Tag Archives: disciple

If You Had to Choose Between Jesus and Your Spouse…

If someone comes to me and does not hate his father and his mother and his wife and his children and his brothers and his sisters and even his own life, he is not worthy to be my disciple.

Luke 14:26 (DHE Gospels)

I know I’m quoting this verse out of context, but I find it hard to reconcile with the following.

Have you not read that from the beginning the Maker “created them male and female,” and it says, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and cling to his wife, and the two will become one flesh”? If so, they are not two any longer, but one flesh. Thus, what God has joined, man must not divide.

Matthew 19:6 (DHE Gospels)

On the one hand, Jesus seems to value marriage quite highly (what God has joined) but on the other hand, we are to reject (hate) our family including our wives, presumably if our family opposes our becoming disciples of Jesus.

As an intermarried husband, this is particularly difficult for me, especially when I see my marriage through this scripture:

But to the rest I say, not the Lord, that if any brother has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he must not divorce her. And a woman who has an unbelieving husband, and he consents to live with her, she must not send her husband away. For the unbelieving husband is sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified through [h]her believing husband; for otherwise your children are unclean, but now they are holy. Yet if the unbelieving one leaves, let him leave; the brother or the sister is not under bondage in such cases, but God has called us to peace. For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband? Or how do you know, O husband, whether you will save your wife?

1 Corinthians 7:12-16 (NASB)

Also, Ephesians 5:22-33 says many fine things about marriage and how a husband and wife are to love one another. How can God join us together, tell us how to love, say that it is acceptable for a believing spouse to be joined with an unbelieving spouse if both are willing, and then tell the husband he is not worthy of being a disciple is he does not hate his wife?

intermarriageThis is one of those “difficult sayings of Jesus” that isn’t easy to answer.

Messianic or “Jewish-friendly” Christian commentaries on such specific topics aren’t always readily available, but I did find a conventional Christian response by Pastor Mark Driscoll. I know nothing about him, but he did write something detailed on this particular verse.

Jesus’ call to discipleship can be difficult. Contrary to common practice today, Jesus was not in the business of getting anyone and everyone he could in the door of his discipleship program. Instead, he took painstaking measures to clarify the costs of following him. Those who heard him often abandoned their pursuit after hearing his messages (John 6:52–71). In keeping with this truth, Jesus’ requirements for discipleship set out in Luke 14:26 are hard for us to hear.

Thankfully, there is another sense for the word “hate,” as it pertains to this passage. When it’s used in the Old Testament, particularly in the Wisdom Literature, the word loses its psychological force (Michel, “μισεω,” in TDNT, 4:687.). Instead, it carries a sense of intensified choice. For instance, in Proverbs, the writer often instructs the reader to choose righteousness over evil, often worded in terms of love and hate. The call is to reject (= hate) evil and to embrace (= love) righteousness. In Jesus’ statement here in Luke 14:26, the same principle is at play.

-Driscoll, “Tough Text Tuesday – Luke 14:26”
pastormark.tv

That helps a little but not as much as you might think. Still, the suggestion of a choice between two paths reminded me somewhat of a Kal va-chomer or “lighter to heavier” argument. If I reword the passage from Luke 14, I could say, “If you love your wife whom God has joined with you, how much more should you love Messiah, who God brought for the sake of the world?”

I suppose that could be worded better, but you get the idea. No, I’m not rewriting the Bible, far be it from me to do so. But I am suggesting in my own wee commentary (call it a small midrash, for what it’s worth) that, even if my wife is an unbeliever, I don’t have to hate her so I can love Jesus. I can love my wife, and I can also apprehend the great requirement to love and be devoted to Messiah, Son of David, who is the living embodiment of God’s promises for atonement, redemption, salvation, and the resurrection. He is the hope, not just for me, but for everyone. He is the hope that someday my wife will be saved, so in a way, by choosing him, I am also choosing her, for if I should choose her by rejecting Jesus, then how do I know I’m not dooming us both? Loving Jesus then, is also loving my wife.

Advertisements

Book Review: The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

The Four ResponsibilitiesThis book addresses the question, “What will it take to change the world for our Master?” After many years of searching, my answer is that it has to start with a Personal Revelation. Here’s what I mean…

There’s a story told of a rabbi from the late nineteenth century who set out to change the world, but very soon realized that he could not. So, he decided to focus on changing the Jewish community of his country but he failed there as well. He then decided to focus on changing the people of his hometown but didn’t get any further. Finally, in a last effort, he believed he could change his family and sought to do so. Failure was the result there as well. In the end, he realized that the only person he could really change was himself. Therefore, he began to do so. And today, long after his death, his teachings are the cornerstone of Jewish life, particularly in proper speech and ethical conduct.

This is our path.

-Darren Huckey
“Introduction: Why Discipleship,” pg 5
The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple

This is how Darren begins his small (85 pages) booklet and primer on promoting authentic discipleship under our Master, Jesus.

When Darren contacted me and asked me to review this book, I wasn’t sure what to think. I am aware of Darren in various social media venues but can’t say I actually “know” him as well as I know other people I regularly communicate with over the web but have never met. But I was curious and agreed to do the review and subsequently, Darren’s book arrived in the mail.

I must say that I’m impressed. I was barely aware of Emet HaTorah so I wasn’t sure of the quality of the materials they (he?) produce. Both the “look and feel” and quality of content are high and represent a professional job of writing and publishing. I’ll cut to the chase and say right now that I’d recommend this book for anyone who is really interested in what being a disciple of the Jewish Messiah is like as a lived experience.

The booklet is laid out along the pattern of steps Darren establishes for discipleship:

  • Devotion
  • Memorization
  • Imitation
  • Replication

Except for the Introduction, each chapter has a series of study questions at the end as well as the endnotes for references used in the chapter. The book then is suitable for either group study or for the individual reader/student.

Actually, Chapter One is “What is a Disciple?”, which is a critical question to answer. If you don’t know the answer, you certainly can’t make a disciple or even be one.

