God’s Name is One and So Are We

Standing before GodThe Piaczezner Rebbe, zt”l, learns an important lesson about chassidus from a statement on today’s daf. “Why should we have to discuss this at length when the Mishnah in Kareisos 25 states explicitly that—according to Rabbi Eliezer—one can bring an asham any day, at any time that he desires. This was called an ‘asham chassidim.’ This teaches us the mainstay of being a genuine chassid. Not only must one never believe that he only does good; he must also believe—in keeping with how his avodah should be due to the holiness of his soul—that his avodah is not so pure. He should feel at all times that he may well have transgressed a serious Torah prohibition which requires a sacrifice, chas v’shalom…”

But Rav Moshe, the son of Rav Nachman of Kossov, zt”l, taught a very different message from the next statement in the Mishnah: “The day after Yom Kippur is known as ‘God’s Name’—‘Gott’s Nomen’ in Yiddish. We can explain this in light of a statement in the Mishnah in Kareisos 25. There we find that Bava ben Buta would bring a voluntary korban asham every day except for the day after Yom Kippur. This teaches that on the day after Yom Kippur every Jew is an aspect of a tzaddik. In Bava Basra 75 we find that, in the ultimate future, the tzaddikim will be called by God’s Name, since they will be completely subsumed in Him. It follows that the day after Yom Kippur, when we should all be absolutely connected to God, is known as God’s Name.

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“God’s Name”
Kereisos 25

Christianity has no event or commemoration that mirrors Yom Kippur. We justify this by saying that our sins (past, present, and future) have been forgiven once and for all by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. We don’t have to go before God’s altar once per year and “sacrifice Jesus” all over again. The idea of an annual confession of sins, repentance, and heart-felt dedication to do better in the coming year can be seen by some Christians as even insulting, and denying the grace of Christ.

I think this is a mistake.

I think Christians, as least some of us, can get kind of lazy about our sins. We can get this whole, “I’m forgiven by the blood of Jesus” attitude and eventually, it doesn’t matter what we say and do in our day to day lives. We’re “covered by the blood” so we’ll be OK in the end.

Won’t we?

I recall a similar attitude encountered by John the Baptist and his immediate response:

And do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham. –Matthew 3:9 (ESV)

Christians tend to disdain the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to be baptized by John (see verse 7) but are probably shocked to read that I am making an unfavorable comparison between us and them.

Maybe we need to be reminded that we’re not such “hot stuff” just because we’re “saved.” I keep saying this, but I think it needs to be repeated constantly for the sake of the brethren…that salvation is just the barest beginning of the journey, not its conclusion.

At the risk of making another inaccurate or erroneous connection between classic Jewish teachings and the Christian scriptures, when I read the “story off the daf” today, and particularly it’s conclusion, in addition to Yom Kippur, it reminded me of this:

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. –Revelation 22:1-4 (ESV)

Let me make a couple more connections.

…bring my sons from afar and my daughters from the end of the earth, everyone who is called by my name… –Isaiah 43:6-7 (ESV)

…if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land. –2 Chronicles 7:14 (ESV)

And Rav Moshe, the son of Rav Nachman of Kossov, zt”l, taught:

It follows that the day after Yom Kippur, when we should all be absolutely connected to God, is known as God’s Name.

Admittedly, except for the passage from John’s Revelation, the people being described as “called by God’s Name” are Jewish. However, I wonder if, by the grace and benefit of the Messianic covenant Jesus established with his own life, death, and life, that we who are the disciples among the nations may also “be called by His Name” though we are not part of the covenant of Sinai which is only reserved for the Hebrews? I believe we can.

Then while we in the church don’t have a “Yom Kippur” event (sadly), if we did, it might represent the day to come when we would be past sin and tears and death and the day when “His Name will be on our foreheads.”

Then the following might also apply:

It has been previously noted that it is not enough to intend to unify one’s own soul with G-d through the performance of Torah and mitzvot; one must also seek to unite the source of all the souls of Israel with the infinite Ein Sof-light.

Often, loving another is ultimately a result of self-love: a person loves that which is good for him. The same is true with regard to loving G-d and desiring to cleave to Him through the study of Torah and the performance of mitzvot: the individual desires his own welfare, and that which will benefit his own soul — and there can be no better way of achieving this than by cleaving to G-d.

