Tag Archives: Deuteronomy

The Bible Between God and Man

Moses at NeboThis week’s Torah reading begins: (Deuteronomy 1:1.) “These are the words that Moshe spoke to the entire Jewish people.”

Noting the distinction between this book and the previous four, which are all “the word of G-d,” our Sages explain (Megillah 31b.) that Moshe recited the Book of Deuteronomy “on his own initiative.”

This does not, ח׳׳ו , mean that the Book of Deuteronomy is merely a mortal invention. Our Rabbis (Tosafos, op. cit.) immediately clarify that Moshe delivered his words “inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Similarly, when the Rambam defines the category of “those who deny the Torah,” (Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Teshuvah 3:8.) he includes: “a person who says that the Torah even one verse or one word does not emanate from G-d. If one would say, ‘Moshe made these statements independently,’ he is denying the Torah.”

Not a single commentator maintains that there is a difference in this regard between the Book of Deuteronomy and the four preceding books.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Mortal Mouth Speaking G-d’s Word”
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1087ff; Vol. XIX, p. 9ff
Chabad.org

Reading this commentary on last week’s Torah portion reminded me of my ongoing discussion with my Pastor about the purpose of Torah. Pastor Randy has told me his particular understanding of the function of Deuteronomy, one I’ve never heard before (and I’ll refrain from sharing that with you at this time), but it also made me think of our discussions about the “inspired” nature of the Bible.

Rabbi Touger separates Deuteronomy from the rest of the Torah by saying the first four books were recorded by Moses just as they were given to him by God, but Deuteronomy involves a “relationship” between God’s inspiration and Moshe’s personality.

For the Book of Deuteronomy are merely Moshe’s words. Moshe’s identification with G-dliness was so great that when he states: (Deuteronomy 11:13.) “I will grant the rain of your land in its season,” he speaks in the first person although the pronoun “I” clearly refers to G-d. “The Divine Presence spoke from his mouth.” (See Zohar III, p. 232a; Shmos Rabbah 3:15.)

On the other hand, it is also clear that the book involves Moshe’s own thinking process. To give an example: there is a difference of opinion among our Sages as to whether the proximity (semichus) of two subjects in the Written Torah is significant or not. (Berachos 21b; Yevamos 4a.) One opinion maintains that it is, while the other explains that although when mortals structure their thoughts, order is important, but “Since the Torah was granted by the Almighty, the order of precedence is not significant.” (Raaban [Rabbi Eleazar ben Nasan], sec. 34.)

I’m reading this as saying Deuteronomy is inspired by God so much so that sometimes Moses speaks almost with God’s voice. On the other hand, Deuteronomy involves the words and thoughts of Moses and information provided by God is organized in Moses’s mind and presented in his oratory.

We have to believe that anything coming directly from God is perfect, at least at the moment of its delivery to mankind. What we do with it on the other hand, is another story. So how does that affect the Bible? When God inspired Moses (or any of the other human Bible writers), at that instant in time, perfect information flowed from the Divine to the mundane; from God to man. Through some process we don’t understand, the relationship was developed between that information and how it was interpreted and delivered by the human beings involved.

In Deuteronomy, Moses was speaking to the entire assembly of Israel and, I suppose, either he later wrote down everything he said, or someone was taking notes while he spoke. Tradition says that Moses wrote the entire Torah by his own hand including Deuteronomy. Scholars differ in their opinions, but I’m not going to get into that right now.

Is the Bible perfect?

Well, yes and no.

The Death of the MasterWe have to believe it contains the entire inspired Word of God, otherwise, the Bible is just another book, no different from any of the other supposedly holy books in other religious or philosophical traditions. On the other hand, the Bible does contain internal inconsistencies that we can’t resolve or “smooth out,” although both Jewish and Christian translators and theologians have tried over the long centuries.

I didn’t used to believe this until I was challenged to make the different gospel versions of the crucifixion map to each other. What day of the week exactly was Jesus executed? Don’t automatically say it was Friday, because that’s not a for sure thing. You have to understand that Passover was a special shabbat and that the Saturday shabbat was also observed. I won’t go into a lengthy explanation, but if you put the different gospel versions side by side, they do not match up. You can’t tell which day it was when Jesus died. It’s not the same day in all gospel versions.