The Master of whom Darren refers and who leads us in discipleship is Jesus, and the pattern of how to make/be a disciple comes from very Jewish sources. In terms of “the Church,” Darren called discipleship a “lost art.” If a church has any sort of “discipleship program” at all, it’s based on “intangibles” such as defining the disciple as one who “will love Jesus more than anything,” “will carry his cross,” “will count the cost,” and “will surrender everything to Christ.”

The ancient and modern Jewish discipleship is based on “doing” or direct imitation of the Rabbi or teacher, not just being devoted to an abstract set of principles. If you had to live your life based on the “intangibles” I listed above, what exactly would that look like? What would you do? How would someone who knows next to nothing about a “Christian lifestyle” of holiness implement those principles in day-to-day living? Would you recommend that he or she fashion a large, wooden cross and then shlep it on their backs from morning to evening to “carry his cross?”

Darren makes a good point when he calls a disciple a “lifestudent,” but that only helps the reader realize how challenging being a true disciple of Christ is. Discipleship isn’t a six, twelve, or eighteen-week program you run a new member of your church through and at the end, they are a “full-fledged Christian.” Discipleship takes a lifetime of continual studying and mentoring.

Devotion

In one sense, how the church defines a disciple, “love Jesus more than anything,” is the center of devotion to one’s “Rebbe.” But the concept of devotion has to be actualized. That is, you have to understand how devotion is acted out and then do it.

jewish-czech-boys-studying-talmudIn Chapter Two, devotion is a matter of commitment. Think of it like a marriage. Being married is more than just a ceremony and signing a license, it’s a life-long (ideally) commitment of two people to each other to meet not only a set of wants and needs recognized at the beginning of the relationship, but to adapt over time and meet commitments that were never even imagined at the beginning. If you can grasp that concept and better yet, if you’ve actually done it (been married for years or decades), you have a pretty good idea of what living a life of discipleship is all about.

The analogy falls apart when you realize that a marriage is a commitment between two equals and discipleship is being devoted to someone who will always be greater than you.

“Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

John 13:16 (NASB)

Memorization

This is actually something some Christians do pretty well. A lot of churches encourage their members to judiciously read the Bible and to memorize verses, but in the Jewish model of discipleship, students memorize all of the teachings of their Master. That’s a tall order, even if you just interpret this as memorizing everything Jesus said in the Gospels. However, since our Master’s “source material” was the Torah and the Prophets, we’re talking about a much larger body of text being involved.

But Peter told Jesus that Messiah had “words of eternal life” (John 6:68). Writing those words on our minds and hearts leads to such a life, both in the now and in the World to Come.

However, rote memorization isn’t all there is to it. Correct interpretation and then living out these teachings is part and parcel of the task. If we don’t understand the original meaning of the Master’s teachings, they will either seem like nonsense, or we’ll end up completely missing the mark of what he was trying to say. Darren references First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) author and teacher D. Thomas Lancaster and his “Macaroni Principle.” As children, we all probably heard and sung this little tune once or twice:

Yankee Doodle went to town,
riding on a pony;
He stuck a feather in his hat,
and called it macaroni

I won’t reveal the definitions here, but if you don’t know the meaning of “yankee,” “doodle,” “macaroni,” and why someone would put a feather in their hat, you won’t have the faintest idea what this really means (and it really means something quite specific).

Our Rebbe Yeshua may be the wisest and greatest prophet and teacher who ever lived, but if we don’t understand what his original students would have understood when they listened to him, we will proceed to understand, teach, and live lives of folly and error. One of the reasons I have written about the Didache is to illuminate some of the probable details of a life of discipleship and training of the very early Gentile believers. The Didache gets disciples out of their heads and actually “doing” Christianity. That’s what Darren is trying to do with his book, too.

Imitation

I know some people reading this will take the suggestion quite literally and say this is proof that Gentile Christians are commanded to wear tzitzit, lay tefillin, eat Biblically (as opposed to Rabbinically, for some reason) kosher, pray in Hebrew, and try to live as how they imagine observant Jews live without actually converting.

studying_tanakh_messiahThat’s not how I see imitation and such superficial behavior misses the point of this principle. What do we do to imitate our Master, which is the application of his teachings in our lives?

Darren produced a short bullet list (I won’t replicate the whole thing here) that includes showing compassion to others, leading through serving, loving children, having a passion for justice, and loving the Torah and the Temple. I note that I can love the Torah without believing I am commanded to live as a Jewish person. I can believe that the Torah applies to me differently than to the descendants of the ancient Israelites and, as the Didache states:

6:2 For, on the one hand, if you are able to bear
the whole yoke of the Lord, you will be perfect;
but if, on the other hand, you are not able,
that which you are able, do this.

I can take my observance of the Torah of Moses to the extent I am able, as I understand this, but my imitation of the Master does not include a commandment to act as “Jewish” as the Master.

Actually, at the end of Chapter Four, Darren uses “praying like Jesus” as an excellent example of how we can imitate our Master. I think it would be a good place for anyone to start on the path of being a disciple in imitation of his Rebbe.

Replication

Implementing Chapter Five is a bit tricky, because we don’t really have a system in the Church that functions like the Jewish model of multi-generational discipleship. The idea is that a group of disciples study under a Master Teacher for many years, holding him as more dear than even their own parents, being totally devoted to him, spending long hours and days literally following him wherever he went, listening to him, imitating his dress, his patterns of speech, memorizing his every word and deed.

Eventually, one by one, each disciple would be elevated to the point to where he could begin to take on his own disciples and to be a Master to them. He would then pass on everything he learned from his Master (which would include the teachings of his Master’s Master, and so on, preserving all of those teachings in the next generation).

And so it would go, at least ideally, generation after generation.

In Christianity, the original apostles are long dead and the discipleship model died with them. What we have to learn from are the written teachings of the Master and the first apostles and disciples. Only the Bible is our guide to becoming disciples of Jesus and somehow replicating what we learn to a next generation.

