Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach: Mercy

hosea-and-gomerSo Moses cut two tablets of stone like the first. And he rose early in the morning and went up on Mount Sinai, as the Lord had commanded him, and took in his hand two tablets of stone. The Lord descended in the cloud and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the Lord. The Lord passed before him and proclaimed, “The Lord, the Lord, a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness, keeping steadfast love for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children and the children’s children, to the third and the fourth generation.” And Moses quickly bowed his head toward the earth and worshiped. And he said, “If now I have found favor in your sight, O Lord, please let the Lord go in the midst of us, for it is a stiff-necked people, and pardon our iniquity and our sin, and take us for your inheritance.”

Exodus 34:4-9

Moses pleads with the Almighty not to send an angel in His place, but to accompany the Jewish people Himself through the trek in the wilderness even though they had sinned with the Golden Calf. Moses asks the Almighty to reveal how He interacts with the universe (it is a mystical interchange). Then the Almighty commands Moses to carve two stone tablets and to ascend Mt. Sinai so that He can engrave the replacement tablets for the set that Moses broke at the transgression with the Golden Calf.

The Almighty reveals his Thirteen Attributes of Mercy (Exodus 34:5) which we repeat on Yom Kippur and other times of seeking the Almighty’s mercy. Moses asks the Almighty to forgive the Jewish people. The Almighty renews the Covenant with the Jewish people commanding us not to enter into a covenant with the inhabitants of the land, not make molten gods, to observe the Festival of Matzos, laws of first born issue, to keep the Shabbat, celebrate Shavuot and Sukkot and ends with assorted laws of offerings.

-Rabbi Kalman Packouz
“Shabbat Shalom Weekly”
Commentary on Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach

Based on yesterday’s extra meditation, I’m having second thoughts about God’s attribute of mercy. I realize that I’m still caught up in the dynamic interplay between the actual nature of God and what we draw from the Bible about Him. We can’t know God fully since He’s an infinite being. We can (sort of) know the Bible, since it is a finite document, though as I repeatedly discover, it’s a tough book to know.

There is so much that is beautiful in the Bible, so much mercy, so much grandeur, so much compassion from our infinite God.

And then there are some pretty difficult things to try to understand about God, at least based on how we understand the Bible.

But I should talk.

I keep trying to convince Christians that God didn’t cancel Torah observance for the Jewish people just because of Jesus. It’s an “unfortunate truth” of the Bible (well, not unfortunate for me) for many Christians, once they see it. So why am I complaining about Pastor Randy pointing to another “unfortunate truth” about the Bible that I don’t want to face. He doesn’t want to accept that Jewish believers in Jesus still wanted to keep the Torah and were still obligated to keep the Torah, even though the Gentile disciples had no such obligation. I don’t want to accept that God chooses which people are going to be saved and which ones aren’t going to be saved from before they were born.

shattered-glassYou either draw the winning lottery ticket and get saved or you don’t draw it and well…tough luck on you.

I have to write these “morning meditations” one day early so you’ll have them when you wake up each day. That means what you are reading for Friday, I’m writing on Thursday, when I’m still stinging about the whole “Divine Election” thing. I don’t really have a plan for this blog post, I just need to have something ready for Friday and I still need to let off steam. But I’m feeling a little shattered now and I need to hear something from God.

There will come a time, very soon, when we will be shown miracles so great, they will make the Ten Plagues and the splitting of the Red Sea appear as ordinary as nature itself.

So great, no mind can begin to fathom them;
so powerful, they will transform the very fabric of our world, elevating it in a way that the wonders of the Exodus never did.

For then, our eyes will be opened and granted the power to see the greatest of miracles: Those miracles that occur to us now, beneath our very noses, every day.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Greater Miracles”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe
Rabbi M. M. Schneerson

Before difficulties arise, think in advance about what could go wrong, and then try to work out potential solutions. By devising a variety of solutions, you will be prepared to cope in a productive manner with whatever contingency may arise.

Today, think of one potential difficulty that might arise in your life. Brainstorm with yourself and think of five possible solutions.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #772, Plan for Difficulties”

The problem is, I never saw this one coming. I was completely blindsided. So here I sit, munching on a bit of matzoh and cream cheese (foregoing the morning bagel) and pondering God’s “mercy.”

