75 Days: A Little Help, Please

All over people are fighting. Religious fighting, national fighting, family fighting. Some are even ready to die because they think they’re right. How are we ever going to put this world back together?

Way #11 is dik’duk chaveirim – literally “cut if fine with friends.” See the importance of sitting down, of reasoning together. Don’t assume your viewpoint is correct. Open yourself to the ideas of others. “You don’t have to kill me. If you persuade me that you’re right, then I’ll join you.”

We need real friends – someone you can trust, to discuss plans, feelings, ambitions. With a friend, you don’t worry about scoring points or winning ego contests. A good friend will listen to the pros and cons and give you straight, honest feedback.

This is especially important with decisions like: Should I marry so-and-so? Should I accept this job offer? Should I move into this neighborhood? Everyone has different insights. Amongst many people you’ll find many solutions.

Some roads can be traveled alone, but the road of life shouldn’t be one of them. Go with a friend.

-Rabbi Noah Weinberg
“Way #11: Work It Through With Friends”
From the “48 Ways To Wisdom” series

So James, have you thought in terms that you’re robbing people of your fellowship? You have something that is vitally needed to be heard by the Christian community. Not to mention your sweet and gracious nature that is a great example.

I will also respectfully say you’re limiting God. I find that if I trust Him enough to obey and not focus on all the reasons I can’t, shouldn’t, it’s too hard too, then He is faithful to work out the details that I have no control over (the heart condition of others). After all, he doesn’t ask me to control others, only to obey Him.

-Lrw in a recent comment on my blog

What do I do when my love is away
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day
Are you sad because you’re on your own

No, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

-Lennon and McCartney
With a Little Help from My Friends

I suppose that’s how we all get through things…with a little help from friends. As you can see, it’s been suggested to me that not only might I benefit from fellowship with like-minded believers, but that they might benefit from fellowship with me. Sounds egotistical of me to say it like that, but I think I know what Lrw is saying. This is especially true when, as I’ve been describing in this series, there seems to be so much fighting and feuding and jockeying for position in the religious blogosphere and particularly within the Hebrew Roots movement.

But I must say that religious fighting and religious “haters” aren’t limited to the small corner of cyberspace I happen to occupy. Here’s two examples. First, from the Jewish side of things:

Question: I recently stumbled on an anti-Semitic website and they had a whole list of Talmud sayings that sound very non-PC. One example was: “It is permitted to marry a 3-year-old girl,” which they said means that Judaism condones sexual abuse of a young child. Another example was: “The best of the Gentiles, kill.” Does the Talmud really say this stuff?

The Aish Rabbi Replies: Misquoting Talmudic texts or taking them out of context is an age-old method used to incite anti-Semitism.

In the example that you cite, that a Jew may marry a 3-year-old girl, it simply means that under the age of 3, a “marriage” contract has no validity. Beyond that, any “marriage arrangement” made at above the age of 3 must be accepted and validated by the girl herself at such time that she attains maturity. The Talmud is discussing a technical legal point, not condoning abhorrent sexual activities.

As for: “The best of the gentiles, kill,” the context here is very crucial. The question was raised, how could there be any horses chasing after the Jews with chariots (in Exodus 14:7), when they were all killed in the plague of hail (Exodus 9:19). The Midrash (Tanchuma – Beshalach 8) answers that the horses were owned by those who heeded God’s warnings and locked his animals indoors (Exodus 9:20).

The Midrash concludes that these God-fearing Egyptians — the best Egyptians — turned out to be the ones that gave their horses to chase the Jewish people. In other words, in this particular instance, even the best Egyptians turned out to be oppressors, too. Yet even they – “the best of the gentiles” – were deserving of death.

The Torah states unequivocally that ALL men were created in the image of God (Genesis chapter 1). In fact, the Talmud emphasizes that Adam was created from the dust of all four corners of the earth (so to speak), so that no one nation could claim superiority. And of course, it is forbidden for a Jew to kill a Gentile. (source: Talmud Sanhedrin 57a; “Taz” Y.D. 158:1).

So you see, one can change the meaning of anything by taking it out of context. And better not to waste time refuting these points one by one. God’s Torah is morally perfect, and if something ever sounds otherwise, it is because it is not understood properly.

“Misquoting the Talmud”
from the “Ask the Rabbi” series

Christianity in general has an issue with the Talmud and how it is used in Judaism, believing that it is of no value and that it is the “wisdom of the elders” being placed higher than the Word of God. The Hebrew Roots movement also tends to disdain the Talmud and thus, the last 2,000 years or so of Jewish culture and philosophy as well as Jewish art, literature, lifestyle, and just about anything else Jewish that isn’t, strictly speaking, “Biblical.” And yet, it’s impossible in virtually any sense, for anyone, Jew or Gentile alike, to observe the Torah mitzvot without referencing Talmud and granting the ancient Jewish sages the right and ability to render authoritative halakah. In fact, the very structure of the books, chapters, and verses in the Tanakh (Old Testament) was created by those self-same sages. Try to avoid that if you can.

However, this isn’t just a problem on the Jewish side of the equation:

If you want to see a good example of what be-devils any scholarly analysis of practically anything to do with Jesus and early Christianity, have a read of the postings of the Canadian TV self-promoter, Simcha Jacobovici here.