The Church doesn’t even come close to doing this in terms of discipleship, although to their credit, they have preserved (though in many cases, the interpretations have been skewed) the teachings of Jesus for nearly two-thousand years.

As I was reading this chapter, I thought about my every other week Sunday afternoon coffee conversations with a good friend of mine. Although we don’t exactly have a mentor/student relationship, he has been a Christian for forty years and I learn a great deal from him, including how to clarify my confusion on a good many things. I suppose you could also include my weekly conversations with my Pastor in this category, since I do have a one on one relationship with someone who is far better educated in the teachings of our Master than I am.

But both of those situations fall short of actual discipleship. A true disciple will study under his Master for years or decades. How can the church even begin to do this, especially in a highly mobile western society where people move from city to city and state to state every few years?

Remember, in order to engage in this process of Replication, we first have to be in the process of becoming a disciple ourselves. Brad Young tells us, “For disciples to be made, there is first a need for master teachers.”

-Huckey, pg 74

Where do we start? Who are the Master Teachers in the Church who will commit to a multi-year, multi-decade process of raising up disciples in our Master Yeshua and then in turn, having those disciples raise up their own disciples? How can this even be possible in our modern Christian culture?

What I Learned

Jesus followed the traditional pattern of the Jewish discipleship model of his day. He raised hundreds to thousands of disciples, including a core group of apostles who would go on to become Master Teachers in their own right. His disciples followed Jesus around everywhere he went, listened to his teachings, memorized his words, conformed every action of their lives to his example, and later, they recorded his teachings from memory and raise up disciples in his sacred name.

walking_discipleThe process fell apart pretty quickly, especially once Paul started taking the teachings of the Master to the Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master in the Diaspora. You see, in most cases, Paul couldn’t stay in one place for the years or decades it would take to follow the discipleship model that would allow the new believers to assimilate the teachings of Jesus into their lives. In many cases, Paul would have to leave a Gentile leader in charge of a “church” who barely grasped the basics of “Judaism 101,” and didn’t even come close to being a competent disciple, let alone a “Master Teacher” for his local group.

I wonder if that’s why most of Paul’s letters take the tone of “course corrections,” defining where the various churches have gone wrong and, at a distance, trying to provide the teachings necessary to get them back on track.

All of the other “Judaisms” going forward in history (actually, only the stream of the Pharisees survived beyond the destruction of the Temple) managed to preserve the discipleship model much better. In our modern era, this only exists in certain segments of religious Judaism, but the model still exists. In the Church, it disintegrated early on and except in fairly rare cases, was never resurrected.

Conclusion

Darren Huckey’s book will give you a starting point. It’s well written and well researched, and I think it’s a valuable resource for people who want to become and/or to raise up serious and correctly oriented disciples of our Master, but there’s a limit to what you can do with such a small booklet. This work won’t turn you into a disciple. Actually, no book, including the Bible, will change anything there is about you unless you dedicate your life to the teachings therein and walk the walk from the moment you wake up until you drift to sleep at night, day after day after day…for all of your life.

Huckey’s book is best done by doing or rather, using it as a template to discover how to “do” discipleship under Jesus. You’ll need more resources to fully explore a life of discipleship, which is what I suspect Darren plans to do with his ministry. It’s what First Fruits of Zion has been doing with their ministry for over twenty years (and especially after experiencing significant “course corrections” of their own).

The Four Responsibilities of a Disciple is a tool in your collection of resources that will guide you to a life of Jesus discipleship, but it’s only one tool. I must emphasize that this one book will not be sufficient to make you into a disciple. It will however, point you in the right direction.

Pray, love, serve, and study, but most of all, do discipleship, and you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.

FFOZ TV Review: Raising Disciples

ffoz_tv12_startEpisode 12: Everyone knows that Jesus had twelve disciples but many would be surprised to find out that the institution of discipleship existed centuries before the time of the apostles. In episode twelve viewers will gain a better understanding of what it means to be a disciple from the understanding of Judaism in the days of Messiah. Jesus tells us that “Every disciple fully trained will become like his teacher.” Indeed, to be a Christian means to be a disciple of Jesus, a student responsible for learning and becoming like one’s rabbi.

-from the Introduction to FFOZ TV: The Promise of What is to Come
Episode 12: Raising Disciples

The Lesson: The Mystery of the Meaning of Discipleship

Whenever we consider being disciples of Christ, most of us in the church probably think that means being believers in Jesus. However, according to First Fruits of Zion (FFOZ) teacher and author Toby Janicki, it’s really much more. But how much more? What does it really mean to be a disciple of Jesus?

Toby first spends a lot of time in this episode showing the audience what discipleship meant in Judaism in the late Second Temple period; during the earthly lifetime of Jesus:

The disciples of Yochanan and the disciples of the Prushim would often fast, and they came and said to him, “Why do the disciples of Yochanan and the disciples of the Prushim fast, but your disciples do not fast?”

Mark 2:18 (DHE Gospels)

Here we see that not only did Jesus have disciples but that John the Baptist and the Pharisees had disciples. In fact, all of the teachers or Rabbis in all of the streams of Judaism in that day had disciples. But we still need to understand what it is to be a disciple in general and a disciple of Jesus of Nazareth in particular.

To me, a lot of the information presented about discipleship wasn’t a great revelation since I’ve been exposed to it before, but it may be that some Christians believe only Jesus had disciples and that he only had twelve of them. This, of course, is not correct:

After this the Lord appointed seventy-two others and sent them on ahead of him, two by two, into every town and place where he himself was about to go.

Luke 1:10 (ESV)

While some translations say that seventy were sent out and others say seventy-two, Toby says that from the context in the rest of this chapter, those sent out were also disciples of Jesus. This illustrates how common disciples were in that day and age. He also cites Acts 9:36 to illustrate that women were disciples, Acts 6:1 and 6:7 to illustrate how there were many, many disciples, and Acts 11:26 to show that there were both Jewish and Gentile disciples of Jesus.

ffoz_tv12_tobyAccording to Toby, the word “Christian” is used only three times in the Bible, but the words “disciple” and “disciples” relating to followers and students of Jesus were used many times. Perhaps it’s more accurate to call ourselves disciples of Christ rather than Christians. But then again, that would depend on the meaning of disciples and discipleship. Which brings us to our first clue:

Clue 1: All early believers of Jesus were called disciples.

