light of the world

Dimming the Divine Light

Our teacher the Baal Shem Tov said: Every single thing one sees or hears is an instruction for his conduct in the service of G-d. This is the idea of avoda, service, to comprehend and discern in all things a way in which to serve G-d.

-Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe;
Translation by Yitschak Meir Kagan

If only we could keep this in mind throughout our days and nights, in the midst of our conversations, and particularly when we “talk” to each other on the Web. But it seems that each disagreement, each challenge, is an excuse to forget about how all experiences are instructions for how to serve God, even as we believe we are serving God.

I suppose I could cite the Baltimore riots since it’s all over the news and social media just now, but a sense of powerlessness, fear, rage, and violence is what has fueled this latest conflagration.

And that has little or nothing to do with us as a community and how we are to serve God.

I know that we people of faith are also just people and we often use that as an excuse for our own outbursts (though thankfully, they’re not on the same order or scale as the aforementioned-rioting). Still, when we argue and particularly, when we go out of our way to tear down a fellow disciple, then we have borne witness to how far the ekklesia of Messiah has fallen in an already fallen world.

I don’t hold myself as some sterling example. I have failed God and my comrades in the Messiah’s “body” in many ways. I simply am astonished that, on the one hand, we have such wonderful words and sentiments to use as examples, such as the quote I begin this blog post with, and on the other hand, who we are and how we actually behave as flesh and blood people attempting, however poorly, to live the life we were born to live.

Show a mighty emperor the world and ask him where he most desires to conquer. He will spin the globe to the furthest peninsula of the most far-flung land, stab his finger upon it and declare, “This! When I have this, then I shall have greatness!”

So too, the Infinite Light. In those places most finite, where the light of day barely trickles in, there is found His greatest glory.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

As little pieces of the Divine Light, we are to conquer the world by shining our light into every corner of it, replacing darkness with illumination.

But how are we supposed to do that when we can’t even conquer the yetzer hara within ourselves?

18 thoughts on “Dimming the Divine Light”

  1. Thanks so much for defending the ones being maligned, James. I am relatively new to your blog (since late February I believe) and am saddened to see how some just barge in with a condescending even denigrating attitude.

    I don’t get why people come on opposing blogs when, from the get go, they aren’t interested in a friendly/healthy exchange at all. It seems they rather enjoy stirring up dissension.

    Any tearing down in my mind is a HORRIBLE witness to the world (not to mention a sin against person being maligned). Yeshua said, “By your LOVE one for another, they will know you are my disciples. John 13:35, 1 John 4:20.

    How can the world KNOW if we are such a poor witness?

  2. PS: Just went to the link you provided. Wow. I couldn’t even stomach reading the entire thread. So much rudeness from the blog owner and his followers(?).

    God bless you James (and Ruth), and hang in there.

  3. hey James and merrill, I have tremendously benefited from your blog and a day does not pass by without dropping into your blog. If I may have dropped to your blog a lot earlier, I may have certainly went through less trials and errors. You are a great person of Hashem though you might not regard yourself that way. i will keep praying for you and your family as well.

    Regarding the link you’ve provided, I don’t want to denigrate anyone and nor it is my attempt to commit lashon hara against anyone. However, what I am seeing is the general pitfalls of Messianic Judaism, of which I myself and probably many others went through. These pitfalls, if not restrained enough, may lead to apostosy since it may lead people to orthodox judaism and denying the true perfecter of our faith, Yeshua. It is in this regard that you, a person who went through a lot of trials and errors, that I suggested you to participate in the congregation or the church. Not because you are warm-hearted person who fervently digs for the truth, but because of the faxt you should be mentoring the other people so that they may be rightly informed just Moshe was a great mentor for Joshua. People needs you though you might not like their hashfakwa and Hashem needs you there in the church.

    i will keep you in my prayer and also will pray that you might be added many people of faith to stand for the truth.

  4. I know I unsubbed from that blog a while back. It was so full of useless arguments among the various faction of those who have left “Babylon,” and brought it with them, although at first it had some interesting questions and material.

  5. @Merrill: Sadly, such activity is all too common in the blogosphere, even among people of faith. I’ve written on this topic numerous times including in the blog post Attack Dogs. Why do people do this? It seems to be a common behavior when an individual believes someone is wrong on the Internet.

