Tag Archives: change

I’m Not Who I Was

changing-courseDo not be dismayed by the hypocrisy of others, nor by your own inconsistencies. Our lives are all journeys through hills and valleys—no person’s spiritual standing is a static affair.

But the good each person achieves is eternal, as he connects to the Source of All Good, Who is infinite and everlasting. The failures, on the other hand, are transient and superficial, fleeting shadows of clouds, as stains in a garment to be washed away.

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

I’ve written over 900 blog posts for “morning meditations” and 214 for my previous blog (which stopped being active in 2011) called Searching for the Light on the Path. That’s over 1100 blog posts that record my progressive journey of faith, attempting to discover my position along the trail that leads to God.

In all that time and in all those blog posts, my opinions and beliefs have shifted a bit; perhaps more than just a bit in some areas. I’ve explored and opened myself up to some concepts and investigated and shut down others. Some people who were my friends or who were at least friendly to me have dropped me like a hot rock as I’ve developed my understanding of God, the Messiah, and the Bible in directions that oppose their belief systems. Other people have opened up to me and shared their highly valuable insights when seeing that I am not trying to impose my will on others, but seeking to discover God’s will for me and the world around me.

I suppose that last part sounds a bit narcissistic but then again, no one blogs except from their own perspective and as a means of presenting that perspective to anyone with Internet access.

I haven’t been directly accused of this, but I remember one blogger accusing another of hypocrisy based on the changing of the second blogger’s perspectives over time.

But aren’t we supposed to change? Aren’t we supposed to grow? What would happen if you learned basic arithmetic but never progressed beyond that point? What would have happened if no one anywhere across history ever developed algebra, calculus, or trigonometry? What would have happened if the best telescope we had in the world was still on the level of the one created by Galileo? What if our best medical technology for curing fevers and multiple other ailments was to apply leaches to human beings?

Are you a hypocrite if you learn something new and it changes how you see things and how you think?

As Rabbi Freeman said above, “Our lives are all journeys through hills and valleys—no person’s spiritual standing is a static affair.”

It’s interesting that a religious person should be the one to say that because, at least in Christianity, after achieving a certain level of knowledge, the expectation (this is just my opinion, of course) is that we should stay “static” with “the truth.” I’m not denying that there is Divine and eternal truth in our universe. Our universe was created by such truth. But that hardly means we know everything that there is to know about God or faith or that we even know enough. Is it enough to answer some altar call or to raise your hand in church as a profession of your faith in Jesus Christ? Is it enough to be saved?

It seems that a lot of Christian Bible studies and Sunday school classes aren’t really designed to teach people new ideas or to help people explore uncharted territory in theology, but to continue confirming what everyone already knows. Earlier today, I reviewed a television episode produced by First Fruits of Zion describing the meaning behind the name “Jesus.” However, the information presented, though very basic from my point of view, was designed to be new and even a tad bit “revolutionary” to the traditional conservative Christian audience targeted by these programs.

iam-not-a-numberIf someone who had been raised and educated spiritually in a “typical,” “ordinary” American church saw this or some other episode of FFOZ TV, they would very likely encounter what for them would be brand new information about topics they thought they knew completely.

I recently reviewed Scot McKnight’s book The King Jesus Gospel: The Original Good News Revisited. In the book, McKnight recounts a conversation he had with another Pastor about the meaning of the gospel. That Pastor too had stopped learning a long time ago and if he was studying at all, it was for the purpose of maintaining the pattern and level of knowledge he already possessed:

I replied, “A book about the meaning of gospel.”

“That’s easy,” he said, “justification by faith.” After hearing that quick-and-easy answer, I decided to push further, so I asked him Piper’s question: “Did Jesus preach the gospel?”

His answer made me gulp. “Nope,” he said, “Jesus couldn’t have. No one understood the gospel until Paul. No one could understand the gospel until after the cross and resurrection and Pentecost.” “Not even Jesus?” I asked.

“Nope. Not possible,” he affirmed. I wanted to add an old cheeky line I’ve often used: “Poor Jesus, born on the wrong side of the cross, didn’t get to preach the gospel.”

