 1:26,27, 2:2-4, 4:2-6, 10:33-12:6, 24:21-25:9, 30:26, 34:1-35, 40:1-11, 41:10-20, 43:5-10, 44:1-5 49:8-26, 51:11,22-52:12, 54:1-55:5, 56:7, 60:1-63:9, 65:17-25, 66:10-24, Hosea 2:1-3,16-25, Joel 3;1-5, 4:1-21, Amos 9:11-15, Obadiah 1:17-21, Micah 4:1-7, 5:1-13, 7:8-20, Zephaniah 3:9-20, Zechariah 2:9, 8:2-8, 14:3-21, Malachi 3:4,16-24, Psalm 51:20,21, 69:36,37, 98:1-3, 102:14-23, 126:1-6, Daniel 2:44, 7:18,22,27, 12:2,3,).

The prophets associated a person, a king, that will rule in this utopian era of peace and this man came to be known as the Messiah. There are several passages in the Scriptures which make this connection clear. One example is Isaiah 11 which speaks of a king ruling in an age when the knowledge of God covers the earth as the waters cover the sea. The man Messiah came to represent the ultimate hope of mankind. (See also Jeremiah 23:3-6; 30:9,21; 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:23,24; 37:22-28; Isaiah 55:3,4; Hosea 3:5; Micah 5:1-3. In Obadiah 1:21 and Micah 5:4 we get an indication that there will be several leaders in the Messianic age and the Talmud identifies these leaders, but the general focus has always been on the one Davidic king.)

So what do we know about the Messiah?

What does the Bible, the Jewish Bible – what Christians call: “The Old Testament,” teach us about the Messiah? What information about the Messiah did the Author of the Bible make clear to us? What is it about the Messiah that the Author of the Bible wants us to know, that we shouldn’t walk away from His book without knowing this clearly and unequivocally? What does God want us to know about the Messiah?

There are several teachings that the Bible tells us about the Messiah but I want to focus on two qualities of the Messiah that emerge from these passages. These two qualities are so obvious that no student of the Bible ever disputed that these are indeed qualities of the Messiah. The Messiah will sit on the throne of David and he will be a king of the Jews. Although the Messianic era will bring blessing and peace to all mankind, and the Messiah will rule all the nations, but the prophets make it abundantly clear that first and foremost, he will be a king of the Jewish people. (Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17-19; Isaiah 11:1-12:6; 55:3,4; Jeremiah 23:5-8; 30:9,21; 33:14-16; Ezekiel 34:23-31; 37:15-28; Hosea 3:5; Micah 5:1-3;).

So these are two qualities that the Author of the Bible made clear to us about the Messiah. God doesn’t let you walk away from the Bible without knowing these two facts about the Messiah. That he will be a king of Israel and that he will sit on the throne of David. Let us pause to absorb the full weight of these simple truths.

If someone tells you that you were chosen to be the king of a nation you might think of the honor, the fame, the wealth and all of the advantages that come with royalty. But if you are a responsible, moral and ethical person you realize that this is not about you, it is about the nation. Being a king of a nation, any nation, is not just a title of honor, it is a responsibility. It is the responsibility of the leader of every nation to lead and to guide his nation to its destiny and the king of Israel, the Messiah, is no different. It is the responsibility of the Messiah to lead Israel to its destiny.

And as one who sits on the throne of David, the Messiah is not a man who operates in a vacuum, rather the Messiah is a man who continues that which David began. The Messiah is a fulfillment of God’s promise to David. God promised that David’s throne will stand forever. The Messiah must be an extension of David’s legacy. He will lead Israel to its destiny by following the path of his ancestor, David. (2Samuel 7:13,16; 1Kings 2:4,45; 9:5; Isaiah 9:6; Jeremiah 33:17-22; Psalm 89:4,5,37,38; 132:11,12; 1Chronicles 17:12,14; 22;10; 2Chronicles 7:18).

If we understand the destiny of Israel and if we understand the path of David, then we will understand the foundational teaching of the Bible about the Messiah.