    Oh, I wouldn’t recommend going to the blog I cited, at least not with the idea of engaging in a dialog. As you can see from what you read, the response would likely be less than cordial.

    @Chul Hwang: The bad part of Christianity, Messianic Judaism, the Hebrew Roots movement, and any other religious group is that they are full of flawed human beings. By the way, I don’t actually consider the other blog’s owner/author to be practicing “Messianic Judaism” although I know he’ll disagree with me. My definition of Messianic Judaism is very specific and those Gentile who believe they are indistinguishable from the Jewish people and co-members of the Sinai covenant along with Israel (and who even believe they are Israel) practice a form of Hebrew Roots commonly referred to as “One Law” or alternately “One Torah.” That’s the major point of contention between Peter and me.

    @Chaya: Yes, I only comment there when I am prepared to be severely lambasted. Well, to be fair, Peter has his good points and there are things we do agree upon, but the division between a One Law belief and a perspective involving Covenant Distinctiveness between Gentile and Jewish disciples of Messiah can tolerate no bridge across the chasm.

  6. @ chul,
    Though I am relatively new to Jame’s blog (as welk as Derek’s), I have been actively involved on two other blogs for a couple of years. One is a well rounded Messianic site that is not Torah Observant (in the Orthodox sense) but considers all points of view, the other is an apologist site. I have observed on these sites exactly what you are describing. I think it is wrong to sharply self-divide over “minors” in theology, especially theology that isn’t always clearly spelled out. I agree with you that we need to come together in loving comnunity despite our differences.And this is absolutely doable as long as we are willing to allow each other some measure of diversity (regarding the “minors” if faith in Yeshua).
    Some however make “minors” into “majors”. They are so entrenched in their view that they won’t allow any diversity in thought or practice from their position whatsoever. (Usually however, to me it seems, this has much more to do with pride than honest discourse.)

    Regarding the danger of apostasy. I too have witnessed exactly what you are describing. Basically what hapoens is that love for all things Jewish related begins to TRUMP love for Messiah. Once we begin to pull away from our first love, it is a slippery slope.

    I am thrilled that the church is begnning to correct the errors if the past, especially as it relates to the centrality if the Jewish people from which our faith springs forth. However whenever there is a movement towards repentance and progress there is also the enemy coming in with a counterfeit and we need to be on guard so that we too don’t fall away.

    @James, Don’t worry, after my brief visit yesterday, I definitely WON’T be visiting that blog.

  7. The “Babylon” thing. It’s a direction that comes up among people who start thinking they need to get serious about faith intersecting with or directing life. I have some friends (more like acquaintances now although they will be coming to visit in May) who at least used to hand out a “Mystery Babylon” book. It’ll be interesting to see where they are in their heads now. They did recently say something about church and Easter, pretty much like before (even though they were against Easter, never made sense to me). I could hardly believe that their takeaway from the book was pretty much just things like not to give gifts for Christmas. Christmas, for instance, was still something they would participate in, accepting invitations for parties and gifts of goodies. And they made a big deal of it, that they weren’t supposedly participating.

    I myself took a different route, separating Christmas and Easter from my religious point of view — but still making sure my kids didn’t feel deprived of thoughtful gifts (not necessarily for Christmas). It kinda seemed like the Babylon attitude was an excuse to be frugal (or stingy) in an additional part of their life. I mean, people can do what they want on something like that without making it their mission to pressure other people with the likes of an attempted guilt trip as an excuse (so they themselves won’t be judged by others or because they are into some kind of economic evangelism).

    Now, over time, I’ve gone back to seeing a lot of worth (even if I don’t participate by attending) in observances on a religious level for Christmas (I still see Easter as too problematic for my comfort). All I’m saying is there are so many trajectories. Some are anywhere from different to way different fundamentally from the personal heaviness of heart that comes from learning the historical reality of replacing Passover with Easter and then enforcing that — and more than that, especially, throwing out Jews — with military and governmental (and now more private/non-profit institutional) edict and posturing.