Did God goof? God can’t goof. So did the various gospel writers goof?

Well, yes and no.

Yes, if you want to read the Bible like a newspaper or a legal document (though some portions are a legal document). No, if you realize that certain portions of the Bible are written like Chasidic tales, stories based on fact, but crafted for a specific audience, drawing from other, older Biblical and extra-Biblical texts, in order to communicate a particular message to the target audience.

If you read the Bible like Joe Friday would have wanted it (“The facts ma’am, just the facts”), it doesn’t work.

The explanation of the above concepts depends on the appreciation of the relationship between the Torah and our world. Our Sages state: “The Torah preceded the world.” Here, the concept of precedence is not chronological, for time like space is a creation, relevant only after G-d brought existence into being. Rather the intent is that the Torah is on a level of spiritual truth which transcends our material frame of reference. Although the Torah “descends” and “enclothes itself” in our world, speaking of seemingly ordinary matters such as agricultural laws, codes for fair business practice, and the proper structure for marriage and family relations, this is not its essence. The essence of the Torah is “G-d’s will and His wisdom,” united with Him in perfect unity. (See Tanya, ch. 4.)

This concept has always fascinated me. Even my Pastor believes that in God’s Heavenly Court, there exists a “perfect” Bible…God’s Word as it was given to humanity unaffected by the human mind, imagination, interpretation, or anything else. By inspiring people to write various portions of His Word, God, in effect, is “clothing” the Bible in humanity so that human beings can consume it.

Surely, this commandment that I am commanding you today is not too hard for you, nor is it too far away. It is not in heaven, that you should say, “Who will go up to heaven for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” Neither is it beyond the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross to the other side of the sea for us, and get it for us so that we may hear it and observe it?” No, the word is very near to you; it is in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe.

Deuteronomy 30:11-14 (NRSV)

This is the part of Torah I point to whenever Christians say that the Law was only given to Jews so that they’d realize the Law of God was too hard to keep and that they needed Jesus instead. It’s also a good scripture to bring out when I meet with Christians. The Torah, and in fact, the Bible as a whole, is a multi-dimensional, multi-layered, intertwining, interactive document that is more than a document, that was given to human beings to enact, ponder, study, discuss, argue over, and experience in awe.

The Bible was written by human beings in supernatural partnership with God and it digs as much into the living human psyche as it does into the Divine realm.

rabbi_child_and_sefer_torahI disagree (respectfully) with Rabbi Touger when he says that human beings as intermediaries and Bible writers are either derech ma’avir or “funnels” channeling God’s words and intent without altering them at all, or derech hislabshus in which the human intermediary puts what is given from God into his own words. I think that every word written by every Biblical writer was in some sense affected, transformed, or colored by the human writers, the derech hislabshus. Otherwise, God could have just written the whole thing with his “finger” as He did with the first tablets Moses took up to Sinai, the ones Moses smashed during the incident of the Golden Calf (and notice that God had Moses do the writing on the replacement tablets).

If there is a perfect Word of God, it resides with God. It is spiritual perfection, absolute wisdom, pure joy, intelligence, and love. But how could people understand any of it if it weren’t written in a human language and filtered through a human personality, vocabulary, cultural context, individual style, and so forth?

Enclothing the Torah in mortal intellect does not merely grant man the opportunity for advancement, it also introduces a higher quality to the Torah itself, as it were. For clothing limitless spirituality in the confines of mortal intellect represents a fusion of opposites that is possible only through the influence of G-d’s essence. Because His essence transcends both finiteness and infinity, it can weld the two together, bringing the spiritual truth of the Torah within the grasp of mortals.

My personal opinion is that the esteemed Rabbi Touger might be overstating his point just a bit. I’d prefer to say that the Bible acts as a sort of bridge between Heaven and Earth, between the existence of God and the existence of people. The split instant perfection entered our world, it became imperfect, hard to interpret, difficult to understand, internally inconsistent, all because human beings were allowed to affect what God provided. But this was allowed by design, otherwise man would have no part in God or His Word.

