Putting Light in a Cage

On today’s daf we find that Rabbi Akiva asked Rabban Gamliel and Rabbi Yehoshua a halachic question while they were in the market purchasing an animal for Rabban Gamliel’s son’s wedding. This is the way of gedolei Torah. Even while on their way to a simchah, they only think about Torah.

Rav Eliezer Gordon, zt”l, the first Rosh Yeshiva of Telz, was just such a person. The tales regarding his absolute devotion to Torah even during the most unusual times are astounding.

Rav Gordon was a person who had such a deep-felt ahavas haTorah that he would think in learning at every available moment. While he walked down the street and while he was apparently in repose, he was always immersed in a sugya.

Once, when Rav Gordon was on his way to serve as sandek at a bris milah, he passed by a shul and heard two bochurim discussing a certain difficult question in learning. Rav Gordon immediately forgot everything. He stopped in front of the window and, while standing outside, began to discuss this complex question in depth. He attempted to answer it and the bochurim debated various suggestions he proposed that might resolve the problem.

Two hours later, the guests at the bris were still waiting, but the rav had not yet come. Finally they found an acceptable answer and Rav Gordon continued on his way. Then he remembered that he was supposed to be sandek at a local bris.

When he arrived he apologized and explained what had happened. “Regarding Torah I am like a drunk near a bottle of wine who cannot think of anything else!”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Intoxicated by Torah”
Kereisos 15

I know. It sounds kind of irresponsible to me, too. If I have an appointment and people are expecting me, especially for an important event, I really try to be on time and often, I’m a little early. So how can we explain Rav Gordon?

At the threshold of liberation, darkness filled the land of Egypt. But in the homes of those to be liberated, there was only light.

Light is our true place, and light is the destiny of every child of Noah who nurtures the G-dly beauty of this world. As dawn approaches and Darkness shakes heaven and earth in the final throes of its demise, those who belong to Light and cleave to it with all their hearts have nothing to fear.

For darkness is created to die, but light is forever.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Light Forever”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

Imagine being filled with light all of the time. You can’t really help it. God is not only on your thoughts and affecting your emotions, but His very Word is interwoven into your flesh and bone. It has invaded your blood stream and is coursing through your veins and arteries like life-giving corpuscles. The light of His Word creates the electrical impulses that leap at lightning-fast speeds across the gap between the synapses in your brain. And all that light within you is inexorably drawn to other light just like it…and you cannot help but run the other’s light, so you can join the light within and the light without.

So too, is Rav Gordon, even to the point of allowing himself to be distracted and to be hours late to a bris.

Or he could have just been one of those people who lose track of time when caught up in a compelling intellectual argument.

Where is the balance between the holy and the secular? It is said that Hillel the Elder, the great Torah sage who lived a generation before Jesus, devoted his life to Torah study while also working as a woodcutter. (Hertz J.H. 1936 The Pentateuch and Haftoras. Deuteronomy. Oxford University Press, London.) Certainly Hillel knew the meaning of balance in his life.

And then there’s this:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labor we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. –2 Thessalonians 3:6-8 (ESV)

I can’t find the source, but I recall reading that it is considered a sin if you study Torah to the exclusion of all other responsibilities, such as feeding your family, and meeting your other worldly obligations.

I can’t lay all of that at Rav Gordon’s feet. After all, he was only distracted for a couple of hours and perhaps justifiably so. I’m in no position to judge.

To tell you the truth, it’s far more common for people to allow the demands of their day-to-day secular life to distract them from their duty to study the Bible, to meditate upon God, to pray, to show devotion on the Shabbat. It is far more common to be lured off of the path to God by your daily grind, than to be late for work because you were praying or studying.

God understands that we have a daily life and indeed, he requires that we do have an “ordinary” job so that we, like Paul, can support ourselves and not be a burden to others. All of the great Torah scholars had some means by which they supported themselves, as did the Prophets, and as did the Apostles. Part of a whole life is not only sharing it with God and joining with that light, but allowing the light to shine into the rest of your world. God is in the act of commuting to work, in sitting at a computer keyboard, in picking your children up from school, in mowing the lawn, in paying your taxes, in taking out the garbage.

And He’s in being immersed in a sugya and in joining two bochurim discussing a certain difficult question.

