At the Table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

On today’s amud we find that seeming to prefer one sefer Torah over the other is like besmirching the other sefer Torah.

Honoring the sefer Torah is a great mitzvah. Some people even purchase a special silver crown for the Torah to show honor and respect for it. In one shul they had several sifrei Torah but only one crown. Usually this was sufficient, since on most weekdays and Shabbosim only one sefer is removed from the aron hakodesh. But on days when more than one sefer was removed, they would put the crown on only one of the seforim—what choice did they have?

One talmid chacham pointed out that this may be a lack of honor to the second sefer. “The Chazon Ish told Rav Simchah Kaplan, the rav of Tzfas, that he should not allow them to make a special monument in the cemetery there for a certain tzaddik since this besmirches the many other great tzaddikim interred there. Presumably the same is true in our situation and we must either purchase another crown or refrain from putting the crown on either sefer?”

They agreed to ask Rav Chaim Kanievsky, shlit”a, and he ruled in his usual brief and to-the-point manner: “They can put the crown on whichever Torah they want.”

When this question and answer reached the author of Doleh Umashkeh, shlit”a, he explained why there is no proof from the Chazon Ish’s ruling regarding a memorial in the cemetery in Tzfas. “A special monument is a permanent way of distinguishing one tzaddik over the others, while a crown on a Torah is only worn for a short time.”

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“The Torah’s Honor”
Siman 144, Seif 4

You may be wondering what this has to do with anything, but when I read this commentary, I couldn’t help but think of the conversation that’s been going on in another one of my “meditations” for the past week about debating fulfillment theology. Let me explain.

One of the issues regarding how we consider the “specialness” of the Jewish disciples of Jesus (or Jews in general) relative to the Gentile disciples is the concern that Gentiles will become “second-class citizens” of the Kingdom if Jews are viewed as having a different covenant relationship with God. My proposition has been that the Messianic or Davidic covenant which was initiated by the birth, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ, did not overwrite or eliminate either the Abrahamic or Mosaic covenants that came before it, but rather, the Messianic covenant ratified the previous two covenants even as the Mosaic ratified but did not eliminate the Abrahamic covenant.

The first two covenants apply only to the Children of Israel but the third applies to Israel and to the nations. I know this is pretty confusing, and it’s probably easier for most Christians to do away with the complex nature of treaty and covenant relationships as they were understood in the ancient near east, by simply doing away with all but the most recent covenant, but that wouldn’t be accurate, fair, or Biblically honest. Yet, like the crown we see that can only be applied to a single Torah scroll, it seems as if only one scroll receives the highest honors with the other scrolls being subordinate. Just as with the concerns expressed in the commentary above, the Gentile disciples of Jesus (i.e. Christians) do not think it’s fair for the Jews to be crowned with a higher honor than the Gentiles and thus, one of the motivations for supersessionism is born. Instead of the Jews being ascendant over the Christians, the Christians become ascendant over the Jews. Using another Daf commentary, he’s a metaphor of how Christians see the Jews and the Torah.

Shulchan Aruch rules that a rented property that is used for a Beis HaKnesses does not have the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses. The reason, explains Levush, is that although for the duration of the lease the property will be used for a Beis HaKnesses it is still considered only temporary since today or tomorrow the owner will take back the property. Only when a building was constructed in the first place to be a Beis HaKnesses or if it was purchased to be used as a Beis HaKnesses does it attain the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses. Teshuvas Ravaz suggests that Shulchan Aruch is basing his ruling on our Gemara which states that a tenant cannot sanctify the rented property since it is not his. The rationale, suggests Teshuvas Ravaz, is that we do not find precedent that property could become sanctified for a limited period of time and then have the sanctity dissipate into nothing upon the end of the lease. As such one could assert that just as a tenant cannot sanctify the property that he is renting to the Beis HaMikdash, so too, he cannot sanctify rental property as a Beis HaKnesses for a limited period of time and then have that sanctity dissipate upon the end of the lease.

Beiur Halacha cites earlier authorities who maintain that Shulchan Aruch’s ruling is limited to the circumstances of Mahari ben Chaviv whose words are the source for Shulchan Aruch’s ruling. In the time of Mahari ben Chaviv the government did not allow property to be rented out to serve as a Beis HaKnesses. For that reason the rental of a property for a Beis HaKnesses was by nature very temporary since at any time the owner could contact the renters and inform them that they had to leave the premises. As such a property rented to be a Beis HaKnesses did not attain the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses. In our times when it is acceptable for property to be used as a Beis HaKnesses and the owner cannot terminate the lease early a Beis HaKnesses that rents space does attain the sanctity of a Beis HaKnesses with all the halachos that go together with that.

Daf Yomi Digest
Halacha Highlight
“The sanctity of a Beis HaKnesess on leased property”
Arachin 21

The Mosaic covenant, the Torah which details its conditions, and the people who have been subject to that covenant, are all considered temporary or “placeholders” until the arrival of the Messiah. According to supersessionist thought, the Jewish people have no intrinsic value in and of themselves, to God or to the world. The Jews, the Torah, and the Mosaic covenant only existed to point to the Messiah and perhaps just to “fill up space” until Jesus was born.