It is said that there are two revelations of God, the first being all of creation, hence no man has an excuse for not seeking God (Romans 1:20), and the Bible, God’s written revelation. Both are complementary. The universe and everything in it provides one set of information about God and the Bible a different but complementary data set.

But if our bridge is imperfect because we are imperfect, there is yet another revelation that has and will put everything in order.

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth.

John 1:14 (NRSV)

Jesus taught the Torah to his people Israel correctly and he interpreted many things, most of the time using parables. It is said in certain corners of Judaism that when Messiah comes (returns), he will teach Torah perfectly and we will all know. More than that, it will be written on our hearts so that we will all know.

No longer shall they teach one another, or say to each other, “Know the Lord,” for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and remember their sin no more.

Jeremiah 31:34 (NRSV)

But that’s then, not now. Now we struggle, bicker, and argue about the purpose of Torah, the meaning of the Bible, how it should be interpreted, what we’re supposed to do with it, and how it’s supposed to guide our lives. As Paul said:

For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known.

1 Corinthians 13:12 (NRSV)

Of course, it is both Christianity and Judaism that struggles to peer through Paul’s metaphorical “glass darkly” and to understand who we are and who God is:

Jews as a group rarely agree on matters of Jewish belief. How could we agree on the essence of another?

Rabbi Evan Moffic

aleph.jpgMoses spoke Deuteronomy to the entire assembly of Israel on the banks of the Jordan river as they were about to cross over and enter the Land. We too are on a similar journey, hearing the Word of God as filtered through human beings and waiting to “cross over,” so to speak, not with Joshua but with Messiah, into his Kingdom. This is the gospel message or the good news. Messiah will come as King and restore what was broken and lost, he will gather in his exiled children and restore Israel, Jerusalem, and the Temple. He will also gather in those among the nations who are called by his name.

But we must never forget today that God is not aloof and apart. The Word was given to man from Heaven and it is not far off. True, it’s not well comprehended, but it was meant to be understood, at least to the best of human ability, and to be lived out.

And though we only seem him dimly now, as through a darkened or dirty window, someday we’ll see him face to face.

And we will rejoice.

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Devarim: At the Threshold of a Dream

Moshe recited the Book of Deuteronomy as the Jews stood on the banks on the Jordan, preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael. The crossing of the Jordan River was to be a spiritual as well as a geographic movement. During their journeys through the desert, the Jews depended on miraculous expressions of Divine favor: they ate manna, their water came from the Well of Miriam, and the Clouds of Glory preserved their garments. After entering Eretz Yisrael, however, the Jewish people were to live within the natural order, working the land and eating the fruits of their labor.

To make this transition possible, they required an approach to the Torah that would relate to man as he functions within his worldly environment. It was for this purpose that Moshe taught the Book of Deuteronomy.

Herein lies a connection to the present day, because we are also “on the banks of the Jordan” preparing to enter Eretz Yisrael together with Mashiach. It is through the approach emphasized by the Book of Deuteronomy fusing the word of G-d with mortal wisdom that we will merit the age when “the occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G-d,” the Era of the Redemption.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Mortal Mouth Speaking G-d’s Word”
from the “In the Garden of the Torah” series
Commentary on Torah Portion Devarim

“I have to confess, I don’t really get it. If you believe in Jesus, you believe he is the King. The Lord. The Boss. Your Boss. There is no other option. It’s an integral part of his identity. The fact that some people have lost sight of that fact is evidence, to me, of how far we have come from a really Biblical idea of who Jesus is. We have forgotten that there is no such thing as a Jesus who is not our King, a Jesus we don’t have to obey.”

-Boaz Michael
Founder and President of First Fruits of Zion

I sometimes wonder what it must have been like to stand there on the banks of the Jordan river, watching and listening to Moses, knowing that this was the last time he would speak to Israel, knowing that they were on the threshold of the fulfilled promises of God, knowing that Moses wouldn’t be part of that fulfillment.