In my weekly conversations with my Pastor, I find myself challenged by a person who does study a great deal and who presents me with information I don’t possess which, in my case, is how traditional Christian theology, doctrine, and dogma works. For a Christian, I don’t know very much about how the formal “church” conceptualizes things. I often reference Jewish sources for my studies, both because I’m drawn to them and because they challenge my “Gentile” way of understanding God and faith. Both my Pastor and my studying help me grow, at least a little bit at a time.

We’re supposed to grow and we’re supposed to help other people grow. In the church (and in other Gentile-driven religious contexts based on the Bible), we have adopted a philosophy, not of growth, but of comfort. We want to be comfortable in what we think, feel, and believe. We don’t want to be challenged. Our day-to-day lives are challenging enough. We want to spend our Sunday services and Bible studies with people who think just like us, discussing things that we all understand in exactly the same way.

I know that sounds cynical, but it’s actually very human. All people who identify with a group that thinks, feels, and acts in a particular way relative to the larger environment want that. Christians want that, and religious Jews want that, and Hebrew Roots people want that, and progressives want that, and atheists want that, and everyone else wants that, too.

God is transcendent. He doesn’t fit in the little boxes we try to put Him in (if we are people who believe that God exists at all). Our hope, our goal, our journey should all be pointed in the direction of transcendence. We can never completely know the infinite God all in all, but we are tasked with approaching Him as closely as we can, knowing that it won’t be incredibly close.

Instead, we’ve reached an area of comfortable equilibrium and there we stay. It’s like two married people who behave more like roommates, including sleeping in separate bedrooms. It may be comfortable, but you’ll never experience passion that way.

The Rebbe would sit down with his students and say, time and time again:

The Baal Shem Tov taught that from every thing a person hears or sees in this world he must find a teaching in how Man should serve G‑d. In truth, this is the whole meaning of service of G‑d.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“All the World is My Teacher”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

icarus-seeking-lightIn Greek mythology, the wings of Icarus melted when he flew too close to the Sun and he fell, but we will freeze into complete inaction and be totally ineffectual if we stay away from the flames of wisdom and knowledge. Challenge involves risk and risk feels dangerous. Sometimes we accept a challenge and the danger and then we (seemingly) fail and fall, ending up not getting what we want. Moses accepted the challenge of leading the Jewish people through a desert for forty years at the behest of God, and in the end, he was denied entry into Israel. He failed the challenge.

Or was it a failure?

Chassidic teaching explains that this is the deeper reason why Moses was not allowed to enter the Land of Israel. If Moses would have settled us in the Land, we could never have been exiled from it. If Moses would have built the Holy Temple, it could never had been destroyed. If Moses would have established the people of Israel in their homeland as a “light unto the nations,” that light could never have been dimmed.

If Moses would have crossed the Jordan, that would have been the end: the end of the struggle, the end of history.

G-d wasn’t ready for the end yet. So He decreed that Moses remain in the desert. But He did allow him to see the Land. And because Moses saw it, and because the effect of everything Moses did is everlasting, we, too, can see it.

At all times, and under all conditions, we have the power to ascend a summit within us and see the Promised Land. No matter how distant the end-goal of creation may seem, we have the power to see its reality, to know its truth with absolute clarity and absolute conviction.

We are still in the midst of the struggle. It is a difficult, oft-times painful struggle; but it is not a blind struggle. Moses has seen to that.

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
“Land and See”
Based on letters and talks of the Rebbe, Rabbi M. M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

building-the-templeAll that isn’t in the Bible, but let’s go with it for now. If Moses had entered the Land, would the Messiah have come? What would have happened to the people of the nations of the world? Would we all have been drawn to the light of Israel in the days of Moses? What would that have meant? Becoming gerim, “resident aliens” and then having our descendants being assimilated and absorbed into tribal Israel? That would mean anyone outside of the original Israelites and their descendants would have had to ultimately become part of tribal Israel to become Holy unto God. But what about the rest of us?

God wasn’t ready for the end, perhaps not because of what it would have meant for Israel but because of what it would have meant for the majority of the world. All those things midrash says Moses would have done will actually be performed by Messiah, Son of David. But Israel had to suffer because Moses didn’t enter the Land and instead died in the desert. That’s a horrible realization; not comfortable at all.

