The Inaccessible Interface

the-joy-of-torahTorah is the interface between the Infinite and creation. On the outside, it speaks the language of humankind. On the inside, it is depth without end.

Grasp either end and you have nothing.

Grasp both and you have G-d Himself.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Interface”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson of blessed memory
Chabad.org

In yesterday’s morning meditation, I suggested that the Torah functioned as a ketubah or “marriage contract” between God and the Children of Israel. This brings up many “uncomfortable” ideas if we consider that God is still “married” to the Jewish people and that the church is the “bride of Christ.”

But I’m not going to talk about that today.

I’ve previously said that religion and ritual serve as an interface between people and God. Human beings cannot directly access God, at least not most of the time, so we have a set of conditions, or faith statements, or in the case of the Jews, mitzvot that allow us to have some sort of connection to God based on what we do to worship Him. According to Rabbi Freeman, the Torah is an interface specific to the Jewish people and their interaction with the Creator. The Torah is considered to be made up of 613 individual commandments and has a sort of mystic life of its own, since the sages say it existed before creation and it was used to make the universe. This makes Torah more than a document and it becomes a sort of “force” or even a “personality.” In certain theological circles, we sometimes call Jesus “our living Torah” since nothing was made without him and he is “the Word made flesh” who once upon a time lived among his people.

But if the Torah is an interface allowing Jews access to God, what does that make Jesus? An interface allowing everyone to access God?

That could be a little confusing if the Torah is supposed to be only for the Jews but Messiah is for everyone. Or is it that Messiah is for the Jews and Jesus is for everyone? It depends on who you ask. If you believe that God doesn’t intend on abandoning anyone based on ethnicity or the exclusivity of the Sinai relationship, then somehow, He has to reconcile “the rest of us” to Him. Christianity has no problem with this part, but they experience difficulty in allowing Jews to keep their original Abrahamic and Mosaic interfaces, demanding that the Jewish people “ashcan” what they have that is special to them, and substitute it with a “one size fits all” interface. It’s sort of like asking people who habitually use a Mac to switch to a Windows PC. Just try it and see the reaction you get.

I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with Windows when compared to a Mac (although Mac users might have a comment or two on the subject), but they are different interfaces. They present a different user experience to Mac and Windows people, even as they both allow the two different user types to perform the same tasks (writing documents, surfing the web, sending emails, and so on). Maybe that’s how we can look at the two separate interfaces used by Jews and Christians.

Or we can continue to push at each other and then push back and then push again. This happens particularly between Christians and some parts of the Messianic Jewish world (including those parts that aren’t really “Jewish” such as One Law, Two House, and Hebrew Roots). Each group says they have a better interface than all the other groups, and some people in the debate may secretly suspect that the other group’s interface works better, resulting in jealousy and a “put up your dukes” response.

So much for peace and unity within the body of Christ. I guess that’s why I’m inspired (if I’m inspired by very much anymore) by some of the Rabbinic tales.

On today’s amud we find the halachos regarding replacing the sefer Torah to the aron hakodesh.

During his last years, the Tchebiner Rav lived in Shaarei Chessed. At that time, there was a certain very broken, lonely man who would collect tzedakah in the neighborhood shuls. This person was well known—if not well liked—by all on account of his bizarre dress and strange behavior. He had his own unusual way to sing when the Torah was being replaced into the aron kodesh. Since his voice was cracked and he could not hold a tune, this was very annoying to the other people in shul. Nevertheless, if there was a chosson, he would always belt out his tune, often accompanied by bored children who immediately flocked to him and did their utmost to “help him along.”

Once, when this man was collecting in the Tchebiner Rav’s minyan, the Tchebiner Rav gave him a princely donation before they had replaced the Torah into the ark. “I am not giving you this merely as a gift,” he proclaimed. “I give this to you on condition that you make the minyan happy with your unique tune.”

The man was thrilled to his core and began to sing his special tune. But this time, since the Rav had asked for it, everyone joined him and it was actually a fitting way to replace the Torah. The broken man was overjoyed at his triumph and would tell everyone he knew about the admiration for him that the Tchebiner Rav had for him. Not only had he given him a big sum of money, he had even asked for his special nigun!

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“How to Empathize”
Siman 148, Seif 1-4

Here, even the “oddball” in the community is given honors in spite of how most of the community doesn’t really understand him. I suppose that the church has many such heartwarming stories, but my experience with organized religion…anyone’s organized religion lately…is that even well-meaning oddballs aren’t particularly tolerated, and you either need to blend in or get out.

For the Christian, Jesus is the interface that allows us to access God. You can be an oddball and still God loves you. He even sent His only begotten Son for you…even if you’re a oddball. Jesus is the interface that provides access to God

People and religious congregations, as an interface for access to community however, are another matter.

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