But going back to the question I just asked and the question Toby repeatedly asks, we need to understand how Christ’s original Jewish audience and the first Jewish readers of the Gospels would have understood discipleship. To get the answer, we turn to FFOZ teacher and translator Aaron Eby in Israel.

Aaron provides a great deal of background information on early Jewish discipleship including the fact that discipleship predates Jesus by quite a bit. Discipleship was considered the primary method of higher Jewish education, but it wasn’t just a matter of going to school and studying different subjects. A disciple was a student but specifically, a student of a Torah teacher. In the days of Jesus and before, when a young man thought he wanted a life of Torah learning, he would apprentice himself to a Torah master, however, this apprenticeship might not be what you imagine.

A disciple was to be a learner/imitator. He would memorize all of his Master’s teachings, learn to imitate his Master’s style of dress, mannerisms, inflections of speech. The disciple in some ways considered himself a servant or even a slave to his Rabbi, his “great one.” In some ways, he thought of himself as a son to a Father, but the Rabbi was considered greater than the disciple’s biological Father. Disciples were tremendously devoted to their Masters, more so than to their own families or even their own lives. And so it was with the disciples of Jesus, their Master and ours.

Back in the studio, Toby describes the concept of discipleship as a job description.

A pupil is not above his teacher; but everyone, after he has been fully trained, will be like his teacher.

Luke 6:40 (NASB)

That the disciples of Jesus were imitators of their Master and memorized his teachings is the reason why we have the Gospels today.

Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ.

1 Corinthians 11:1 (NASB)

Here we see that Paul considered himself a disciple of Christ as his imitator, and he suggests to the readers of his letter that they should imitate Paul. Were they then Paul’s disciples? I’ll answer that in a bit, but we have arrived at our second clue:

Clue 2: The primary job of a disciple was to be like his teacher.

Even the Pirkei Avot or “Ethics of our Fathers,” a set of Jewish teachings that predated Jesus says, “Raise many disciples.”

ffoz_tv12_aaronA Rabbi’s job was to create a new generation of disciples who would learn everything from the Rabbi and about the Rabbi and then, when they were fully trained, the disciples would become Rabbi’s themselves, raising up their own generation of disciples in order to preserve the Torah teaching and wisdom of their own Master. This process would be repeated from one generation to the next with the goal of creating an unbroken line of discipleship, generation by generation, that would preserve the teachings of Torah for each Teacher, often by establishing great schools such as the Houses of Study of Shammai and Hillel. This maps well to Matthew 28:19-20 where Rabbi Yeshua instructed his Jewish disciples to raise up a generation of disciples from the people of the nations, which the Church often refers to as “the great commission.” However, as we’ve seen, the idea of “the great commission” hardly does justice to what Jesus was actually commanding.

Now we have arrived at the third and final clue:

Clue 3: The job of a disciple was to raise up more disciples.

But here Toby introduces a strong caveat:

But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

Matthew 23:8-12 (NASB)

This set of verses has often been misunderstood or just not understood at all. Does this mean we shouldn’t have respect for our Bible teachers and Pastors? Here’s where having a Jewish perspective on the New Testament comes in especially handy. According to Toby, this is Jesus defining the difference between the relationship of Jewish disciples to the Sages and disciples of Jesus, our Master, to himself.

Remember, the purpose of discipleship was to learn all there was to learn from your Master and then to establish your own House of Study in your name passing on what you originally learned. Your disciples would be taught in your name, not in the name of your own Master, and your disciples would teach in their own names, not in yours (actually it was more like, “I teach you in the name of my Master, who taught in the name of his Master,” and so on).

Jesus said his disciples would be different. Each Torah Master would eventually age and die, but his teachings would be preserved in his disciples and in each generation of disciples that followed. Jesus is alive! We hear this enthusiastically declared every Easter or Resurrection Day in Church. James, Peter, and Paul were not to set up their own houses of study and teach in their own names by making their own disciples (in spite of what we saw relative to Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:1). They were not to raise up disciples for themselves but instead, they were and we are to raise up disciples for our Master, our one and only Master, Jesus the Messiah, Yeshua HaMashiach.

What Did I Learn?

I learned the meaning behind Matthew 23:8-12 which I tended to ignore in the past because I couldn’t figure it out. It makes a lot of sense now. I used to think that we inherited a broken system of discipleship since the teachings of Jesus were never transmitted generation to generation in the manner we have seen described in this FFOZ TV episode. Now I realize that it was by design, since we were never intended to be the students of any Master except Jesus. He is our only teacher, our only Torah Master. This does not mean we shouldn’t respect any Bible teacher or Pastor in our Church, but we must always remember that none of them take the place of Jesus. If we see a group of believers who esteem their Pastor or spiritual leader as anything approaching our true Master, then there is something wrong (and sadly, such situations make an appearance the news media from time to time, usually as scandals involving some highly public and popular religious leader).

ffoz_tv12_extra2I also thought of some questions as I was watching this episode and in fact, I was reminded of some of the narratives of Toby from other episodes that involve how he commonly introduces himself. He says that he isn’t Jewish but rather a Gentile who practices Messianic Judaism. It isn’t always apparent, but he usually wears a kippah while on camera (A kippah is a head covering typically worn by religious Jews either just in synagogue or during their waking hours, depending on their level of observance).

What is the difference between being a Gentile who practices Messianic Judaism and a Gentile who practices Christianity? More importantly, how do these two “states” relate to being a disciple of Christ, our Master? Since this television show was created to present the Gospels and Jesus Christ to a more traditional Christian audience by introducing a more Jewish perspective and interpretation, what does that say about the level of discipleship and imitation of our Master relative to “Messianic Gentiles” and Christians?