It must have been an incredible thrill mixed with passionate anticipation and more than a tinge of bitter sorrow. How could Israel go into Canaan, take possession of The Land as God had ordained, and yet have God deny the man they had come to know as Prophet, tzaddik, and even father entrance with them? What would the realization of a dream mean if Moses wasn’t there in their midst?

From Moshe’s point of view, how difficult it must have been for him. For over forty years, he had guarded the Israelites. He had guarded them from hunger and thirst, from losing their way, both geographically and spiritually. He had guarded them from hostile kingdoms and armies and he had protected them from their own folly. He had watched the entire generation he brought out of Egypt die one by one in the desert, and he had watched their children grow up and become the people who replaced them; the people who would enter The Land.

But he wouldn’t be going with them. Who would protect them from their folly should they speak against God and God’s anger flare against them?

That’s what Deuteronomy is all about. Moshe’s last message to the Children of Israel before he was to die and they were to live and go forward. It was his last opportunity to speak out, to encourage them, to warn them, to beg them, to scream at them, “Don’t screw this up! I won’t be with you to save you anymore!”

The Chassidic sages have much to say about the last speech of Moses, trying to reconcile the words of God that came through the prophet in the first four books of Torah with the words of Moses that fill to the brim this last, fateful tome:

Our Sages note that the Book of Devarim differs from the first four Books of the Torah in that the latter are “from G-d’s mouth,” while Devarim is “from Moshe’s mouth.”

This does not — Heaven forfend — imply that the words in Mishneh Torah are not G-d’s. Rather, as Rashi explains: (Sanhedrin 56b.) “Moshe did not say Mishneh Torah to the Jews on his own, but as he would receive it from G-d he would repeat it to them.”

Since the words of Mishneh Torah too are not Moshe’s words but G-d’s, why are the first four Books of the Torah considered to be from “G-d’s mouth” while the Book of Devarim is considered to be from “Moshe’s mouth”; what difference is there between the first four Books and the fifth?

The inherent sanctity of Torah is such that it completely transcends this physical world; in order for it to descend within this world an intermediary is necessary — one who is both higher than this world yet within it. This intermediary bridges the gap between the sacred Torah and this corporeal world.

“Devarim”
from “The Chassidic Dimension” series
Commentary on Torah Portion Devarim
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XIX, pp. 9-12
and on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

I know. It’s difficult for me to comprehend as well. How can the first four books of Torah basically be from God as “dictated” to Moses and yet the fifth book be from Moshe’s own mouth and yet still be inspired by God?

I don’t know.

How can the letters of Paul be Paul’s own words, written in his “style,” expressing his own concerns, his own fears, his anger at the screw ups some of the churches were making, and still be the inspired word of God through the Holy Spirit?

It’s a mystery.

Can you have a rant and still have it be a “holy rant?”

I don’t know that either. But that’s what Deuteronomy is mostly about. The deep anguish and pain of a man who was about as close to God as any human being ever got expressed in his own words, through his own feelings and yet…

…and yet, God was still in all that somehow.

I don’t think I’m a prophet. Far from it. I’m just a guy with a blog. I sincerely doubt that there are any prophets in the world today that we could compare with Moses, Isaiah, and Jeremiah. Holy people, tzaddikim, sure, but no prophets. I don’t think there are “letter writers” (today, they’d all be emailers and bloggers) who have the special mission Paul had, to communicate to the churches in such a way that our words would become holy documents.

But we have our own words. As people of faith, we sometimes faintly hear the whispers of God. Most of the time, we have no idea what we’re hearing. It it our imagination? Is it just the wind? Is it only my feelings?

Paul wrote letters and, in all likelihood, he probably never had any idea that they’d become part of what we consider the Holy Scriptures. He was just doing his job, being the Messiah’s disciple, being the emissary to the Gentiles, trying to make it all work somehow, depending on the Spirit of God to get him through it all.

When Moses was standing there at the Jordan, did he realize that God would have him record everything he was saying later for the Torah? Did he think that it all ended with Numbers? After all, he knew he was to die soon. Maybe he thought the responsibility for recording God’s words was already past. How could he possibly imagine that God would have him record the moment of his own death and then what happened next?