Or man’s.

I have to remember that doctrine is what human beings come up with when they read the Bible (or any holy book, I suppose) and codify beliefs into a body of teachings or instructions that are then meant to be consumed and absorbed by the “faithful.”

Often doctrine specifically connotes a corpus of religious dogma as it is promulgated by a church, but not necessarily: doctrine is also used to refer to a principle of law, in the common law traditions, established through a history of past decisions, such as the doctrine of self-defense, or the principle of fair use, or the more narrowly applicable first-sale doctrine. In some organizations, doctrine is simply defined as “that which is taught”, in other words the basis for institutional teaching of its personnel internal ways of doing business.


A little over a week ago, I said that the problem with religious people is that they all want you to believe what they believe. I guess that’s the problem with me too, since I keep sharing my point of view on both ancient and modern Jewish disciples of the Messiah, and how I believe that a Jew having faith in Jesus is not incompatible with a life of Torah observance for that Jewish person.

Yeah, I guess I can’t complain…but I’m going to, anyway.

Passover is supposed to be the commemoration of coming out of slavery and into redemption and freedom thanks to God. For a Christian, we can see a picture of our coming out of slavery to sin and into redemption and freedom by faith through the grace of Jesus Christ. I just need that to include all human beings everywhere, not that everyone will be saved, but everyone needs to have a chance. Otherwise, why did God create 99 percent of the human race?

But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:8-9

HopeThis gives me some small comfort. God, according to Peter, doesn’t desire that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

God desires that for us, but some small part of it has to be up to us. A free gift is only a gift if it is accepted. God holds a package calls “salvation” in his hand and offers it to us. The package is wrapped in pretty paper and has an attractive bow, but we can’t see inside the box. Some of us accept it and maybe more don’t. But everyone gets the opportunity to reach out, touch the hand of God, and take the gift.

If God only offers the package to those He knows will accept it and ignores the others, what does that make God?

I need to end this on a hopeful up note, not only for your sake, but for mine. Here goes.

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by him without spot or blemish, and at peace. And count the patience of our Lord as salvation, just as our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you according to the wisdom given him, as he does in all his letters when he speaks in them of these matters. There are some things in them that are hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other Scriptures. You therefore, beloved, knowing this beforehand, take care that you are not carried away with the error of lawless people and lose your own stability. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen.

2 Peter 3:14-18

But then, someone commented on yesterday’s “extra meditation” with this:

Does not Scripture teach that one’s final salvation depends on the state of the soul at death? As Yeshua himself tells us, “He who endures to the end will be saved” (Matt. 24:13; cf. 25:31–46). One who dies in the state of friendship with God (the state of grace) will go to heaven. The one who dies in a state of enmity and rebellion against God (the state of sin) will go to hell.

Did not Yeshua die on the cross freely for our sins….. and has He not returned to heaven to appear before God on our behalf? Has He, Himself, not provided for our salvation? (And while that does not mean there is no process by which this is applied to us as individuals, surely, we do have assurances.) And yet, while we, like Adam and Eve, can become unreconciled with God and need to come back and be reconciled again with HIM … is that not ALWAYS an option?

Maybe I’m not crazy after all for believing that God does love everyone and is not willing for anyone to be condemned without having a fair chance to get to know Him.

God please have more mercy than we think you do.

Good Shabbos.

6 thoughts on “Shabbat Chol HaMoed Pesach: Mercy”