This question is especially important to me, since it factors into how I think of myself as a disciple of the Master by calling myself a Christian and attending Church. One of the motivations for me to return to Church after an absence of many years was the book Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile written by FFOZ president and founder Boaz Michael. Have I become a better imitator of my Master by following this template of church attendance and Christian affiliation or a worse one? At some point in the near future, as the one year anniversary of my returning to Church comes near, I plan to write one or more “meditations” on the application of Boaz’s Tent of David in my life and the results I see so far.

Closely related to this situation, Toby also didn’t drill down into something that I think it’s vital to know. When we say that a disciple of Christ is an imitator or Christ, just exactly what are we imitating? This isn’t an idle question. Many in the Hebrew Roots movement insist that discipleship means imitating the Jewish Jesus in every aspect of his Judaism, including wearing kippot (plural of kippah) and tallitot (plural of tallit) and to otherwise look and act in a manner identical to modern religious Jews (in spite of the fact that Jesus isn’t a “modern religious Jew,” but rather, he was an ancient Jewish Rabbi and he is the Jewish Messiah King).

The clue that may lead to an answer was provided at the end of this episode by Boaz Michael who appeared on camera and said that next week (episode 13), the topic would be how the Torah is the foundation of Messiah Yeshua’s instructions to his disciples. How can the Torah be applied to both the Jewish and Gentile disciples of our Master?

I’m hoping my review next week will help answer these questions.

Today is Hoshana Raba, the last day of Sukkot. Lord, please abundantly save us. Candle lighting for Shmini Atzeret is tonight at sundown. God, continue to be with us.

Day Zero.

 

 

Commentaries and Cautionary Tales

study-in-the-dark‫לא שנא בדרבנן ולא שנא בדאורייתא – קמח‬

Tosafos (earlier 55a) explains that this rule, that under certain circumstances, one should refrain from pointing out a fellow Jews’ transgressions and not to rebuke a sinner, is only applicable where the offender will most certainly not listen to the words of rebuke which are addressed to him. However, if there is any possibility that the person will change his ways, then the observer has the responsibility to instruct him not to sin.

Rema (O.C. 608:2), however, writes that if the nature of the unlawful behavior is in the realm of a halachah which is not explicit in the Torah, then the obligation to intervene depends on whether or not the person will respond or not, as Tosafos says. Although the law is derived from a verse, being that it is not explicitly stated, we only proceed to rebuke the offender if there is a chance he may listen and change his ways. However, if the halachah is one which is explicit in the Torah, then we must rebuke the sinner even if we are certain that he will not listen to our words.

The rationale for the ruling of Rema is found in Rashba (Beitza 30a). He writes that a halachah that is not explicit in the Torah might be looked upon lightly by some people. We should assume that the violator is mistaken is considering this halachah as not important, but the fact is that if we were to correct him, he probably will disregard our rebuke. It is in this situation that we say, “It is better that he not be told, and that his actions remain inadvertent, than for us to make an issue of it and for his continued actions to be a more intentional violation of halachah.” However, if the person is disobeying a halachah which is explicit in the Torah, we cannot assume that his actions are inadvertent at all. We will not make matters worse by exhorting him to desist from his sinful ways, because he is already acting defiantly. We can only hope to improve the situation and to remedy the person’s observance.

Daf Yomi Digest
Distinctive Insight
“Rebuke to the receptive”
Shabbos 148

I had just commented on one of Derek Leman’s blog posts in what promises to be yet another endlessly circular debate on whether or not Paul ever intended for the non-Jewish disciples of Jesus to be obligated to the full weight of the Torah commandments when I read the above-quoted commentary. As you can tell from the wording in my last sentence, I consider most of these conversations to be a futile waste of time, but on the other hand, they are so incredibly compelling (“Someone is wrong on the Internet”) that I still stick my nose in unbidden from time to time (and usually get it chopped off).

Obviously, the Daf commentary on Shabbos 148 is meant to apply within a Jewish halakhic context, but for the purposes of this discussion, I’m artificially applying it to a wider audience and loosening up some of the definitions (“wrong” doesn’t necessarily mean “sin”).

I very recently referred to all people and particularly all people of faith as “poor, blind, naked, stupid human beings who think we’re a whole lot more cool and smart than we really are.” Apparently that message didn’t get out because if it had and if it were taken seriously, then I suppose we might pause in the middle of our “self-important” debates to consider who and what is really important in the grander scheme of things (i.e. the Kingdom of Heaven).

A key element in why it’s easy to lack gratitude is because human nature is to take things for granted when we get used to having them. To master gratitude we need to stop taking things for granted and to increase our thoughts of appreciation.

The Creator keeps bestowing His tremendous kindnesses on us each and every day when we are awake and when we are asleep, whether we are aware of them or not. There are so many things in our lives that we take for granted.

As an exercise, choose a day to not take anything for granted. Look at everything as if it were new. Look at everything as if this were the first time that this positive thing was happening. Look at all that you own as if you just bought or received them today. Look at what you have as if it were invented recently and you are one of the first people on the planet to get it.

Hopefully this exercise will give you the experience of what it’s like to not take things for granted.

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
“Daily Lift #744: Don’t Take Things for Granted”
Aish.com

illegal-christianityIt seems that one of the things we’re taking for granted in all of these debates is God. Not that we shouldn’t examine, explore, and discuss our faith and how we understand worship and lifestyle, but I think we’re missing the big, big picture. Recently, I’ve started reading a book called The Heavenly Man: The Remarkable True Story of Chinese Christian Brother Yun written by a Chinese Christian with New Zealand missionary Paul Hattaway. Yun tells his story of coming to faith in Christ at age 16 in a family that was extremely impoverished and in a China where it was illegal to be a Christian.

Yun recounts one of the earliest events when he was captured by law enforcement agents in China for preaching at a gathering of Christians:

I was made to kneel down in the dirt while officers punched me in the chest and face and repeatedly kicked me from behind with their heavy boots. My face was covered with blood. The pain was unbearable and I nearly lost consciousness as I lay on the ground.