We won’t come to learn the reality of our existence in a world created by God if we allow ourselves to remain in a comfortable place. Moses died, and Joshua was challenged with conquering a nation. David founded Jerusalem but the task of building the Temple was left to Solomon. Israel fell into exile on multiple occasions, her Temple destroyed, her Land lost for centuries. The Messiah came and died. Then he rose. Then he ascended. And then he didn’t come back. Human history has been spinning out of control ever since, or so it appears.

What can we do? We can stop being comfortable. “Comfortable” is not the condition of our current world. We need to read, to study, to challenge ourselves, to change as we encounter each new spark of the Divine that has been left here for us by the Source of that fire. We’re meant to grow, to develop, and to act. How else can we prepare the way for the return of the King?

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32 Days: The Rock Moved

One night, a man was sleeping in his cabin when suddenly his room was filled with the light and the Creator appeared.

The Creator told the man he had work for him to do, and showed him a large rock in front of his cabin. The Creator explained that the man was to push against the rock with all his might.

The man did the same, day after day. For many years he toiled from sun up to sun down, his shoulders set squarely against the cold, massive surface of the unmoving rock, pushing with all his might. Each night the man returned to his cabin sore, and worn out, feeling that his whole day had been spent in vain…

Since the man was showing signs of discouragement, the Adversary decided to enter the picture by placing thoughts into the man’s weary mind:

“You have been pushing against that rock for a long time, and it hasn’t budged. Why kill yourself over this? You can never move it,” thus, giving the man the impression that the task was impossible and that he was a failure. These thoughts discouraged and disheartened the man. “Why kill myself over this?” he thought. “I’ll just put in my time, giving just the minimum effort; and that will be good enough.” And that is what he planned to do, until one day he decided to make it a matter of prayer and take his troubled thoughts to the Creator. “Creator,” he said, “I have labored long and hard in your service, putting all my strength to do that which you have asked. Yet, after all this time, I have not even budged that rock by half a millimeter. What is wrong? Why am I failing?”

The Creator responded compassionately, “My friend, when I asked you to serve me and you accepted, I told you that your task was to push against the rock with all your strength, which you have done. Never once did I mention to you that I expected you to move it. Your task was to push.” “Now you come to me with your strength spent, thinking that you have failed. But is that really so?

Look at yourself. Your arms are strong and muscled, your back is sinewy and brown, your hands are callused from constant pressure, and your legs have become massive and hard. Through opposition you have grown much, and your abilities now surpass that which you used to have. Yet you haven’t moved the rock. But your calling was to be obedient and to push and to exercise your faith in My wisdom. This you have done. I, my friend, will now move the rock.” At times, when we hear a word from the Creator, we tend to use our own intellect to decipher what He wants, when actually what the Creator wants is just obedience and faith in Him…. By all means, exercise the faith that moves mountains, but know that it is still the Creator who moves the mountains.

“Push”
Story found at
Morning Story and Dilbert

The end of the story reminds everyone to “push” or to “pray-until-something-happens” as an act of faith, but frankly, that seemed a little too “cute” the way it was expressed, so I truncated the original text into the quote above.

That said, I know exactly how it feels like to push and push against an immovable object and see absolutely no result. I have often felt as if making a difference is impossible and that my life is a failure.

Just watching the latest situation in Israel and how the world press and most of the nations on our planet are castigating Israel for defending itself against bloodthirsty terrorists…um, excuse me, “courageous freedom fighters battling their oppressors,” is enormously frustrating. And yet there’s not one single thing I can do about it. Every time I speak out, usually in some social networking venue, in support of Israel, only a few like-minded “religious nuts” are supportive. The rest of the world is either strangely silent or venomously outspoken against Israel and against anyone who would support her and the Jewish people.

It’s the same in so many other areas of my life. As a self-avowed Christian, I’m used to taking plenty of “heat” from atheists who believe all manner of terrible things about me because of my faith. However, I also recently witnessed an online conversation taking Christians to task for our history of supersessionism against Jews. Granted, this is a valid observation, but to the speaker, it didn’t seem to make a difference who the Christian was or if they had renounced supersessionism. Further, the Jewish person in question is “Messianic” or a believer in Jesus (Yeshua) as the Messiah. While most Messianic Jews I know are friendly toward “Judaically-aware” Christians or “Post-supersessionistic” Christians, apparently there are some who aren’t particularly tolerant of anyone who is a non-Jewish believer.

There’s not a darn thing I can do about that, either.

