The Sichos HaRan, zt”l, explains how fortunate we are to have received the Torah. “Non-Jews who did not receive the Torah have no idea how to act. A non-Jew who wants to discover the meaning of life must search for the truth and has very little chance of finding it. Jews are very fortunate, since God gave us the Torah which reveals exactly how we should act in any given situation. We can focus all of our energies on fulfilling the Torah instead of squandering them in an attempt to determine what to do.”
Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
I have a difficult time understanding how the Sichos HaRan, zt”l can make such a statement and yet still call God charitable. After all, is God not the God of the Jew and the non-Jew alike? He makes it sound as if God left the Gentile people of the nations “hanging out to dry,” so to speak. In fact, even from a traditional Jewish point of view, it’s not that way at all.
Most religious Jews believe that God gave “the rest of us” the Seven Noahide Commandments which guide us along a path of Godly living. Of course, when you compare a mere seven laws to the 613 commandments that Jews believe comprise the Torah, it’s easy to believe that the Gentiles got the short end of the stick. After all, as the “story off the daf” points out, the level of detail in the Torah commandments, describe for the Jew “exactly how we should act in any given situation.” That’s not literally true of the written portion of the Torah, but once you factor in the Mishnah, Talmud, and Gemara, an astounding and even overwhelming amount of information is provided about every conceivable situation in which a Jew may find himself.
Even if you believe that the seven Noahide laws can be expanded out to 80 or 90 more detailed commentaries, it still seems like we don’t have nearly the same amount of Heavenly direction given to us as the Jewish people enjoy. If you’re an atheist, you probably couldn’t care less, and enjoy the type of freedom a secular world view provides. If you’re a traditional Christian, this only confirms what you’ve been taught about the freedom that the grace of Jesus Christ offers, and how the “chains” of the Law can no longer hold you (not that they ever applied to you in the first place).
Yet, as I have been reminded recently, for a number of Christians, the “grace of Christ” doesn’t seem to be enough. There’s a sort of “emptiness” some people feel in the church, as if a man starving for meat and potatoes is given only a can of soda pop for lunch. Lots of “fizz” but no substance. For these Christians, the substance seems to be found in Judaism and among some of these folks, Judaism becomes the focus, leaving God and faith in the Messiah in the dust.
I’m a Christian who, as you know if you’ve been following this blog for very long, chooses to view my faith in Christ through a Jewish lens (if such a thing is possible). However, it took me years to be able to distinguish the lens from the focus of the lens. The lens is the means by which I look at the Messiah and gaze at the image of God. The focus is the Messiah who leads me on the path of righteousness to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. It’s important not to confuse the two.
I sometimes think even people in the traditional church suffer from this confusion. The theology, the music, the church programs, and even grace, all seem to substitute for the substance of God. Maybe that’s why people leave Christianity and either apostate completely or seek some aspect of Judaism onto which they can attach. However, since this type of confusion can strike at the Christian either in the church or in the synagogue, it’s not the religion that’s the problem, it’s the people. More specifically, it’s how people understand what they have faith in. Do you have faith in Christianity or in God? Do you have faith in Judaism or in God? Who or what do you worship and why? Do you even know if you are worshiping a thing rather than the Creator of the universe?
I’ve seen non-Jews in “Messianic” or Hebrew Roots groups who became totally enamoured with wearing a tallit gadol and kippah, praying with a siddur, and learning Hebrew. Nothing is necessarily wrong with using holy objects in the practice of your faith, but there is something terribly wrong if you wake up one morning and realize that its the objects you’re really worshiping. It’s even worse if you are worshiping the objects and never actually realize it.
There are non-Jews including some Christians, who convert to Judaism for various reasons and I am not here to question those decisions. However, I am concerned with those Christians who, in seeking the Jewish Jesus in the synagogue, lose sight of him completely, and convert because they have started worshiping Jewishness.
Any Christian who is worshiping and studying in a Jewish venue needs to periodically take one giant step backward and examine what they are doing and why. If you know your eyes need to be on the Messiah at all times but his “image” is becoming increasingly fuzzy, you may have allowed something to get in between you and him. If your lens has become your focus, stop everything, take a break, and get some fresh air. A life of study contains many details and a great deal of information, but at its core, a life of holiness is not complicated. It’s a simple as praying and can easily begin with the words, “Our Father Who is in Heaven…”
Never forget who you are and who He is to you.