Jacobovici (who styles himself “the naked archaeologist” on his self-produced TV programmes, and offers no competence in anything relevant to the analysis of the fragment) notes that various scholars (particularly Coptologists and specialists in ancient Greek palaeography) have raised questions about the authenticity of the fragment (announced to the scholarly world in Prof. Karen King’s paper presented at a conference in Rome several weeks ago), and simply trashes all the scholars and queries as “sleeper agents of Christian orthodoxy”.

He claims that they give no basis for their hesitations, which is patently incorrect and misleading. The several scholarly analyses that I’ve seen all in fact present in considerable detail reasons for wondering about this fragment. I’ve seen none, not a one of the scholarly analyses in question, that raises any issue about “Christian orthodoxy”.

-Larry Hurtado
from “The ‘Jesus’ Wife’ Fragment: Self-Promoting Personal Attacks”
Larry Hurtado’s Blog

I suppose I was being rather self-centered or myopic in believing this problem was confined to the wee online community in which I participate. As you can see (and I have discovered), these sorts of problems exist elsewhere and probably everywhere. The only way to avoid them is to be completely disengaged from community, even online community which is as easy to take or lose as opening and closing a web browser.

On the one hand, the thought of facing such vitriolic commentary either online or face-to-face isn’t appealing in the slightest. On the other hand, I have to remember that there are some “religious people” who don’t use God like a blunt instrument with which to beat others repeatedly about the head and shoulders:

Rav Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev was known for his love and good will toward his fellow Jews always trying to assess the good in people rather than expose the bad.

Once on the Fast of Tish’a B’av he saw a Jew eating in a non-kosher restaurant. He tapped lightly on the window of the establishment and summoned the man outside.

“Perhaps you forgot that today is a fast day?” Rav Levi Yitzchok queried.

“No, Rebbe,” the man replied.

“Then perhaps you did not realize that this restaurant in not kosher.”

“No, Rebbe, I know it is a traife (non-kosher) eatery.”

Rav Levi Yitzchok softly placed his hands on the man’s shoulders and looked heavenward. “Ribbono Shel Olam, Master of the Universe,” he exclaimed. “Look at how wonderful your children are. They may be eating on a fast day. In a non-kosher restaurant to boot. Yet they refuse to emit a falsehood from their lips!”

-Rabbi M. Kamenetzky
“Eve of Life”
Commentary on Torah Portion Beresheet

As much as I lament the few rather vocal and hostile nudniks (pests) on the web, there are a lot more people who represent the spirit demonstrated by Rav Levi Yitzchok who continue to be an encouragement to me.

However, the next step, if I understand what is being asked of me correctly, will be a lot harder.




6 thoughts on “75 Days: A Little Help, Please”

  1. James:
    “This is especially true when, as I’ve been describing in this series, there seems to be so much fighting and feuding and jockeying for position in the religious blogosphere and particularly within the Hebrew Roots movement.”

    You seem like such a tender guy James, and hence, (seems to me) your aversion to put yourself in the path of fighting and ugliness, particularly among those whom you think should know better.

    I don’t read your blog everyday (sorry!) but I think I notice a trend in you. You’re inspired by those who take the “high road”, as demonstrated in today’s example of “Misquoting Talmud.” Of course this “high road” is also the “road less traveled”, and unfortunately it’s the “road not taken” for the majority; including religious folks. Ok, enough with the song, book and poem quotes. I think you get the point! 🙂

    I came to realize that we all have the power to create our own community, or culture.

    Now, I wanna be careful here because in MJ realm we’ve seen folks who aren’t Jewish, or know Hebrew, splinter off and create their own “corrected” congregation, deciding their pronunciation of YAHshUaH (or some such nonsense, I’m just making this up) or calendar calculations are “more better”… Hmmm… Anyway, NOT talking about that trend. Rather, talking about being in relationship and proximity so when issues come up, and you have an opportunity to express yourself, you do so by:

    Diffusing anger — speaking with wisdom — offering your POV from your altered paradigm, to those who have no clue about what they don’t know — injecting grace — (which, edifies the body) — and, eventually you will have a group of people to fellowship with more deeply.

    Just as you’re moved by those who behave that way, you’ll be that person for someone else.


  2. “You seem like such a tender guy James, and hence, (seems to me) your aversion to put yourself in the path of fighting and ugliness, particularly among those whom you think should know better.”

    James’ a good guy. I do remember a bit more feisty James, from his One Law days, which is understandable in hindsight, I suppose:) Oh, them good’OL days…

  3. @Lrw: “The High Road Less Traveled.” What a wonderful title for a future blog post. 🙂 I’ve actually tried “creating” my own wee community. I used to have coffee after work with a couple of other guys to discuss whatever issues we were wrestling with at the time, but it feel apart, primarily because of family obligations and such. It was just too hard to avoid the “my wife needs me to…that day” issues. Worked for awhile, though, and we got to talk about all the things that would make most religious people run in panic…like, just how much control does God exert in our lives on a day-by-day basis.

    @Gene. “Oh, them good;OL days…” Oy. (rolleyes). 😉

  4. James: “The High Road Less Traveled.” What a wonderful title for a future blog post. ”

    I love it!

    Gene: “I do remember a bit more feisty James, from his One Law days, which is understandable in hindsight, I suppose:) Oh, them good’OL days…”

    Wow, interesting. I’m too new I guess. 🙂

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