Likutei Amarim, middle of Chapter 41
from Today’s Tanya Lesson
By Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi (1745-1812), founder of Chabad Chassidism
Elucidated by Rabbi Yosef Wineberg. Translated from Yiddish by Rabbi Levy Wineberg and Rabbi Sholom B. Wineberg. Edited by Uri Kaploun.
Listen online at Chabad.org

Remember what I said in my previous morning meditation about how this compares to the two greatest commandments taught by the Master himself? We cannot love our neighbors as ourselves unless we love God, but in seeking to unify our souls with His Spirit, we must also seek to unify the souls of everyone created in His Image.

You might say that this is the heart of Christian evangelism, but it’s not that simple. I get a little nervous when I hear believers talk about “winning souls for Jesus” as if they were talking about buying a winning lottery ticket or adding to a “collectables” hobby. It’s like Evangelists only “win” when they add another body to a church pew, and then they drop the person like a hot rock and move on to the “next soul to save.”

I’m talking about how we behave, whether or not we have anything to gain or lose. God “saves souls.” We merely live lives that (ideally) are the reflection and the container for a Light far brighter than our own.

Loving God and being called by His Name is about recognizing that loving God is what’s best for us as individuals. In that sense, it’s purely selfish, which in and of itself isn’t a bad thing. However, if we think it’s only about “You and me, Jesus,” then our vision of faith becomes extremely near-sighted. Once we realize that loving God is good for us, then we realize it’s good for others, and our goal becomes not just to establish and grow our relationship with Him, but to share that relationship with the world around us.

This is not done by passing out religious tracts or beating everyone over the head with Bible verses. This is much better done by really loving your neighbor as yourself. What do you do to love yourself? Probably, you take care of yourself (see Ephesians 5:25-33 ESV). You make sure you have adequate (or excessive) food, shelter, clothing, and companionship. If you love others as you love yourself as the means by which you love and cleave to God, then what should you actually do to be called by His Name?

It may seem odd for me to try and associate classic Jewish and Kabbalistic teachings with the lessons of Jesus and Paul, but I’ve recently compared a Trappist Monk and the Rebbe, so stranger things have happened.

In the end, God is One and His Word is One…and His Name is One. If we cleave to God, so are we, all of us, no matter how different we are from each other.

“Infinite diversity in infinite combination.” -Spock

3 thoughts on “God’s Name is One and So Are We”

  1. I agree with you about the matter of sin. I find it interesting in this day and age, with such resourses at the end of a keyboard or smart phone that some many ‘christians’ take the church placibo each sunday and think everythings ok because Jesus died for their sins.
    Ofcourse, at a base level this is true. Jesus did die for our sins. But it is my understanding Jesus was a sin offering. The eternal sin offering. He replaced the lambs that burnt in the desert and temple. However, for G-d a sacrifice has no meaning without repentance. Recognising your sin and giving it to G-d in contrition is as important as the sacrifice attached to it.

  2. My concern is that there are believers out there who think that, because one cannot work to achieve salvation, they have no personal responsibility to manage their own behaviors. Once we assume a life of faith, we cannot allow that “sacrifice” to have been made in vain. If we do not proceed to deliberately change ourselves to become more “Christ-like,” both in repenting of sin and abandoning (as best we can, through grace) it, and in continually doing good to others, then what’s the point of a life of faith at all?

  3. I dont know if faith should have ‘a point’. Faith, i think, is like fuel. It is the drive. The Holy Spirit is there to inspire and guide, we have G-d to talk and nudge and Jesus as an example and payment for our sin (this i know you know). We can pray for more faith and our prayers can be answered.. if G-d sees that we are in need of the fuel. Where are we going? What are we doing? If the answer is not much then maybe we do not need much faith. The new testament saids we will be closer to Jesus through suffering.. for most ‘western’ believers the idea of suffering for christ is simply a noble idea and not one we volenteer to.

    Faith should drive us to lead by example. Not to simply read the bible and setting it to memory. We should be our there, using this fuel to talk to the poor, ill, dirty, weak and abused. This is Jesus’ great example. Faith says to us, this is what i am here to do. This is ALL Jesus actually did. He said ALOT. But his example is this.

    I believe the great sacrifice was not simple Jesus on the cross, but the very separation of Jesus from Abba Father. So, in this sense, the sacrifice of Jesus was to separate himself from his position and home and reach out to the people on the earth who needed first his help and then his example and then his blood sacrifice. To become more ‘christ-like’ we need to follow that example (somewhere i fall very short).

    sorry for rambling.

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