There’s a passion that must be part of who we are as people if we are to overwhelm the oppressive demands of a human experience with the light of God. In Judaism, each soul is considered to be a shard or a spark of the Divine Light of God, come to earth to inhabit a person. The spark yearns to return to its Source but the flesh chains the holy shard to earth. The bird is caged and cannot fly. If you remove freedom from the bird long enough, it forgets how to fly, and pines for its lost freedom. The notes of its song sour and it loses its way back to the Source, perhaps forever.

So too is the soul within us that is cut off too long from its Source. Humanity is an anchor that drags us to the floor of an impenetrably deep sea. This is the opposite of Rav Gordon and his drive to seek out perpetual light perpetually. But if we pray, if we meditate, if we study the Bible, if we associate, even occasionally, with others who have the same drive and light, if we allow the Word to weave its way through us, the bird is not kept in total darkness and it is allowed to spread its wings. It has a song to sing, even while caged within its flesh and blood prison.

The bird has hope, not only that someday it will return to the Source, but that in the here and now, there is a light within that shines, and a light without to follow.

Someday we will be free.

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9 thoughts on “Putting Light in a Cage”

  1. Not someday, James, now. You, your wife, anyone, can be set free of the birdcage to fly into eternity with God just by fulfilling and keeping the covenant terms for eternal salvation.

    Light is a Godly metaphor for truth, but don’t let your notions of being filled with light mislead you into thinking it also equates to having eternal salvation. You will certainly live a more righteous and godly life if you fill yourself and walk in the light of God’s wisdom, but anyone in the world can pick and choose what truths to take in and keep. You can fill yourself to the brim with good truth and try to walk in it (Buddhism and New Age Philosophies do this), but without the knowledge of what truths are relevant to being set free and how that process works, the bird will remain caged in eternity even though it may glow with light.

    My point is God’s Eternal Kingdom is founded by law and covenant and we must know those laws and how they work to be included in that eternity with God. A good person by worldly standards, like a Buddhist monk, will not have eternal salvation simply because he did not fulfill any of God’s laws that grant eternal salvation, such as the New Covenant of Grace or living by the Law of Moses. All the wisdom and way of life he committed to ends up being useless in eternity.

    Israel knew this. They had to AND STILL must fulfill the Law of Moses as God gave it to them to stay in Covenant with God. It grants the Jews eternal salvation and it was their keeping of God’s laws, especially that of the law of sacrifice, that granted their salvation because that is how God declared it – the forgiveness of sin (breaking of the law) only comes through blood sacrifice.

    “In fact, the Law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Hebrews 9:22) Also, “All who rely on observing the Law are under a curse, for it is written: ‘Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law'” (Galatians 3:10)

    Those who submit to the Law of Moses (Judaism) are required to obey the whole of it (Galatians 5:3), so neglecting the part of the Law requiring blood sacrifice also keeps Jews in the state of being unforgiven of their sins, which ultimately means they do not get eternal salvation. That is why I stated before that your wife will not end up in the same eternity as you if you are saved into eternity by Grace.

    “All who sin apart from the Law will also perish apart from the Law, and all who sin under the Law will be judged by the Law.” (Romans 2:12). The first phrase notes how those who do not submit to the Law of Moses (non-Jews) are not judged by that Law, such as yourself, but those who do submit to Judaism, such as your wife, will be judged by it, ALL of its laws and statues (Galatians 3:10, 5:3).

    Israel failed to attain righteousness and eternal salvation because they rejected the New Covenant of Grace and continue to try to fulfill the Law of Moses unsuccessfully (Romans 10:31). A big part of that failure today is not keeping the law of sacrifice fulfilled as God commanded. This notes another important thing about God’s laws. Fulfillment of God’s laws, whether they are part of the Law of Moses or not, must be done by His terms, not by the world’s interpretation of them.

    Modern Judaism is not fulfilling the Law of Moses as they are required because of centuries of traditions and misinterpretation corrupting the true Judaism that God defined. This is so important to understand because I don’t want anyone losing out on eternal salvation and their destinies because they don’t understand the full picture of reality.

    The easiest way out of being unforgiven of our sins is to accept and fulfill the New Covenant of Grace under Jesus Christ. That’s why He came to the world over two thousand years ago. It was to establish this new law, which does not abolish the old Law of Moses, but substitutes the blood of Christ for our forgiveness, thereby fulfilling the law of sacrifice. Outside of Grace, the only way to gain complete salvation is to fulfill the Law of Moses in its entirety – much much harder to do.