I skipped going to church last Sunday for a number of reasons not the least of which was my concern over how I would be received again at Sunday school class given my being particularly outspoken (and embarrassing myself in the process) the previous week. It’s now Thursday and Sunday morning is just a few days away. In trying to project myself into the weeks and months ahead, unless something dramatic happens one way or the other, I don’t know that there’s anything I can do to “install” myself as an accepted participant in church, either.

The rock is the rock, after all. It’s big and it’s heavy, and in all the time I’ve been pushing against it…years and years and years, it hasn’t budged an inch.

But according to the anonymous storyteller, it doesn’t have to. My job is to push, or rather, to pray, without necessarily expecting or receiving a response or a result. The “push” acronym says “pray until something happens.” But what if nothing happens?

OK, clearly something recently happened but I wasn’t particularly praying about it or even thinking in that direction. It was just one of those “out of a clear blue sky” events. On the other hand, I’ve also recently said that there are miracles that only happen when we cooperate with God and actively participate in the miracle. That means do something. It also means that one day, I may push against the rock and feel it miraculously move!

Frankly, that kind of scares me. I live in a world of expectations. I expect the Sun to rise in the east and set in the west. I expect to go to sleep at night and wake up in the morning. I expect a particular routine for my days. Pushing the rock and not having it move, frustrating as it may be, is also expected. If it moves, suddenly, I’m out of control and off-balance; likely to fall on my face (not like that hasn’t happened before). I don’t know what to pray for more, that the rock moves or that it doesn’t move.

Strange, I know, but remember, I don’t like change…even when it’s beneficial and necessary.

But God makes changes according to His will and not my will and my only job is to push against the rock. If it doesn’t move, I push at the start of the day and stop at the end. The rock is just the rock and it doesn’t move. If I push and it does move, then it moves, I lose my balance and fall on my face. Embarrassing to be sure, but assuming it doesn’t hurt too much, the worse that happens is that my face gets dirty and I have to get up again and figure out what happened. What did God change and why? What do I have to do with it and what should I do now? Once I figure out what I’m supposed to do, will I have the courage to do it?

Strange, I know, but remember, I don’t like change.

Even when I ask for it.

He is my God, my living redeemer.
Rock of my affliction in time of trouble…

-from Adon Olam

So the rock has moved. I need to move too.

 

The Elusive, Invisible, Tzaddik

The tzadik is one with G-d.

We recognize him because within each of us is also a tzadik who is one with G-d.

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

This is amazingly difficult for me to get my brain around, mostly because I can’t imagine it applying to me, not even a little. But there are only a few sentences here to try and understand Rabbi Freeman’s point. What about how others reacted to this blog post?

*Posted June 24, 2012 by Yaakov Branfman, Jerusalem, Israel
So, in other words, when he goes against the Tzaddik, he’s really going against that part in himself who is a Tzaddik. And, not even talking about going against, but when he simply doesn’t value the Tzaddik, he’s not valuing that part of himself.
When he values a “regular” person, he’s valuing that part in himself, and when not valuing that person, he’s not seeing the good parts in himself.

*Posted Aug 22, 2009 by Anonymous, New York, NY
Yosef is the only one in the Torah was called HaTzaddik. Yet we find that Yosef made mistakes, and struggled, yet overcame his inclination, but is not that he had _NO_ such impulses.

By the way this is a phenomenal pearl of wisdom by written by Tzvi Freeman… If we look at people, and look for the Tzaddik within them… we can _PULL_ the Tzaddik to the surface.

*Posted Aug 9, 2009 by mark alcock, Durban, SA
“Tzaddik, The: A wholly righteous person. In the context of Chabad literature, one who has conquered his animal impulses and is filled entirely with love and reverence for G-d.” One is either righteous or not, not sometimes without sin.

*Posted Aug 9, 2009 by Michal
When I look at it this way,
then even I am a Tzaddik.
Most of the time.
Unfortunately not always !!!

I think what Rabbi Freeman (or the Rebbe) is trying to say is that we should look for the best in other people and the best in ourselves. There is supposed to be some spark of wonder, divinity, and even perfection within each human being and, if we can try to relate to that part of another person rather than the other parts that are imperfect, then maybe they will aspire to be what we see in them, rather than what the rest of the world sees.