They lifted me up and made me stagger down another street. They were determined to make an example of me to as many people as possible.

-Yun/Hattaway, pg 63

I’ll talk more about Brother Yun and the “loss of focus” I believe many of us have been suffering from in tomorrow’s “meditation,” but after reading the Daf commentary and seeing the birth of yet another blogosphere debate this morning, I didn’t want to wait.

In my own little world, I meet with my Pastor every Wednesday night and we discuss many things. We continue our own debate on the function and purpose of “the Law,” both in its original and ancient context and in the world of Judaism today. Pastor Randy lived in Israel for fifteen years, has many Jewish friends, and is deeply devoted to the Jewish people, so it’s not as if he’s a stranger to these topics. And yet we continue to debate how the Torah applies in Judaism and what “Torah” even means.  As people of faith, we all struggle to find our own focus when we read the pages of the Bible, trying to discover the message God has delivered about the past, present, and future.

While our discussions have been very productive thus far, Pastor Randy suggested we turn future meetings toward a specific topic, namely D. Thomas Lancaster’s book The Holy Epistle to the Galatians. I’ve been meaning to re-read it again since I feel I didn’t really “get it” the first time, and Pastor Randy wants to read it but since his reading list is so incredibly vast (he has read up to one hundred books in a single year, so as a reader, I’m definitely an “illiterate” amateur by comparison) that having a “reading partner” will add motivation for him to address Lancaster’s work. I think it’s one way to bring some of the matters we have been talking about into greater clarity.

Maybe it seems like I’m talking out of both sides of my mouth, eschewing Internet debates on controversial Biblical matters but engaging in such conversations in my personal life, but some things seem to be more accessible and “relatable” face-to-face. Also, our conversations don’t involve “the usual suspects” in the blogosphere who always present the same point of view and who always expect everyone else to change their minds except them. That has to include me whenever I participate in these web discussions and that’s why I think those transactions miss the point.

I’ve already experienced some shifting in my viewpoints and more than a little illumination as a result of my Wednesday night talks, and I suspect that my own meager offerings to the conversation may have influenced some of Pastor Randy’s perspectives as well. But that’s what a conversation does…it’s not just a venue for us to teach, it’s an opportunity to learn, to let ourselves be changed, to grow, to be open to encountering God.

It’s also an opportunity to revisit the essentials of faith, which we will definitely not encounter on someone’s web log. God is encountered personally, in actual contact with real human beings, and in the presence of the humility and nakedness of our own spirits.

christianity-is-IllegalIn reading Brother Yun’s book, I’m witnessing the struggle to spread the message of the Gospel in Communist China in the 1970s and early 1980s (which is how far I’ve gotten in my reading so far). Many people coming to faith are illiterate farmers. The vast majority have never even seen the Bible since possession of one would be illegal (although supposedly that has changed in recent years). Most only have a vague idea of who Jesus is except that he’s God’s son who died to take away our sins and illnesses. They meet in secret in small house churches. They baptize in the middle of the night, sometimes in winter, cutting holes in the ice in rivers, trying to avoid the police, arrest, imprisonment, and torture. It will never occur to them that some other Christians in the western nations think that they’re “obligated” to wear tzitzit, keep kosher, and observe the Shabbat. They’re too busy risking their freedom and their lives trying against all odds to worship Jesus Christ, to love one another, and to spread the word of hope to the hopeless.

I’m hardly one to say that I’ve risen above all of the bickering and debating, but I really think we need to stop and put a few things back into perspective. If all the things we argue about aren’t for His Glory; if they aren’t for the sake of Heaven, then they can only be for our own gratification and the desire to be “right.”

Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, to speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people. For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life. The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless. As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.

Titus 3:1-11 (ESV)

Commentary and cautionary tale as found in midrash and in a Pastoral epistle from Paul. Blessings.

Incinerating

onfire.jpgWhen dross is removed from silver, the vessel can emerge for the refiner; when an evildoer is removed from the king, his throne is established in righteousness. Do not glorify yourself in the presence of the king, and do not stand in the place of the great, for it is better that it should be said to you, “Come up here,” than that you be demoted before the prince, as your eyes have seen [happen to others].

Proverbs 25:4-7 (Stone Edition Tanakh)

If a man invites you to his wedding celebration, do not recline at the head or else someone else more honored than you may also be invited there. The host will come to you and him and tell you, “Clear a place for him.” Then you will get up ashamedly to sit at the place at the end. But if you are invited, sit in the place at the end so that the host will come and say to you, “My friend, move up higher than this!” It will bring you honor before those reclining with you. Everyone who lifts himself up will be brought low, but everyone who lowers himself will be lifted up.

Luke 14:7-11 (DHE Gospels)

No, this isn’t another rant about people in the religious world putting on airs and telling the rest of us what is or isn’t right about Christianity and the Bible and such. It’s about something far more serious than that. It’s about ultimate consequences.

“And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: ‘The words of the Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and whose feet are like burnished bronze.

“‘I know your works, your love and faith and service and patient endurance, and that your latter works exceed the first. But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works, and I will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works. But to the rest of you in Thyatira, who do not hold this teaching, who have not learned what some call the deep things of Satan, to you I say, I do not lay on you any other burden. Only hold fast what you have until I come. The one who conquers and who keeps my works until the end, to him I will give authority over the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron, as when earthen pots are broken in pieces, even as I myself have received authority from my Father. And I will give him the morning star. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.’”

Revelation 2:18-29 (ESV)

Please don’t take that quote as if I’m aiming it at you personally. I’m not. I’m just trying to communicate something that I don’t think we always understand. No matter how much we think we’re doing to build up the Kingdom of God, to help other human beings, to study the Bible and learn God’s ways for our lives; no matter how much we believe our acts of righteousness and the faith and zealousness that burns in our hearts means to God, perhaps all that we believe we’ve accomplished doesn’t matter as much as we think. Maybe the Christ, the Jewish Messiah King, who came once and who will return again in glory and in awesome, majestic power, has something against us, just had he had against the church at Thyatira (or the churches of Ephesus, Pergamum, Sardis, Laodicea, and so on).