    I was trying to point out the importance of law and covenant and how to fulfill it, especially the covenant of eternal salvation, when I told you to watch the documentary. Now that you have more of the bigger picture, I pray that you strive to understand the “profound mystery” that God gave us to understand, so everyone – Christian, Jew, nonbelievers, everyone – can walk into the same eternal destiny with God.

    Documentary video: http://3rdcompass.com/core/network?c=jrnl&obj=5046731480754762728

    Ty

  2. I think we’re speaking at cross purposes or at least “cross metaphors,” Ty. Obviously, there’s a greater freedom we will all experience in the resurrection after the return of the Messiah that we don’t currently have access to. We are imperfect people living in an imperfect world and that inhibits our access to the holy.

    I think you’re pushing your “product” a little too hard. You aren’t participating in a conversation so much as you are trying to direct the people who read my blog to your particular philosophy and to your videos.

  3. James, I said I was shown the truth through years of God given experiences that have a fingerprint only God could orchestrate. You’re letting your notions about spiritual things push the truth into the background. I also said I learned in these years, the many reasons why people reject the full truth and why you cannot trust your own reasoning or that or other people. You have to get understanding directly from God.

    I’m not trying to “sell” anything. I am adamant about my role to teach the full truth because after seeing the proof with my own eyes, I cannot just sit back and let people miss destiny in eternity with God. It can very easily slip by just because you do not know how God runs His Kingdom.

    I’m not trying to “cross metaphors,” but trying to help you understand the deeper, more important truths. You simply will not be able to understand unless you take in and allow the deeper truths to be processed by your mind. There is too much very important information to cover in a short text reply. That is why I keep telling you to watch the documentary. It summarizes in images quickly what would take a lengthy book to convey correctly.

    There will be a greater freedom at the return of Christ, but you also need to know that you have to be saved into eternity to be part of the resurrection (the first one). Everyone else who did not receive eternal salvation are resurrected after the millennial reign when all of mankind is judged. These truths point out that you need to focus on getting and keeping eternal salvation now, which is again why I keep talking about law and covenant and point you to the video. It tells you the most important things everyone needs to know.

    I talk about destiny a lot and call the “mystery” a mystery of destiny because knowing the full truth allows you to literally grab that eternal destiny with God. It is something to take very seriously, because eternity is an unimaginably long time that you do not want to spend apart from God. If you think in terms of eternity and how important it is to be on God’s side of it and how very temporary our current lives are, I think you’ll get a better feeling for why I’m so passionate about what I teach.

    I also have to keep making clear that God revealed the truth to us as anointed servants. Brideship is not “my” philosophy. It came directly from God, but you have to see all the evidence to accept that. It is all documented. The video only summarizes the most important parts of it. I’d be happy to go over the details with anyone to help their understanding.

    Ty

  4. How common it is for people in this day and age to become prisoners in cages of their own design. So caught up in the rat race, with bumper stickers that read, “He who has the most toys when he dies wins.” Stereos and televisions blaring in their ears 24/7. They can’t even fall asleep without the radio or television on. Afraid to even listen to their own thoughts. A cage designed to keep G-d out.

    I can understand Paul’s aversion to taking payment for his service to the assemblies, his warnings to them to not entertain those who teach for gain. To mark them as not following the example of Messiah as well as himself and the other apostles, and condemning them as enemies of the cross.

    Php 3:17 Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample.

    They were a huge stumbling block for me for many years, and are a huge wall of offense to unbelievers, until I read Paul, in how he followed the rabbinic example of having a trade to supply his needs. Still today I am extremely wary of those who preach from the Law of Moses, sermon after sermon on tithing (something never required of Gentiles), and ignore shabbat.

    G-d wants each and everyone of us to have a personal relationship with Him, to have the door opened when He knocks and dine with us. He does not want us to employ another person to use as a doorway between us and G-d. I believe this was the main focus of Paul’s concern regarding the assemblies. That they were selling (or buying) themselves short, and would remain babes as long as they fell (or jumped) into that cage. Locked into a cage of their own design only receiving tidbits from another mans leftovers, when they had at their disposal direct enlightenment from the Spirit, as Paul had told and showed them.