That has profound implications. If you know someone who is perpetually sad or angry or cynical or sarcastic, you tend to relate to them by their primary presentation. We all tend to believe that a person is the way we see them and the way they act. But what if we choose to look at and to treat each person as if they were a tzaddik, even if that is the farthest thing from who they actually appear to be?

No, it wouldn’t suddenly change them. Chances are, they’d think you were faking it when you treated them with respect, honor, and deference (how else should you treat someone who is one with God?). Chances are they’d think you were lying. But what if you always treated the other person with respect, honor, and deference, even though their behavior didn’t warrant such treatment and even though everything inside of you tells you that they don’t deserve it?

At the very least, you’d confuse the other person. At the very most, they might, just might be able to see something of a tzaddik in themselves and start behaving differently.

OK, it’s a long shot and most of the time, it wouldn’t work, but how could it hurt? And what if their life is somehow a message to us?

So even if one is your enemy, and justifiably so; even if his moral and spiritual downfall is one of his own making – it could have happened without your having been made aware of it. That you have witnessed it has nothing to do with him: it is a message to you, enjoining you to deal with a similar negative element – be it in subtlest of forms – within yourself.

-Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, founder of the Chassidic movement

What if someone where to treat you like a tzaddik? How would you react?

Depends.

If you go around thinking you’re pretty cool stuff, you might think that it’s only what you deserve and you’d let it go to your head. That would be too bad, because if you go around all the time thinking you’re pretty cool stuff, chances are, you really aren’t. Chances are, things like humility, honoring God, and loving your neighbor as yourself might have escaped you. Yet none of these things would escape a tzaddik. If even one other person started treating you like a tzaddik and kept treating you that way, do you think those things that had escaped you before would begin to become noticeable?

And what if you look and look but you don’t see the tzaddik in yourself? What if you see a total screw up who, no matter how hard he tries, just can’t stop making mistakes, losing track of important details, and whose past is a ghost attached around his neck with heavy, iron chains, haunting not only his every waking moment but every minute of his dreams? And what if no one ever treated you like a tzaddik, not that you’d ever expect such a thing?

Can you look for and find the tzaddik in yourself or is there only your past, your mistakes, and how everyone else sees you in exactly the same way you see yourself?

Don’t be “this”. Don’t let them define you. If you catch yourself fitting into a definition, contradict it. Never travel a single road.

Be forever walking through the splitting of the sea.

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

If there is even a tiny spark of the tzaddik in you, then not only can God see it but He placed it there. When a person can see only his mistakes, he also believes that’s only what God sees. It’s not that God can’t see past our flaws, but when we are drowning in our own despair, it’s impossible for us to believe God can see in us what we can’t see. It’s impossible for us to believe that there is something more in us than our own self-definition or the way others see our behavior and choose to define us. It’s impossible for us to think that we can escape the definition and become the paradox. Rabbi Freeman’s commentary on the above statement tells us that only God is truly the paradox:

If we wish to touch G-d Himself, we cannot find Him in any defined, bounded form. He is entirely unbounded, free of any definition. and that can only be discovered in utter paradox.

That is why everything a Jew does according to Torah, is bound up with paradox–because it is divine.

A Jew enters that identity when He is bound up in the Torah. A Christian would have to be bound up in Christ, the living Torah, to transcend the definition as Rabbi Freeman suggests, and to find the tzaddik within.

It would be wonderful to suspend the definition and to find the tzaddik who is completely concealed inside of me. But most days, there’s just who I see when I look in the mirror, and who the world sees when it looks at me, and who knows what God sees? Some days are better, and some days are worse, and some days all there is to see in me is a rasha. Have you even seen the tzaddik in you, let alone met him or her? If so, what is it like?

One of the Alter Rebbe’s great and very close chassidim had yechidus, in the course of which the Rebbe inquired after his situation. The chassid complained bitterly that his financial situation had utterly deteriorated. The Rebbe responded: You are needed to illuminate your environment with Torah and avoda of the heart – (davening). Livelihood and what you need – that, G-d must provide for you. You do what you must, and G-d will do what He must.