Israel’s destiny begins with a promise to Abraham. In the book of Genesis we read how God promises Abraham that He will become a great nation and that all the nations of the earth will be blessed through His children. (Genesis 12:2,3; 17:4-8; 18:18,19; 22:18; 26:4,5).

In the book of Exodus we begin to see how God fulfills His promise to Abraham. God takes the Jewish people out of Egypt with signs and wonders and He plants His truth in their midst through the Sinai revelation and through His prophet Moses. God establishes His presence in the midst of Israel through the construction of the tabernacle. It is through these events that God formed and created a nation for Himself. This is the great nation that God promised to Abraham (Exodus 15:16; Deuteronomy 4:33,34; 14:2; 26:19; 33:29; 27:9; 2Samuel 7:23,24; 1Chronicles 17:21,22).

Ideally, Israel obeys God, they build a Temple for God and the blessing of their relationship with God flows out to all the nations of the earth. The nations of the earth see Israel standing in obedience to God, they see how Israel experiences a relationship with God and they come to know the Creator of heaven and earth. Because this is the blessing for the nations, the greatest blessing that mankind can experience is a relationship with God. Israel experienced a taste of this ideal in the days of Solomon, Hezekiah and some of the righteous kings of the line of David. God also promised that this ideal will reach it’s fullness in the Messianic era (See Isaiah 56:7 and 60:3).

But for much of Israel’s history we did not live up to this ideal. We sinned, we disobeyed God and we did not experience blessing. Instead we experienced exile, suffering and curse. But even in our exiled state we still play a part in God’s plan to bring blessing to all the nations.

God promised that even in our exile He will preserve His truth in our midst (Exodus 31:12-17; Deuteronomy 31:21; Isaiah 59:21; Psalm 78:5). This does not mean that we are righteous or perfect. But this does mean that God will ensure that there will always be Jews, who identify as Jews, who are loyal to the message that he planted in our midst at Sinai. In our dispersion, the nations of the world learn of our message. Some of them are still inspired by our message to submit to God despite our suffering and despite our disobedience. The beauty of our message still reaches many people. They hear how God is close to all who call to Him in sincerity. They learn how God desires justice, mercy and morality. And they learn to experience the joy of God’s love in every breath of life.

But many people reject our message. They see our suffering and they read our suffering as a sign that our message is not the message of God. They ridicule us and taunt us by saying; “where is your God?”(Joel 2:17; Micah 7:7-10; Psalm 42:4,11; 79:10; 115:2). But ultimately God will redeem us from our exile and He will do so in a way that all the ends of the earth clearly recognize that God intervened on our behalf. The arm of the Lord will manifest itself on behalf of Israel to the eyes of all the nations (Isaiah 52:10; Joel 4:16,17; Micah 7:7:15,16; Psalm 98:1-9; 102:16-23).

And we know the “arm of the Lord,” it is no mystery. In Isaiah chapter 51 the prophet directly addresses the arm of the Lord and identifies it as the one who brought Israel through the sea on dry land (Isaiah 51:9,10). The arm of the Lord is the manifestation of God’s might on behalf of Israel, crushing her enemies and doing wonders on Israel’s behalf. Not the personal enemies of Israel, but rather the ones who stand in the way of Israel’s message.

At that point in time all the nations of the world will recognize that our message is indeed the true message of God and that we had been carrying God’s truth all along. The Messianic era will open with a vindication of the people of Israel. Not a vindication of our behavior, but a vindication of our message. Because even in our state of exile we are still God’s witnesses, we still stand for His message and His truth (Isaiah 41:8; 43:10,12; 44:8; Jeremiah 10:15).

Again, this is a vindication of our message, not of our behavior. In fact the prophet Ezekiel (39:23) tells us that in that time when God’s might is revealed, the nations will know that it was because of Israel’s sin that they were exiled. What had these nations been thinking? The nations had believed that Israel was suffering because she had been carrying a corrupt message. And when God’s might is revealed they will learn that Israel’s message had been correct all along, it was their behavior that was lacking.

What does all of this have to do with David? Where does the Messiah fit in and how does this connect to the throne of David?

In order to answer this question we need to ask another question. Who is David and what does Scripture tell us about him?