In my conversation with Pastor Randy last week, we were talking about righteousness (no small subject, that), particularly what we human believers think righteousness is compared to the standards of the Master. Human beings, even the best of us, have a tendency to be a little self-deluding. We like to think things around us and things about ourselves are a little better than they really are. I think that helps us not dwell on futility so much, and keeps us from being depressed, not that we have reason to be if we are disciples of Christ. Nevertheless, most of us go around most of the time thinking we’re a lot “cooler” and more in tune with God than we probably really are.

Pastor Randy and I were discussing what an actual encounter with Jesus would be like. A lot of Christians imagine meeting Jesus to be a very peaceful and comfortable event, like visiting your favorite uncle when you were a child, and you could just hop up on his lap so he could read to you from your favorite story book. Most of us don’t envision such a meeting going like the one John writes of here:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet saying, “Write what you see in a book and send it to the seven churches, to Ephesus and to Smyrna and to Pergamum and to Thyatira and to Sardis and to Philadelphia and to Laodicea.”

Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead.

Revelation 1:10-17 (ESV)

Under heavenNo one wants to visit a “favorite uncle” if he’s so awesome and terrifying that a mere glimpse of him makes us fall down and think we’re going to be incinerated in the next half-second. On the other hand, that seems to be exactly how John experienced his encounter with the risen and living Christ, even though decades before, John had walked in the presence of Jesus and knew no fear. It is no small thing to face the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords and to realize what it is to stare into the eyes of true righteousness. Maybe we have something to be afraid of after all.

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment…

Matthew 25:41-46 (ESV)

I’m not saying that a life of faith is futile and that we have to second guess God and wonder at our relationship with Him…not if we’re willing to be really honest with ourselves. I’m saying that no matter what we’ve done and how well we think we’ve served God, we probably aren’t the really big deal we think we are (if that’s what we’re thinking). Imagine meeting the Master is like precious metal being refined. Imagine he can see through all the dross with a gaze that emits a raging fire and burns it all away, revealing the tiny bits and minute portions of what is truly of value hidden deep inside of us.

We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a polluted garment. We all fade like a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

Isaiah 64:6 (ESV)

…as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.”

Romans 3:10-12 (ESV)

And with all that we think is worthy but is actually worthless is burned away under the Master’s flaming gaze, what will be left of us? We can only hope and pray that he will find some small gem of faith within us that will save us from wrath and destruction.

I’m not trying to depress you, but I am introducing a particularly serious and frightening note to our conversation. Especially in the religious blogosphere and in the Christian discussion boards, we have a tendency to argue points of this and that as if such debates were the most important thing we could be doing for Christ with our entire lives. We appear to believe that Jesus will read our blogs and say something like, “Well written, good and faithful servant,” and then sprinkle a couple of dozen gold crowns upon our noble heads.

Are we really that delusional?

Make every effort to live in peace with everyone and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. See that no one is sexually immoral, or is godless like Esau, who for a single meal sold his inheritance rights as the oldest son. Afterward, as you know, when he wanted to inherit this blessing, he was rejected. Even though he sought the blessing with tears, he could not change what he had done.

Hebrews 12:14-17 (ESV)

A life of holiness is no small thing. On the one hand, the requirements of a holy life couldn’t be more simple, but on the other hand, living them out is the most difficult thing we can ever attempt. To do so, we must “deny ourselves, pick up our crosses, and follow our Master.” (Matthew 16:24)

No one lives a life of holiness alone. Yes, God sent the Holy Spirit to strengthen, to enable, and to encourage us, but he also sent other believers and a community of fellowship within which we are to learn and to be supported.

You shall know this day and consider it within your heart.

Deuteronomy 4:39

Business people who are involved in many transactions employ accountants to analyze their operations and to determine whether or not they are profitable. They may also seek the help of experts to determine which products are making money and which are losing. Such studies allow them to maximize their profits and minimize their losses. Without such data, they might be doing a great deal of business, but discover at the end of the year that their expenditures exceeded their earnings.

Sensible people give at least as much thought to the quality and achievement of their lives as they do to their businesses. Each asks himself, “Where am I going with my life? What am I doing that is of value? In what ways am I gaining and improving? And which practices should I increase, and which should I eliminate?”

Few people make such reckonings. Many of those that do, do so on their own, without consulting an expert’s opinion. These same people would not think of being their own business analysts and accountants, and they readily pay large sums of money to engage highly qualified experts in these fields.

Jewish ethical works urge us to regularly undergo cheshbon hanefesh, a personal accounting. We would be foolish to approach this accounting of our very lives with any less seriousness than we do our business affairs. We should seek out the “spiritual C.P.A.s,” those who have expertise in spiritual guidance, to help us in our analyses.

Today I shall…

…look for competent guidance in doing a personal moral inventory and in planning my future.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Adar 3”
Aish.com

icarus-seeking-lightSome people have criticized my return to church as a kind of “falling away” from what they consider a “better truth” back into what they believe is a corrupt and apostate Christianity. Others applaud my attending church, not for the virtues possessed by a Christian walk, but because they believe I can’t “handle the truth” about God, the Torah, and the particular vision they hold dear to themselves.

I guess you can’t please everyone, but then again, I’m not trying to.

On the other hand, I see in my conversations with Pastor Randy and in what he teaches from the pulpit as what you have just read in Rabbi Twerski’s commentary. While our discussions aren’t specifically about me and my personal future, any interaction involving God, the Bible, and faith can’t fail to have an impact are every individual participating. Whenever two or three of us gather together, Jesus is there with us (Matthew 18:20).

There’s a corresponding message in the Mishnah:

But three who ate at one table and said upon it words of Torah are considered to have eaten from the table of the Omnipresent, as it is written: “And he said to me ‘This is the table which is in the presence of G-d’.”