    So, I’ve touched on at least three varying motivations here. And then there is the heart attitude that can be present with individuals who may learn and transition. During the course of years and trying to find people to associate with that had the proper sense of love I recognized and grasp of history I could identify with, I encountered those who were way caught up in how awesome they thought they were supposed to be while fluffing their feathers about deficiencies in natural Jews. Ugh. I didn’t get caught up in that. Although I showed up in such a setting a few times, and got a feel for the environment, they seemed to me burdened with an inability to make sense of things* (besides just not feeling like home, which I would force myself to deal with if it seemed right anyway, not that they weren’t welcoming to me).

    And this guy displays himself to think he has a right to accuse a woman of being dishonest by using her given birth name, like she doesn’t have a right to it and has invited confrontation.

    * This is not the same as having different opinions on or approaches to some matters. I won’t go into trying to explain all that.

  8. Thank you again James, for trying to temper the vitriol directed at me at yonder blog, you’re a mensch. 🙂

    I attempted to clarify my reasons for creating what he calls my “awful” blog–which, btw, has ZERO to do with any One Law theology since that isn’t part of our “story”. I also tried to get him to understand the context of my original comment on your post that began this whole thing. Unfortunately, he’s displayed no interest in understanding anything, rather he just wants a fight.

    Ehh, I won’t bother returning there, in the astute words of ‘Sweet Brown’: “ain’t nobody got time for that.”

    BTW Merrill, thank you and may God bless you as well.

    1. Thank you to all for the discussion here. (James, Ruth, Chul, Marleen, Chaya). I would love to say more, but as I write this I am frantically trying gather together last minute details for our youngest daughter’s wedding THIS weekend…YIKES!!

      Shabbat Shalom to all of you! 🙂

  9. Thank you James and Merrill. I see, I see. Please understand that I am saying out of love for this blog and for the people. Talk about diversity…. I myself was no exception to entrenched views.

    @ James.. For the One Law thing, I have also went through this and when I applied it to myself, the yoke of the commandments allotted for the Jewish People became quite overwhelming as I abstained eating pork, and also kept sabbath and moedims as well for last 3 years. Based on my experience, it really is going to wear the Gentile Believers out as the environment and circumstances do not allow the believers to actually ‘observe’ the “Commandment for the Jews,” not even in the most lenient sense. Upon their ‘failure,’ sense of guilty ensues and they might feel terrible for not ‘observing the law’ as much as their desire. This ‘observance’ thing, defined by the strictest sense like the Orthodox, can really drive the Gentiles way off the Mark as the observing the commandments meant for the Jews should be provided the Jewish Environment or any environment that can back the observance. Based on my personal experience and what I’ve seen from your blog about the One Law, I think we really need to know what we practice and teach before actually jumping into ‘new belief.’ I will also pray for this matter as well, bro. I hope this doesn’t sound not to helpful but I encourage you to stay strong and courageous. Love in Yeshua..

    @ Merrill.. I know… Before I say anything, I would like to thank you for commending my English. lol… ^_^;
    Appreciating Diversity is really hard for any people once we ourselves can be entrenched with our own views as well. I think this entrenchment really comes from our unwillingness to listen to others not to mention our pride as we cleave to our belief so intensely that we will not be corrected despite our flawed belief. Nonetheless, as you are very aware of, diversity should be only permitted in the sense that it does not go against the scripture.

    Speaking of ‘minors,’ or anything related to that, based on my personal experience, I think sense of insecurity and sense of relating to Hashem better come into play as these become the basis for observing the commandments meant for the Jews though these two might be the very least factors motivating others to follow the ONE LAW movement.

    Anything else that trumps over the Messiah will absolutely tip us over. I used to think that Messianic Judaism would be the perfect solution, but it really isn’t. Neither is the mainstream Christianity. For we know in partial, but we will know fully when He comes. May the one who is called Adonai and the Messiah Yeshua come speedily in our days..

    Baruch Haba Beshem Adonai.. Bless you all!

  10. @Sojourning
    I liked what you wrote over there about your background and your journey in life. How sad there was NO understanding.

    I don’t “get” why they say they so enjoyed reading what they think are silly, senseless people (here). How gleeful they are to say people don’t understand anything. Am I (or are others, not them, like we) — in kind –supposed to do cartwheels because they demonstrate both arguments that non-Jews are Jews (or close enough that your concern for non-Jews not to claim to be Jews is off) and also arguments that non-Jews are not Jews?

    I like that we can discuss matters. I’ve been frustrated at times. But overall, we get to reason together.

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