“Today’s Day”
Thursday, Tamuz 5, 5703
Compiled and arranged by the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, of righteous memory, in 5703 (1943)
from the talks and letters of the sixth Chabad Rebbe
Rabbi Yosef Yitzchak Schneersohn, of righteous memory
Translated by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

Repairing the Turbulent Suffix

A certain sofer wrote a sefer Torah and was checking it over carefully for any possible errors, when he finally found one…Although with most errors he would only have to erase the problem and rewrite, he was unsure whether he could do so in this case. As is well known, it is forbidden to erase the Name of Hashem. In this case, the problem was not the name per se, but the suffix… Since he did not want to rewrite the entire amud, he wanted to fix the error but only if this was permitted by the halachah.

When this question reached the Taz, he ruled that the sofer could not erase the suffix…It is obvious to me that it is forbidden to erase a suffix to one of the Divine Names. Here is the proof: although we find in Maseches Sofrim that if a drop of ink fell on one of the Divine Names it is permitted to erase the ink in order to correct the blot, the Mordechai explains that this may only be permitted if letter wasn’t yet formed properly. However, if ink fell on a complete Name it would be forbidden to erase the ink. Similarly, if the letter were accidentally connected this would also be forbidden and the same is true regarding a suffix.”

When the Chut Hameshulash saw this response, he presented a different view, however. “In my opinion, although the Beis Yosef brings this Mordechai and it is l’halachah, there is room for leniency regarding a suffix. The proof to this is from Menachos 48. There we find that Rav Yochanan asks if we may do a sin in order to gain something with regard to sacrifices. From the Rambam there it is clear that we hold like the opinion of Rav Yochanan.

He concluded, “Since rectifying the shem Hashem is like saving a sacrifice, it is clear that in this case we may erase to rectify, especially since erasing a suffix is only a rabbinic prohibition.”

Mishna Berura Yomi Digest
Stories to Share
“Erasing to Rectify”
Siman 143 Seif 4(a)

I know that the information imparted in the quote above won’t make a great deal of sense to most Christians and probably even to a good many non-Jews in the “Messianic” movement. However the halacha that relates to the creation of a sefer Torah or Torah scroll is extremely specific if, for no other reason, than to avoid violating the commandment not to take the Name of God lightly or in vain (Exodus 20:7). I’m not going to attempt to provide a commentary on the ruling in this Daf, but I do want to use it as a metaphor.

A few days ago, I created a blog post called Debating Fulfillment Theology for the purpose of inviting polite debate regarding the pros and cons of the Christian theology that states the grace of Christ has wholly replaced the law of Moses. Even under the best of circumstances (and the debate is continuing as I write this “mediation,” so you are free to join it if you haven’t done so already), such dialogues rarely arrive at a unified conclusion. That is, I don’t expect that those who support fulfillment or replacement theology will “repent” and agree that it is a dangerous and unsupportable position, nor to I expect that those who disagree with replacement theology will eventually agree that the Jews must surrender their dedication to Torah and God and submit to the grace of Jesus Christ in a manner that completely denies Jews and Judaism (and I’m sure you can detect my bias based on how I worded that last sentence).

My goal for the debate is to engage in and encourage open, honest discourse with the hope of not resolving this conflict, but presenting alternate points of view. I am disturbed that the church sees replacement theology or supersessionism (though sometimes more politely cloaked as “fulfillment theology”) as concrete fact and the only possible way that the New Testament scriptures can be understood. After all, New Testament scholars have been debating for centuries (and continue to debate today) over the meaning of many portions of Paul’s letters and some of the more “difficult sayings of Jesus.” If a certain amount of scholarly disagreement remains in these interpretations, how can Christianity as a whole believe that replacement theology is such a “done deal?”

In quoting part of the Daf for Siman 143 Seif 4(a), I want to introduce an idea. I’ll use myself as an example (and I’ll try to keep this as short as possible and still form a complete picture). I was an agnostic/atheist until my early 40s as was my Jewish wife. Then I came to faith in Christ in a local Nazarene church (long story). My family and I attended for some time, but we found that many of our questions about God and Jesus weren’t being answered, especially as they related to the Jewish people.

My wife came into contact with a “Messianic/One Law” group in our community and she was immediately “hooked” (it took me a little longer to warm up to this sudden change in perspective). She strongly suggested that I attend with her and eventually, my family and I shifted our worship context from the Nazarene church to the One Law congregation. Years passed and many transitions took place. Eventually, we left the One Law congregation, and then my wife went back while the children and I attended the local Reform synagogue (another long story). Then my wife left One Law and joined the Reform shul, while I eventually went back to One Law and stayed for a number of years, proceeding from attendee to board member and teacher.