Once the Messiah arrived and “completed” the work of the Law, the temporary covenant expired, according to supersessionism, and the Messianic covenant permanently replaced the Mosaic covenant, the conditions of the Torah for the Children of Israel, and the descendents of Israel, the Jewish people, forever. Any “sanctity” that the Jews possessed, like a Beis HaKnesses that is rented property, is considered temporary and perishable. In contrast, the Messianic covenant and the Gentile Christians (and any Jews who might choose to surrender their Jewish identity and succumb to becoming a Gentile by converting) rise to become the permanent inheritors of all the covenant promises God made and that were contained in the Abrahamic covenant, with the conditions of the Mosaic covenant (with minor exceptions) being swept away as inferior and even repulsive (which is probably where many Christians over the past 2,000 years got the idea that the Jews themselves were inferior and repulsive).

But is this really so? The two commentaries above do not have direct applications to the answer and I’m using them only as imperfect metaphors, but I think they’re very good imperfect metaphors. Let’s consider the “temporary” nature of Jesus Christ.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… –John 1:14 (ESV)

And the Word became flesh, and did tabernacle among us… –John 1:14 (Young’s Literal Translation)

Most common English translations of John 1:14 say that the Word “dwelt among us” or “made his dwelling among us” or “lived among us”. Young’s translation implies that the “living among us” was temporary, because a tabernacle or a “tent” is not considered a permanent home (although it can be used over an extended period of time, even decades, as we see in the example of the wanderings of the Children of Israel in the wilderness). The Weymouth New Testament translates the same words as “and lived for a time in our midst”, which also emphasizes that Jesus was among us only temporarily.

Jesus, the Word, lived among human beings but only temporarily. Did that make him any less sanctified before God? Perhaps we shouldn’t be so quick to discard things we consider temporary. They could have a much longer “shelf life” than we might imagine.

“I will make with them a covenant of peace and banish wild beasts from the land, so that they may dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. And I will make them and the places all around my hill a blessing, and I will send down the showers in their season; they shall be showers of blessing. And the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield its increase, and they shall be secure in their land. And they shall know that I am the LORD, when I break the bars of their yoke, and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them. They shall no more be a prey to the nations, nor shall the beasts of the land devour them. They shall dwell securely, and none shall make them afraid. And I will provide for them renowned plantations so that they shall no more be consumed with hunger in the land, and no longer suffer the reproach of the nations. And they shall know that I am the LORD their God with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, declares the Lord GOD. And you are my sheep, human sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, declares the Lord GOD.” –Ezekiel 34:25-31 (ESV)

“For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of my people and my heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up my land, and have cast lots for my people, and have traded a boy for a prostitute, and have sold a girl for wine and have drunk it. –Joel 3:1-3 (ESV)

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written,

“The Deliverer will come from Zion,
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;
“and this will be my covenant with them
when I take away their sins.” –Romans 11:25-27 (ESV)

Unless God was leaving out some important details, He never seemed to indicate that the Children of Israel would be a people before Him only up to a certain time, and then He’d toss them aside like a bowl of hummus that had been left out in the sun too long. In fact, it seems as if He plans to judge all of the nations that have treated His people Israel poorly, so perhaps the rest of us should be a little cautious when we casually claim that we have replaced “the apple of His eye.” For those Christians who are reading this who are still convinced that Jews and Judaism are “dead” in the eyes of God and as seen through the lens of the Davidic covenant, remember that God can resurrect human beings and even a nation of “dry bones” (Ezekiel 37:1-14). Israel is not “cut off.” Israel has hope. God will place flesh upon all of Israel and Israel will be restored. In fact, God is restoring Israel right now, before our very eyes.

We have a picture, based on John 1 of the Messiah temporarily dwelling among his people Israel and then leaving again. We have a picture of the Jewish people, based on Romans 11 temporarily being “hardened” against the Messiah. We also have this.

And I heard the number of the sealed, 144,000, sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel… After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” –Revelation 7:4,9-10 (ESV)

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

Here we see that the “temporary” Lamb is now permanent and the “temporary” tribes of Israel are now permanent, and we also see that “a great multitude…from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” will be “standing before the throne and before the Lamb.” Jesus is permanent though he was once temporarily on the Earth. The tribes of Israel are permanent though they temporarily were hardened to the Messiah for the sake of the Gentiles. The Gentiles are there with the tribes of Israel and with the Lamb, not as second-class citizens, but co-citizens with Israel in the Kingdom, and the Lamb is the Lamb for us all.

One God, One Lamb, One throne, One Kingdom. One shepherd over two folds in one pen.

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd. –John 10:14-16

I don’t know how it all works or how it will all work out, but I trust that it will all work out between God and His people Israel, and we Gentile Christians, His people who were placed in His hand by Jesus. And in the end, we will all be seated together at the feast of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:11) and we will all be at peace and none will make us afraid (Micah 4:4) “for the mouth of the LORD of hosts has spoken.”

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