  1. I’m glad to see you found Kefa’s complement in 2Pet.3:9 to Rav Shaul’s observation to Timothy in 1Tim.2:4. I’ve never really understood why some folks resist such clear invocations of the concept of “all” or everyone, not wishing any to be lost and desiring all to be rescued. Maybe it’s similar to the resistance against the Rom.11:26 reference to all Israel being saved. If HaShem is viewed as truly sovereign, and He has commanded humans to “choose” (as in Deut.30:19; Josh.24:15; 2Sam.24:12/1Chr.21:10; Prov.1:29;3:31, Is.7:15-16;56:4), who is anyone to deny the validity of choice or the ability and responsibility to do so? Certainly there are cases where HaShem has taken initiative to choose or select someone for something, that they never would have known or thought to choose for themselves. And yet we do not know why these choices were initiated, whether arbitrarily or because of some aspect about the ones chosen (or even because of some third party’s special request). We are told occasionally that it was not due to the special merit of the ones chosen, as if they might have deserved special treatment. We can also wonder if specially chosen ones would have been chosen if they would have been likely to refuse (since HaKadosh Baruch Hu would have known their choice even before they could make it). But then, there is no merit in humans making a choice. The best we can ever do is to make the right one that corresponds with HaShem’s wishes, which is already what is required of us. We can never exceed HaShem’s righteous requirements to earn some sort of merit (except that non-Jews seem to be able to come pretty close to that if they fit the description in Is.56). And HaShem’s rationales for making any sort of selection seem to be connected with His grand plan for the redemption of all humanity. So whenever we may be in doubt about something or someone He has chosen, we’re on pretty solid ground to suspect that somehow it will further the goals of His master plan.

  2. I do believe that God has put something in all human beings that makes us seek Him, but so many people make different choices, selecting other spiritual directions. I guess that’s why there are so many different religious, spiritual, and philosophical disciplines in our world.

    But there is only One God.

  3. “For in Him all the fullness of G-d was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.”

    “For as in Adam all die, so also in Messiah shall all be made alive.”

    “For G-d has imprisoned all in disobedience so that he may be merciful to all.”

    Just a few verses to mull over.

    Peace to you, James.

  4. James: This comment is a indeed in response to today’s blog,but forgive me for touching as well on a previous one.

    Like you, my encounter with the Living God came in my adult years. After the journey started i marveled that i had had such a ‘good education” and yet, when it came to wisdom and understanding about God i might as well have been raised in the Dark Ages. So, learning about all these doctrimes like election, pentecostalism, etc. etc. over the years were ‘new’ encounters for me. Books were read ad nauseum, but in the end, only reading the Scriptures ‘for myself’ with the great help from the Holy Spirit has brought hope. Most of all, it has helped me know Who God is, for Himself, not all the ways people (including me) invented His personality for Him. So, what does this have to do with Mercy?? Part of the ongoing personal passage out of the Dark Ages has been to learn hymns i never heard before, and here is one on Mercy that brings tears of joy to my eyes and heart to this day.

    Words: Fred­er­ick W. Fa­ber, Or­a­to­ry Hymns, 1854. Ano­ther ar­range­ment can be found in Souls of Men, Why Will Ye Scat­ter.


    There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
    Like the wideness of the sea;
    There’s a kindness in His justice,
    Which is more than liberty.

    There is no place where earth’s sorrows
    Are more felt than up in Heaven;
    There is no place where earth’s failings
    Have such kindly judgment given.

    There is welcome for the sinner,
    And more graces for the good;
    There is mercy with the Savior;
    There is healing in His blood.

    There is grace enough for thousands
    Of new worlds as great as this;
    There is room for fresh creations
    In that upper home of bliss.

    For the love of God is broader
    Than the measure of our mind;
    And the heart of the Eternal
    Is most wonderfully kind.

    There is plentiful redemption
    In the blood that has been shed;
    There is joy for all the members
    In the sorrows of the Head.

    ’Tis not all we owe to Jesus;
    It is something more than all;
    Greater good because of evil,
    Larger mercy through the fall.

    If our love were but more simple,
    We should take Him at His word;
    And our lives would be all sunshine
    In the sweetness of our Lord.

    Souls of men! why will ye scatter
    Like a crowd of frightened sheep?
    Foolish hearts! why will ye wander
    From a love so true and deep?

    It is God: His love looks mighty,
    But is mightier than it seems;
    ’Tis our Father: and His fondness
    Goes far out beyond our dreams.

    But we make His love too narrow
    By false limits of our own;
    And we magnify His strictness
    With a zeal He will not own.

    Was there ever kinder shepherd
    Half so gentle, half so sweet,
    As the Savior who would have us
    Come and gather at His feet?

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