There are many ways to describe David’s career, to encapsulate the accomplishments of his life but let us see how the Bible describes David’s life. Toward the end of the book of 2Samuel (23:1) David is described as the man who was raised to be the anointed one of the God of Jacob and the sweet singer of Israel (perhaps a more accurate translation of the Hebrew would be; “the one who gave pleasantness to the songs of Israel.”) David executes his duty as Israel’s king through his songs, the book of Psalms.

Again, the responsibility of a king is to lead his nation to its destiny. How did David do this through his songs?

In David’s own day he exerted himself to build the Temple. Although David did not build the Temple himself, he still prepared the materials for the Temple, he received the prophecy about the architectural details of the Temple and David found the place upon which the Temple was built. But the Temple is not merely a building built on a geographical location. It is a building built with love for God and obedience to God, and David inspired that love and obedience in the heart of Israel through his Psalms.

But David’s role as king of Israel did not end with David’s death. David’s role as king of Israel extends to this very day. Throughout Israel’s long exile it is in the songs of David that Israel finds inspiration and hope. It is through the songs of David that we maintain our loyalty to God’s message. The Psalms of David inspire us to keep sight of our destiny, to hold on to God’s truth and to hope for God’s salvation. And the Psalms of David actually give voice, expression and articulation to our message.

David experienced a colorful life. He suffered humility and shame, and he enjoyed honor and fame. He felt guilt and he experienced forgiveness. He struggled, as we all do, and experienced both failure and success. David’s life covers the full gamut of the human experience and in each situation David gives expression to a heart that trusts in God. In sin and in righteousness, in joy and pain, in humility and in honor in victory and in defeat. And in each of these situations we have expression of a heart that yearns for God. These songs lead us in each situation that we find ourselves, they guide us and they direct our hearts to God and to God alone.

David is the king after God’s heart. He is the man that God chose to lead us years ago and he still leads us to our destiny today.

When the Messiah comes he will not come with a different message. The Messiah will not oppose the message of Israel, he will confirm it. The Messiah, like David before him will teach that God is close to everyone who calls out to God with sincerity. He will sing about the perfection of God’s holy law. He will speak of the blessing of obedience to God’s law. He will sing of the joy that is inherent in recognizing God’s love in every detail of existence. The Messiah will stand as a continuum of the message and the leadership of his ancestor David. Like his ancestor before him, the Messiah will inspire Israel to obedience and love of God. And like his ancestor before him, the Messiah will see to it that a Temple is built for God in Jerusalem.

In the footsteps of David, the Messiah will do all of the above without diverting attention to himself. The Messiah will set the example of a heart that yearns for God as did David before him. And the heart of the Messiah will draw the hearts of Israel and the hearts of all mankind to love and to obey God.

And when the Messiah continues the work of his ancestor, David the nations of the world will experience the blessing that God promised to the world through the children of Abraham. For that blessing does not come to the nations through the Messiah alone. That blessing flows to the nations through the people of Israel, through the Temple in Jerusalem and through the Messiah who sits on David’s throne.

So to recap; what does the Bible teach us about the Messiah? That he will be king of Israel and that he will sit on the throne of David. This means that he will lead Israel to its destiny, to be a blessing to all the nations of the earth, and he will do so as a continuation of David’s legacy. In short we can say that the Messiah will pick up the tune where his ancestor David left off.

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Two Sides of the Same Coin – Proverbs 30:6

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Two Sides of the Same Coin – Proverbs 30:6

 

“Do not add on to His words, lest He prove it in you and you will turn out to be false.”

The nature of translation is such that no matter how loyal you are to the original, some of the flavor will go lost. This verse in Proverbs is a classic example of the limitations of translation. Allow me to elaborate:

The first phrase in this verse is easily translated and understood – Do not add on to His words; obviously referring to the words of God. A practical question arises; what kind of addition are we being encouraged to avoid? Are we being warned not to add on more books to the Scriptural canon? Is the prophet telling us not to add on to God’s Law? What are the practical parameters of this admonition?