I have no idea. I’m not theologian or historian. For all I know, Christian and Jewish scholars and authorities may have answered these questions ages ago.

Or not.

All I know…all I can tell for sure, is that both Moses and Paul were mere flesh and blood. Just like you and me. Moses had an unparalleled relationship with God. They spoke, for all intents and purposes, as if they were “face to face.” Paul saw a vision of the Master on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-6) and later was taken up into the third Heaven. His experience in the latter case goes something like this:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows – and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. –2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (ESV)

These were both men who led lives and had experiences probably none of us could even begin aspire to. And yet they were human beings, they got hungry and thirsty, they became angry and frustrated, they cried out to God.

Just like you and me.

So as Moses launched into his last, impassioned speech to the Israelites at the Jordan river, anticipating all that was to come and knowing that time was extremely short, God was somehow infused in this last book of Torah, and yet everything that was of Moses was there, too.

What does this teach us?

I can’t give you a definitive answer, I can only give you my answer.

I think it teaches us that a life of faith is a life of companionship. Some people think of time as a predator, stalking us all our lives, closing in on us as we get older and weaker, waiting for the moment to strike and make the kill. However, God shows us that time and a life spent in faith is a life of companionship. God goes with us on the journey and reminds us to cherish every moment, because it will never come again. What we leave behind is not as important as how we’ve lived. After all, we’re only mortal. (with apologies to Patrick Stewart and his alter ego Captain Picard as they appeared in Star Trek: Generations 1994)

Each morning when we wake up, we stand at the threshold of living out our dream. It’s not a dream of the house you’ve always wanted to live in, the clothes and the car you’ve always wanted to own, or the places you’ve always wanted to visit. It’s the dream of a day lived out with God as a companion. It’s the realization that we can be, and we indeed are, fully and completely ourselves, frail and mortal human beings, and yet we can still walk our path, step by step, with the lover of our souls. Moses walked this path until the day he died. So did Paul.

By the grace of God, so will we all. Like them, we will try to continually listen to His Voice and to obey His Words. But as we live out His Words, they will be expressed to the rest of the world through whatever we say and do. This is just like Moses in his farewell to Israel recorded in Deuteronomy. This is just like each of Paul’s letters to the various churches of the diaspora.

This is just like us every time we speak of our lives, our journey, our very existence at the side of our God. The words and the voice everyone hears are ours. But somehow, God is in them, too.

When the white eagle of the North is flying overhead
The browns, reds and golds of autumn lie in the gutter, dead.
Remember then, that summer birds with wings of fire flaying
Came to witness spring’s new hope, born of leaves decaying.
Just as new life will come from death, love will come at leisure.
Love of love, love of life and giving without measure
Gives in return a wondrous yearn of a promise almost seen.
Live hand-in-hand and together we’ll stand on the threshold of a dream.

-Graeme Edge
from the song “The Dream”
on the album On the Threshold of a Dream (1969)

Someday we will cross the threshold with our Master, our Messiah, and we will enter the final Shabbat rest in the Kingdom of Heaven. And the whole world will know God. The dream will become reality.

Good Shabbos.

Devarim: One Man’s Story

MosesThis week’s Torah reading begins: “These are the words that Moshe spoke to the entire Jewish people.” Noting the distinction between this book and the previous four, which are all “the word of G-d,” our Sages explain that Moshe recited the Book of Deuteronomy “on his own initiative.”

Rabbi Eli Touger
Commentary on Torah Portion Devarim
“A Mortal Mouth Speaking G-d’s Word”
Adapted from Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, p. 1087ff; Vol. XIX, p. 9ff
Chabad.org

For most Christians, who don’t have a conservative evangelical view like the one I had, these textual facts can be interesting, but there is nothing in them to challenge their faith, which is built on something other than having the very words that God inspired in the Bible. And I certainly never intended to lead anyone away from the Christian faith; critics who have suggested that I myself stopped being a Christian once I realized there were differences among our manuscripts are simply wrong and being ridiculous.