-quoted from Torah.org

If we are to be consumed, let it be by the Word of God and by the company of people who speak of righteousness, not for their own sakes but for God’s…lest we be consumed by another fire, endure the searing pain of having our “dross” burned away like a bundle of straw in a blast furnace, and be humbled or even humiliated before God and before all other people.

If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other. Not all of us can do great things but we can do small things with great love. Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.

-Mother Teresa

 

 

Asking God Stupid Questions

On today’s daf we find one should ask questions even if he knows that people might make fun of him.

Rabbi Yirmiyah was well known for his outlandish questions that are recorded throughout shas. In Bava Basra 23 we find that he was even evicted from the beis midrash for asking a particularly peculiar question. Although he was surely laughed at, Rabbi Yirmiyah intrepidly asked many questions that superficially seem strange, and he was not deterred. We can learn the importance of asking all of one’s questions fearlessly from what Rav Chaim Vital, zt”l, teaches about Rabbi Yirmiyah. “All questions asked in the heavenly mesivta are posed by Rabbi Yirmiyah. Since Rabbi Yirmiyah always asked his questions from an honest desire to know the answer, he merited to sit at the opening to the heavenly mesivta and has the distinction of asking all inquiries there.”

Rabbeinu Yonah, zt”l, points out that the desire to seek out the truth is a prerequisite to success in Torah learning. “The verse states, ‘ אם תבקשנה ככסף ,’ one must seek out Torah like he pursues money. He must be careful to attain Torah specifically through toil. His labor to uncover what the Torah means should be sweet to him—like hunting precious gems is beloved to any successful prospector. This is the meaning of the verse, ‘ שש אנכיעל אמרתך כמוצא שלל רב — I rejoice over Your words like one who has found a great treasure.’ The more one feels this sweetness, the more his eyes are opened to understanding the Torah and the more Torah he is able to retain.

As our sages say on the verse, ‘ דעתלנפשך ינעם ’, a person should learn material that his heart desires to learn.”

-Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“Seeking the Torah’s Truth”
Niddah 27

If you’ve been reading my blog for very long, you know I’m a great one for asking questions. But giving answers, not so much. I don’t always find a lot of rock solid answers in theological realms. I’m not talking about doubt in basic faith particularly, but all of the little, annoying details we tend to argue about in the religious blogosphere. And then, there’s the problem of looking stupid.

At one point or another in our school experience, we’ve probably struggled with whether or not to ask a “dumb question.” You know what I mean. The teacher is talking about something. Everyone else in the room is nodding their heads up and down sagely in agreement with what the teacher is saying. You haven’t the faintest idea what the teacher is talking about.

Should you raise your hand and ask for clarification? Everyone else in the room seems to know what the topic is all about except you. If you ask the teacher to explain what he or she is saying, everyone will think you’re some kind of special moron and laugh. You’ll be embarrassed. You’ll be humiliated. You’ll look and feel like a fool.

Nevermind that more than a few people in class are probably feeling exactly the way you do and thinking the same thing you are. They may not know what the teacher is talking about either, but they’re too afraid to ask, just like you. They’re just better at faking it and acting like the subject is old news to them. If you summon the courage to raise your hand and ask “the question,” you’ll not only get the information you need, but you’ll be the hero to everyone who wants to ask but can’t work up the nerve (even though they’ll never admit it to you). And the teacher will congratulate you for being wise enough to ask the right question.

Probably.

No one laughs when I ask questions here. Well, it is my blog so why shouldn’t I ask? On the other hand, I do sometimes get in trouble for delving into areas where I’m particularly ignorant. I don’t get laughed at exactly, but I do occasionally get a public or private chiding. Our story off the Daf paints a particularly meritorious picture of people who ask “stupid questions” but this is midrash, not real life.

We have Thomas Gray’s poem Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College to thank for the common expression, “if ignorance is bliss tis folly to be wise.” (not an exact quote). I think the statement is supposed to be ironic, but there’s a lot of truth in those words, especially in the 21st century where our public information sources are not exactly uncontrolled. And we like it that way.

Life, the economy, politics, health care, raising a family, and so on and so forth, are all terribly depressing, or they can be at times. Why do I need to know more than I already do, especially if I might have to think and feel as a result?

The same is true in some (most?) religious venues. Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so, or so the song lyrics go, but how do you really know? What does it mean? And what’s love got to do with it anyway? Aren’t we talking about obeying the will of God? Who is God? Is He judge, ruler, King, teacher, companion, and could He also be a man and a spirit?

Troubling questions, and a lot of people don’t want to ask troubling questions. They just want to believe what they’re told and have it start and stop there.

I suppose that’s cynical, but I’m one of those people who can’t stop asking questions, especially the stupid ones. No, I never had to nerve to ask stupid questions when I was in school, so I’m making up for lost time now. But if God is the teacher then at once, no question can be stupid and all questions are stupid because no human being can know anything about God. If we don’t ask all these dumb questions, we die in ignorance.

Sometimes I ask questions and people get angry. Sometimes people ask questions about what I said and my own ignorance is exposed for the world to see. No wonder we argue and fuss with each other so much on the Internet. Half the time we’re offended and the other half, we’re embarrassed.

The nature of a human being is to simply react, to throw back at others the medicine they mete out to you.

This is what Rava, the Babylonian Jewish sage, would advise: Ignore the urge to return bad with bad, hurt with hurt, scorn with scorn—and the heavens will ignore your scorning, your hurting, your acts that were less than good.

G‑d shadows man. Go beyond your nature with others and He will do the same with you.

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

But between the questions, the answers, and the audience of offended, embarrassed, and challenged human beings, there is a God and a teacher and a Father who watches and waits and hopes we’ll overlook each other’s faults as He chooses to overlook ours. He’s hoping that we will choose to be more like Him and display grace and forgiveness toward each other. If we call Jesus our Lord, Messiah, Savior and Rabbi (teacher) and we say we want to be more like him, then as his students, we should learn that the best answers to our questions aren’t just the words “mercy,” “grace,” “compassion,” and “forgiveness,” but living out the answers by showing people what the lesson really means.