I was happy there for a time but my wife continued to explore her Judaism with the Reform synagogue and later with the Chabad and for the first time in almost 20 years of being together, we became a “mixed marriage”. My wife now identifies with the traditional Jewish community and is not “Christian” or “Messianic” in any sense.

As I watched my wife explore what it was and is for her to be a Jew within a cultural, ethnic and religious Jewish context, the basic tenants of the One Law movement seemed so discordant with what I was discovering (through my wife’s eyes) is actually Judaism (most One Law groups refer to themselves corporately as “Messianic Judaism” thus identifying themselves as a “Judaism”, even if the majority of their leaders and members are not Jews). Questions about assumptions I had made years before started coming to me and I entered into a year long investigation of who I was and what I was doing in my walk of faith (if you like reading a lot, that entire year is chronicled on my now defunct blog, Searching for Light on the Path).

Finally, I did what most religious people (or even what most people in general) don’t do. I changed my perspective, my theology, and my approach to being a disciple of the Master. In essence, I repaired what I saw as a damaged “suffix” in my understanding of God. That required great sacrifices on my part and I entered into more than one serious “crisis of faith” which resulted in quite of bit of emotional distress. These crises resolved into a new framework, the one from which I am now operating on this blog. I still take “heck” occasionally from people who don’t agree with my decision, however it’s a decision I found necessary to make for me and my relationship with God.

Why am I telling you all this and why should you care?

People can change. It’s not easy and it’s not common, but it’s possible. People can make significant and even extraordinary shifts in their theological perspectives if presented with enough evidence, but evidence is not enough. It takes the ability to admit that you can be wrong (not that God can be wrong, which would amount to actually erasing the Name of Hashem) and the courage to make changes (fix the suffix) once that admission has occurred.

No one likes change which is why a couple who is planning their wedding is stressed to the max, even though getting married is what they want to do more than anything. Any change creates stress and crisis, especially if it involves making major alterations to fundamental emotional, cognitive, and spiritual structures such as how you comprehend your trust and faith in God.

That means it is possible, however unlikely, that someone might really change as a result of this conversation. OK, I’m not holding my breath, but I am making a suggestion. As we see from the Daf above, change and correction of perceived flaws is not easy and there are times when it is necessary and times when it isn’t. Changes should be made with the utmost care and only after a great deal of deliberation, prayer, and consultation with trusted advisers.

But if change weren’t possible, no one would become a Christian in the first place, since no one is born into that state, not even people who are raised in a Christian family.

Rabbi Dr. Michael Schiffman recently made a comment on the aforementioned blog post that speaks to what I’m trying to express:

Scripture is scripture, but quoting a verse in or out of context says what the scripture says, but doesn’t tell us what you think it means. If you are going to quote scripture you have not achieved your goal until you tell us what YOU think it means. What you think it means is actually what you are basing your argument upon, so just say what you think it means or you have proven nothing.

Scripture is Scripture and the Bible is the Bible. It exists. It says what it says. But what does it mean? That depends on how we interpret it and what that interpretation means in our lives. Not everyone relates to the Bible and to God in the same way based on how we interpret the scriptures and how we interpret who we are. When presented with the challenges and crises in our life of faith and understanding, we need to keep going, no matter what the obstacles and no matter what the cost, even if the cost is that we must change or be forced to admit that we will always live a life at odds with God and in conflict with His Word.

On their exodus from Egypt, towards Mount Sinai, the Jewish people arrived at an obstacle – the Red Sea.

They divided into four parties.

One advocated mass suicide.

One said to surrender and return.

One prepared to fight.

One began to pray.

G-d spoke to Moses and said, “Why are you crying out to Me? I told you to travel straight ahead. Keep going and you will see there is no obstacle!”

The Jewish people kept going
and the obstacle became a miracle.

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

Keep going. Like Nachshon, plunge into the turbulent seas. When you find them, you can fix mistakes. Miracles are possible.

My God, guard my tongue from evil, and my lips from speaking deceitfully. And to those who curse me, let my soul be silent and let my soul be like dust to everyone. Open my heart to Your Torah, then my soul will pursue Your commandments.

-from the Elohai N’tzor