According to this concept, God’s unknowable and divine will and wisdom (which are inseparable from His being) descended to be clothed in the corporal substance of commandments of Torah and ink in a book. This is not to say that a Torah scroll is God, but that the Torah scroll is an earthly container for His will and wisdom. It is similar to the concept of the Shechinah, the “Dwelling Presence of God.” Just as the Shechinah took residence and filled the Tabernacle, the Spirit of God fills the words of the Torah.
-from the Love and the Messianic Age Commentary
The deepest longing, therefore, of the genuine Chasid is to become a “living Torah.” The keeping of the Law is to him only a means to an end: union with God. For this reason he tries to keep the Law scrupulously, for “God’s thoughts are embodied in it.”
-Paul Philip Levertoff
Love and the Messianic Age
The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh’khinah, the Sh’khinah of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. –John 1:14 (CJB)
For my second part of the “Divinity” series, I’m mining my old “Searching” blogspot again, particularly the articles We Are Living Torahs and Descent of God to Man. In my first part of this series, Exploring Messianic Divinity, I challenged the general assumption of the church that Jesus is co-equal with God the Father and is literally God in the flesh. I proposed an alternate view that some “essence” of the Divine, related to how the Divine Presence occupied the Tabernacle in the desert without actually becoming the Tabernacle, made manifest in the human form of Jesus, allowing the Divine essence to express itself as a human being without God literally becoming a man.
I know, it sounds confusing, even to me, but probably no more confusing than trying to understand how God could simultaneously be the all-powerful God of Heaven, a Spirit within our hearts, and a human being teaching during the Second Temple period in Roman-occupied Judea. All I’m really changing here is the lens we use to look at the Messiah in order to get a picture of who he is. It’s like changing the prescription of your glasses or contact lenses from one set of values to another, keeping in mind that both prescriptions don’t give us a very clear image.
For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. –1 Corinthians 13:12 (ESV)
Chasidic Jew and late 19th century Hebrew believer Paul Philip Levertoff has presented us with a different view of the Torah, not as a document containing a collection of laws to be followed by Jews, but as the conduit by which a Jew (and to some degree a Christian) may interface with God, drawing closer to Him and His thoughts and purposes. This image of the “living Torah” is then applied to any Jew who desires a relationship with God. How much more can it be applied to the Jewish Messiah Jesus who often in “Messianic” circles is referred to as “the living Torah” and who was the only human to ever reach a perfect fidelity with God’s standards and will. We do say “the Word became flesh”, after all.
Levertoff also presents us with a very encouraging picture of the Torah as the will of God descended from Heaven and physically “clothed” in Torah, as if Torah had a divine “life” of its own. It’s difficult to imagine imbuing life and will to a scroll, but applying the very familiar John 1:14 to Levertoff’s ideas, we can much more easily perceive the human being Jesus as “an earthly container for His will and wisdom” rather than the Torah scroll. Look at the comparison of the functions of the Shekhinah descending from Heaven to occupy the Tabernacle at the end of the Book of Exodus, the Word becoming a flesh and blood human being as our living Torah, and the Chasidic concept of God’s will embodying the “non-living” Torah. The symbolism and imagery matches up amazingly well and gives us something to “hang our hat on” as far as the relationship between the human Messiah Jesus and his Divine nature and character.
In my Descent blog published last spring, I used Levertoff’s writings to show further the relationship between the “will and wisdom” of God contained in the Torah scroll (according to Chasidic thought) and that same “will and wisdom” of God contained in Jesus.
“that the Torah is the divine expression of God’s will and wisdom, placed within the physical limitations of this world and translated into terms comprehensible to human beings. However, God’s will and wisdom cannot be separated from HaShem Himself. If the Torah contains HaShem’s will and wisdom, then it contains something of HaShem Himself; they are ‘one in the same’.”
This is sort of like saying that Jesus is and isn’t God at the same time. If God’s will and wisdom cannot be separated from who God is, then the container for those qualities possesses something of the Divine inside. At the same time, we cannot picture a Torah scroll as literally God, anymore than we picture the Tabernacle being literally God, so how can we view the human Jesus in any different manner? I also want to point out what the Master said in Mark 14:22-24 to show how matzoh and wine can symbolize Jesus and represent his spiritual nature in physical objects without actually being the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ.
Let me provide you with one more picture that I’ve taken from another blog I previously wrote called The Hovering Dove, but first allow me to lay a bit of scriptural groundwork.
Then Jesus came from Galilee to John at the Jordan, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, ‘I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?’ But Jesus answered him, ‘Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness.’ Then he consented. And when Jesus had been baptized, just as he came up from the water, suddenly the heavens were opened to him and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on him. And a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased. –Matthew 3:13-17 (NRSV)
And he set up the enclosure around the Tabernacle and the altar, and put up the screen for the gate of the enclosure. When Moses had finished the work, the cloud covered the Tent of Meeting, and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. Moses could not enter the Tent of Meeting, because the cloud had settled upon it and the Presence of the Lord filled the Tabernacle. When the cloud lifted from the Tabernacle, the Israelites would set out, on their various journeys; but if the cloud did not lift, they would not set out until such time as it did lift. For over the Tabernacle a cloud of the Lord rested by day, and fire would appear in it by night, in the view of all the house of Israel throughout their journeys. –Exodus 40:33-38 (JPS Tanakh)
I’m not necessarily suggesting that these two events are direct parallels. If I were to say that, then I’d have to say that Jesus was not actually aware of his being the Messiah until God’s Spirit came to him after being immersed by John in the Jordan river. We have some indication that Jesus was aware of his status before this, at least by age 12, when he was debating the Sages at the Temple after Passover (Luke 2:41-52). But from this brief episode, we don’t know if he was really conscious of being the Messiah or “merely” aware of his amazing “natural Torah aptitude.” Traditional Judaism believes that the Messiah will be born fully human of a human mother and father and he will not be initially aware of his “Messiahship”. In fact, there is the idea that in every generation, a person is born who could potentially be the Messiah if God so designates his age as the time of the Messianic coming. Using that as a basis, we can conceive of a Jesus who did not become fully aware of his Divine and Anointed status until he was indeed anointed by the Spirit as we see in Matthew 3:13-17.
Impossible? Outrageous? Crazy? Perhaps. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not saying this theory of mine has any foundation in reality or that this is actually how the process of Divine and Human have met in the Messiah, but it is food for thought and discussion. It also is a way to reintegrate Judaism back into the Jewish Messiah as we experience him in Christianity. If Jesus, like Joseph, can completely disguise himself from his brothers, the Jews, so that he is unrecognizable in the body of a foreigner, we will also leave a path of discovery so that the Jewish people can find him again. Kabbalah and Chasidic mysticism could be such a path. All we need to do is learn to walk it and see where it leads and to who it leads.
She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
those who hold her fast are called blessed. –Proverbs 3:18 (ESV)
Tomorrow, the series continues with part 3: The Mystic Mirror Darkly.