I suggest that we try…

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Jewish Self-Identity; an excerpt from “Covenant Nation”

In his description of the sense of Jewish self-identity that preceded Christianity, Boyarin has forgotten a key element in that sense of self-identity. The Jewish people did not just see themselves merely as a community; they saw themselves as a community that stands in a special relationship with God. Obviously, some Jews took this relationship more seriously than did others, but being a Jew meant being tied up with God. This central feature of Jewish self-identity was shared by every man woman and child who saw themselves as part of the larger Jewish community.

A prerequisite for sharing a relationship with somebody is an ability to identify that somebody. If it is a group of people that share a relationship with somebody, as in the situation of Israel sharing a collective relationship with God, then the nation will need to be able to identify God on a national level. This would require a uniform definition of God that is shared by the nation. This definition would have to be clear and simple. If the Jewish people are going to relate to God as a nation, each Jew needs to be confident that whichever group of Jews he or she stands with, they worship the same God. It is not enough that they call God by the same name because you don’t have a relationship with a name and you don’t worship a name. We need to find the common Jewish understanding of the One that they were having a relationship with.

This understanding of God shared by the Jewish people will not be a theological formula or creed, because you don’t have a relationship with a mathematical equation. It needs to be something concrete that everyone could relate to on the level of the heart.

So what was it? How did the Jewish people perceive God in the pre-Christian world? How did the Jewish people understand the One that they were tied to in covenantal relationship?

If we search the Jewish Bible for an answer to this question, we will not find a creed or a mathematical formula. The Bible opens with the words: “In the beginning God created heaven and earth”. The God of Israel is above and beyond heaven and earth and all that exists in heaven and earth are His creations. The Jewish concept of God shapes the Jew’s view, not only of God Himself, but also of all existence. God is the One Creator and every detail of existence is viewed as His subject. The One that the Jewish people related to was the One that is outside of the confines of heaven and earth and the Jew saw heaven and earth and of all their inhabitants as subjects of this One God. The Jew stood apart from all of the pagan nations that surrounded Israel because they all found themselves in a relationship with some feature of finite existence; be it the sun, the moon, or any other force of nature. The Jew saw all of these as fellow subjects of the One who created them all.

This is the concept of God that is shared by all Jews from the time of the exodus onward. It is this Being who is identified by the fact that He is outside of existence as we know it that Israel shares her covenantal relationship with.

Yes, there were many teachings floating around, and there still are many teachings floating around that address questions such as; how does an infinite God appear to the prophets? How does an infinite God interact with a finite world? But whatever answers are given to these questions, they do not affect the basic relationship with God. God always remains outside of the existence that we see and comprehend.

Pointing to any inhabitant of heaven and earth, be it a human, an angel, a star or an animal and encouraging a devotional relationship with that entity is the most serious violation of Israel’s relationship with the God who is above and beyond heaven and earth.

This then was the constant. When a Jew joined his or her fellow Jews in worship, they may not have been confident that their fellow Jews subscribed to the same teachings that explain how God appeared to the prophets. But of this they were sure; that their fellow Jews were NOT worshiping an inhabitant of heaven or earth but that their hearts were directed to the One who stands outside of the confines of heaven and earth.

When the Church encouraged devotion to Jesus as a deity (regardless of when this devotion surfaced in Church history), the Church was encouraging a different relationship than the relationship of Israel with her God. The Church was pointing to an inhabitant of this earth and demanding that human hearts direct their devotion towards that entity. The Churchmen may have used the Jewish teachings that explain God’s interaction with this world to justify the relationship that they were encouraging, but they were encouraging a different relationship. The fact that the Logos theology of the Church is similar to some of the Jewish teachings on God does not make Christianity Jewish. The teachings may be similar, but the relationships that they are encouraging are diametrically opposed to each other. In Judaism these teachings are used to explain a relationship with an entity that stands outside of the confines of nature, while in Christianity these same teachings are being used to justify a relationship with an entity that is inside the confines of nature.

Whenever it was that the Church introduced the idea that the hearts of human-kind ought to relate to Jesus as their supreme master they had crossed the line and moved out of the range of Jewish self-identity – according to every understanding of Jewish self-identity that ever existed.

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