Author and New Testament Scholar
Bart D. Ehrman in his book
Jesus, Interrupted

Today’s “extra” meditation and my commentary on this week’s Torah Portion Devarim.

Occasionally people ask why most of the book of Deuteronomy (in Hebrew, “Devarim”) even exists. It seems to do little more than repeat and summarize the events in the first four books of the Torah. The answer can be a little disturbing to some Christians and even to some Jews. Our understanding is that the first four books of the Bible were the words of God as dictated to Moses and Deuteronomy is in Moses’ own words.

Does that mean Deuteronomy is completely human in origin and without the influence of God? Let’s return to Rabbi Touger’s commentary:

This does not…mean that the Book of Deuteronomy is merely a mortal invention. Our Rabbis immediately clarify that Moshe delivered his words “inspired by the Holy Spirit.” Similarly, when the Rambam defines the category of “those who deny the Torah,” he includes: “a person who says that the Torah even one verse or one word does not emanate from G-d. If one would say, ‘Moshe made these statements independently,’ he is denying the Torah.”

Not a single commentator maintains that there is a difference in this regard between the Book of Deuteronomy and the four preceding books.

For the Book of Deuteronomy are merely Moshe’s words. Moshe’s identification with G-dliness was so great that when he states: “I will grant the rain of your land in its season,” he speaks in the first person although the pronoun “I” clearly refers to G-d. “The Divine Presence spoke from his mouth.”

The origin of the Bible and exactly how it was written and codified is complex and more than a little mysterious. The simple belief among many Christians is that each author wrote under the influence and guidance of the Holy Spirit and what they wrote originally is exactly what we have in our Bibles today (translated into the language we prefer to read). I included the quote from Bart Ehrman’s book to illustrate that even among modern Bible scholars, there is some doubt as to whether or not we can read the Bible as if it were a history book, newspaper, and court reporter’s record all rolled into one. In fact, we can’t.

The Bible is as much a human document as a document of the Divine. It’s a series of “stories” that illustrate something about God and His interactions with humanity. That it contains internal inconsistencies and historic flaws in no way disqualifies its moral and mystic significance among the community of faith. The stories tell us what we need to know, not as a history lesson, but as a guide to righteous living and as a doorway into domains that leave our mortal plane and allow us to glimpse the Throne of God.

In referring to Midrash Tehillim to 90:4; Bereishis Rabbah 8:2, we see that the Sages believe that “The Torah preceded the world” and when we read John 1:1, we see that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. From this, we understand that only part of the Bible’s function is to act as a record and a document. Beyond the scroll in the Ark or the book on our hand, it exists in transition between our world and the next.

Rabbi Touger continues:

Here, the concept of precedence is not chronological, for time like space is a creation, relevant only after G-d brought existence into being. Rather the intent is that the Torah is on a level of spiritual truth which transcends our material frame of reference. Although the Torah “descends” and “enclothes itself” in our world, speaking of seemingly ordinary matters such as agricultural laws, codes for fair business practice, and the proper structure for marriage and family relations, this is not its essence. The essence of the Torah is “G-d’s will and His wisdom,” united with Him in perfect unity (see Tanya, ch. 4).

The Amazon.com product description for Ehrman’s book states that “the New Testament is riddled with contradictory views about who Jesus was and the significance of his life”, yet from a mystic point of view, this doesn’t present a problem.

The Ba'al Shem TovWhen I was reading The Hasidic Tale by Gedaliah Nigal, I wrote several commentaries about what I gained from the text including The Messianic Tale and Stories are Miracles. From these, we see that the stories of the Chasidim are less a series of historical facts and more a collection of mystic and allegorical tales designed to reveal something about ourselves, about holiness, and about God. How much of each story is factually accurate isn’t particularly relevant, because one does not approach the tales of the Chasidim that way. What we are looking for is something that will peel away the covers from the world of the supernatural and give us a peek at what lies around the next bend on our path of faith.

We can apply that commentary back to the Bible thus.