    I love the wisdom of Schneerson and the depth of Torah knowledge of Hillel never ceases to amaze me. I especially love the way you pull out these pearls and arrange them in such beautiful order James.

    Thanks,
    Brad

    Stone walls do not a prison make,
    Nor iron bars a cage;
    Minds innocent and quiet take
    That for an hermitage
    To Althea from Prison, by Richard Lovelace (1618–1657)

  5. Brad, you do not see how you are also still caged by the wisdom of the world – teaching coming from the wrong interpretations and man-made traditions. It doesn’t matter how old those teachings are or that they may seem correct. Jesus noted constantly in the New Testament how the Jews did not truly know how to interpret the Law and Prophets. That errant teaching persisted through the centuries and is what the modern church and Judaism are basing their doctrine on. I say the church, too, because I was shown how she has erred just as the Jews did.

    You are only seeing a part of the picture, Brad – the same incomplete picture the church and Judaism are seeing. The information may be in front of you, but you are not including all the information you need to see the complete picture.

    For example, you noted Paul’s need to “build tents” to supplement his income and say he had an aversion to taking payment for his ministry work. But did you know Paul also stated that he and his fellow workers in Christ deserve to be and ought to be supported materially by the church? (1 Corinthians 9:7-9:12) “…If we have sown spiritual seed among you, is it too much if we reap a material harvest from you? If others have this right of support from you, shouldn’t we have it all the more?”

    Paul did not have an aversion to taking payment for ministry. Your statement came from your interpretation of a piece of Scripture, which ends up misconstruing the truth. My point is not to reprimand you, but to show you how the church, Judaism, and world, come to error because they follow their own interpretations instead of God’s. Only God’s interpretation includes ALL the information needed to get the correct answer.

    Paul had to supplement his income because the church was not generous to give them the material support due to them. Why else would he talk about it if there wasn’t a problem? The support was their portion to have by legal expectation, because Paul also talked about God’s commands and that His command about “not muzzling the ox” also referred to Paul and his fellow workers. But Paul continued to say they did not press their right to be supported, so that the material issues would not put up a barrier to doing their work with the church.

    And right after saying that, Paul affirms again that they are legally due material support from the church. This illustrates another example of what the church has wrong, because you also stated that tithing is not required of Gentiles, which is true, but did you know that when you become saved into eternity by Grace, you are no longer a Gentile? All who are saved become one of God’s people in His Kingdom, grafted into the branch of Israel (Romans 11:11-24). “Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (1 Peter 2:10).

    This means you are legally bound in God’s Kingdom and subject to the laws for His people when you are saved by Grace. One of those laws is the Law of Tithing, which was never revoked for His people, and Paul’s statement that God commands His people (the church) to materially support his anointed servants attests to that fact.

    Are you seeing now, the larger picture? I did not come to the correct understanding of God’s Kingdom by my own reasoning and knowledge because I was doing the same thing as the rest of the church – using our own reasoning and viewpoints to interpret what was in front of us. God had to show us the truth of what I’ve been trying to convey about His church and our destinies. He showed it by teaching us how to get interpretation from Him.

    But how do we get God’s interpretation? That is the biggest problem the church is not seeing. It is by following His Spirit, but not how the church assumes. The personal relationship with Christ you mention is important, but still also a part of the whole picture. The church has taken only parts of the picture and misconstrued them to mean more than they do.

    Another example is God’s Sabbath and Festivals. The modern church believes she needn’t pay any attention to them, because of Colossians 2:16. But look carefully at what is stated there. It only says we are not to judge anyone for observing or not observing a festival or Sabbath Day. It says nothing about them being revoked for His People. The church has only assumed that.

    It is a classic example of jumping to conclusions. There is no Scripture stating God’s Sabbath or Festivals were taken away. Consider also why God included the Sabbath in the Ten Commandments if He did not intend it to be permanent. Indeed, we must consider all of God’s laws and commandments as eternal (Psalm 119:152,160) unless He EXPLICITLY changes them. These are more important details about God’s Kingdom I try to teach, but people walk away because they let their gut reactions stifle the truth.