Jorge Quinonez, in his book “Paul Philip Levertoff: Pioneering Hebrew-Christian Scholar and Leader” Mishkan 37 (2002): 21-34 (quoted in Love and the Messianic Age) describes Levertoff, a Chasidic Jew and devoted disciple of Jesus, this way:

He read the Gospels in German. Then he obtained a Hebrew version and reread them. Though he was in the midst of a Gentile, Christian city where Jesus was worshiped in churches and honored in every home, Feivel felt the Gospels belonged more to him and the Chasidic world than they did to the Gentiles who revered them. He found the Gospels to be thoroughly Jewish and conceptually similar to Chasidic Judaism. He wondered how Gentile Christians could hope to comprehend Yeshua (Jesus) and His words without the benefit of a classical Jewish education or experience with the esoteric works of the Chasidim.

This perhaps, is what scholars like Bart Ehrman miss when they study and criticize the Bible for not reading like a story posted at CNN. Divinity and humanity collide, meld, mesh, and blend within the pages of the Bible and we are not always meant to be able to tell where one leaves off and the other begins…or if that division is even possible.

Rabbi Touger states:

But why is the Book of Deuteronomy necessary? Enclothing the Torah in human intellect seemingly does nothing but lower its spiritual content. What purpose is served?

Nevertheless, this is G-d’s intent in giving the Torah: that it permeate mortal thought and thus elevate man’s understanding. Whenever a person studies Torah, regardless of his spiritual level, he is making its infinite truth part of his personal nature.

Were there to have been only four books in the Torah, it would have been impossible for our powers of understanding to unite completely with the Torah. It was only by having the Book of Deuteronomy pass through Moshe’s intellect that this goal accomplished. Moreover, Moshe’s review of the Torah in he Book of Deuteronomy gives us the capacity to understand the previous four books in a similar fashion.

Enclothing the Torah in mortal intellect does not merely grant man the opportunity for advancement, it also introduces a higher quality to the Torah itself, as it were. For clothing limitless spirituality in the confines of mortal intellect represents a fusion of opposites that is possible only through the influence of G-d’s essence. Because His essence transcends both finiteness and infinity, it can weld the two together, bringing the spiritual truth of the Torah within the grasp of mortals.

TranscendentWho we are and who God is in us requires that we leave behind some of our attachment to what we call “reality” and allow ourselves to stand transcendent at the uncomfortable and mystic threshold between Heaven and Earth. We don’t have to rely on the Bible to be a book of facts but rather a book of truth.

Consider this:

These are the words which Moses spoke to the children of Israel, across the Jordan, in the desert, in the plain, opposite Suf, between Paran and Tofel, Lavan, Chatzeiroth, and Di-Zahav –Devarim 1:1

All these “places” are allusions to sins committed by the Jewish people during their forty years of wandering in the Sinai Desert. Moses rebuked them only by insinuation so as not to embarrass them.

-Rashi’s commentary

Rabbi Menachem Mendel of Lubavitch once delivered a scathing critique of a certain type of outlook and behavior. Later, one of those present complained to him: “Rebbe, why did you rebuke me in public? Could you not have privately made me aware of my negative traits, without embarrassing me in front of everyone?”

Replied Rabbi Menachem Mendel: “Did I mean you? Obviously, I did. You see, I am a hat-maker. The hat-maker fashions a hat and places it in his window. People come in and try it on, until someone finds that it suits his head perfectly. Whom did he have in mind when he made this hat? Why, he made it precisely for the very customer who finds that it fits him!”

-Rabbi Yanki Tauber
Commentary of Torah Portion Devarim
“The Discreet Hatter”
Chabad.org

The Bible serves many purposes in our lives, not the least of which is to reveal the nature of who we are, for good or for ill. It is a book that condemns but also encourages. It shows us the goodness of God and where we fall short of that goodness (Romans 3:10). Let the Bible be what God intended it to be and let God be who He is. Listen to the words of Moses and his “Chasidic” tale of the wanderings of the Children of Israel, of his own journey with God, of the approach to the end of his life, and in listening to him, learn something about yourself.

Good Shabbos.