    Consider all the details carefully, because Paul states again in 1 Timothy 5:18, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain, and the worker deserves his wages.” Where are those wages to come from? It is the tithe, because all in God’s Kingdom are required by law to keep it. However, it has not been managed correctly by the church, which results in His people breaking the Law of Tithing and bringing all kinds of negative consequences. This is part of the “mystery of destiny” I’ve been referring to. It can only be understood by the correct interpretations coming from God using all the critical details He revealed.

    Ty

  6. Tyler said:

    “That errant teaching persisted through the centuries and is what the modern church and Judaism are basing their doctrine on. I say the church, too, because I was shown how she has erred just as the Jews did.”

    “My point is not to reprimand you, but to show you how the church, Judaism, and world, come to error because they follow their own interpretations instead of God’s. Only God’s interpretation includes ALL the information needed to get the correct answer.

    “But how do we get God’s interpretation? That is the biggest problem the church is not seeing. It is by following His Spirit, but not how the church assumes. The personal relationship with Christ you mention is important, but still also a part of the whole picture. The church has taken only parts of the picture and misconstrued them to mean more than they do.”

    Tyler, I’ve tried to avoid responding to your comments in the hopes that, having expressed yourself, you’d take the hint that I didn’t want to engage you in an endless series of religous debates. You’ve been (metaphorically speaking) beating everyone over the head (including me…and I own this blog) about how you have some sort of special insight into interpreting God through the Spirit that few, if any other believers have access to. You accuse everyone else, including Christianity and Judaism en masse, of relying only on their human intellect, while (somehow) you have managed to bypass the brain God gave you and your ability to reason (see Isaiah 1:18 regarding “reasoning together”) and get an information feed directly from the Spirit of God.

    However, because spiritual experiences are wholly subjective, there is no way you can demonstrate in absolute terms that the type and quality of information you present is directly from God rather than from your own intellect or even your imagination. I’ll grant that you sincerely believe everything you say and I’ll even concede for the moment, that your motives are pure, but there’s no way you can actually prove that your interpretations are any better than any other individual, including the scores of scholars and saints who have written commentaries on God and who have sought to know Him throughout the ages.

    The Internet is full of “latter-day prophets” all claiming that only they have the right knowledge of God. Unless you can somehow demonstrate how you are so unique among all men throughout human history (and especially on the web), you are just another person with a blog and Internet access who has an opinion.

    You are welcome to respond, but try to keep it brief. You have a tendency to post essays everytime you comment and as generous as I want to be in allowing free speech here, my patience for your rather lengthy missives is being strained.

    Almost every other person who comments on my blogs, whether they always agree with me or not, can at least see what I’m trying to communicate as a person expressing my individual experience with God. For some reason, you’re missing that.

  7. I’m not missing what you are trying to do in your writing. I am trying to point you in the right direction because you’re just spinning your wheels spiritually.

    I can prove that the revelation we (not just me) have gotten came directly from God. You can’t see that because you haven’t even looked at the evidence. God has a distinct fingerprint on spiritual guidance and prophecy. It is obvious if you look at the evidence.

    I’m trying to help you, James, as well as everyone else I try to move into the full truth. God’s Kingdom is not as obvious to understand as everyone thinks.

    Ty

  8. Thank you Ty, but they’re my wheels to spin. Everyone travels their own path with God. You may disapprove of mine if you choose, but I’d still prefer that you allow me to negotiate that path as I feel is necessary. God isn’t a destination, He’s the journey.

  9. God is not a destination, but He has the destination. God’s plan in Creation has been unfolding since it began. It’s not a “sit back and let things run themselves” plan. He has a solid agenda and the time we’re in now is a very important part to the final destination.

    You’re right. They are your wheels to spin, but I speak from experience. That’s how I can help others. It’s because I’ve been on both sides of the fence that I can understand and show the errors of the wrong ways to follow God.

    You may not realize it, but God has been orchestrating my responses through orchestrating your experiences to synch with the themes He wants you to pay attention to. I know this through spiritual gifts and having learned how to follow God’s Spirit correctly. God is trying to move all of His people to that planned destination, but many will miss out because they’re not truly following God.

    That’s what happens when we try to follow paths through our own understanding. The journey we make ends up being a reflection of ourselves instead of God because we’re listening to ourselves instead of Him. I’m trying to let you see that, so your wheels gain solid grip and you can move forward into your true destiny.

    Ty

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