Tag Archives: Eden

Reflections on Romans 5

Without becoming weak in faith he contemplated his own body, now as good as dead since he was about a hundred years old, and the deadness of Sarah’s womb; yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform. Therefore it was also credited to him as righteousness. Now not for his sake only was it written that it was credited to him, but for our sake also, to whom it will be credited, as those who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead, He who was delivered over because of our transgressions, and was raised because of our justification.

Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God.

Romans 4:19-5:2 (NASB)

Remember, Paul wrote this letter without chapters and verses in mind. He was trying to express a unified set of thoughts to his audience who were, most likely, the believing Gentiles associating with believing and unbelieving Jews in the Roman synagogues.

In my previous reflection, I focused a great deal on how, for a Jewish Jesus-believer, there was/is no inconsistency between Torah and faith. For that matter, there’s no inconsistency for a non-Jewish Jesus-believer between faith and obedience, either.

But there was a lot of misunderstanding going on (apparently) in the Roman Jesus-believing community on both sides of the aisle. The Gentiles somehow felt they were superior to the non-believing Jews in that they were granted access to Jewish worship and social space as equal co-participants without having to undergo the proselyte rite and take up the full yoke of Torah in the manner of the Jews. The non-believing Jews pushed back by declaring themselves superior as possessors of the “oracles of God” and how by just being ethnic Jews they were justified before God.

There is also some indication that at least some Jews may have mistakenly thought that because their faith in Yeshua (Jesus) justified them, they were more like the Gentiles and did not have to follow a strict observance of the mitzvot.

Paul was trying to straighten out his audience orient them to the importance of both obedience due to covenant obligation and being justified only by faith.

Now we see Paul continuing to make this point, emphasizing how Gentiles could also be included in the covenant blessings by faith but not have to take up all of the Jewish covenant obligations. The one commonality between the Jewish and Gentile believers was/is that they were/are all justified by faith and granted “peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Justification by faith is what made Gentile participation in the covenant blessings possible without conversion to Judaism and remember, they were justified by faith alone, so even if they voluntarily chose to take on additional mitzvot in the manner of the Jews, it would not increase their justification or otherwise grant them greater merit before God.

And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

Romans 5:3-5 (NASB)

Receiving the SpiritNotice that justification by faith includes the hope we have in the New Covenant as evidenced by one of the “down payments” of the New Covenant promises, the Holy Spirit “who was given to us.” That takes us back to Acts 2 when the Jewish Apostles received the Spirit in the upper room (in an act reminiscent of the giving of Torah at Sinai), and Acts 10 with the occasion of the Spirit being given to faithful Gentiles, the Roman Centurion Cornelius and his entire household.

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.

Romans 5:6-9 (NASB)

But we are justified by faith, not just in God, but in who Jesus is and what he represented as the final sacrifice we’d ever need for the forgiveness of our sins. God loves us all even in our sins, and desires that we repent, take up our faith and cross, and follow our King.

But go and learn what this means: ‘I desire compassion, and not sacrifice,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Matthew 9:13 (NASB)

Jesus quotes Hosea 6:6 to point out that sacrifice (observance) alone does not justify, and also that he came for the sinners, the disobedient and faithless of Israel, to bring them back to God, to redeem Israel. It is believed, contrary to Christian thought, that the general Jewish population in Israel during the late second Temple period maintained a high level of Torah study and observance, higher than previous points in the nation’s history, but it was the sin of baseless hatred that resulted in the Temple’s destruction and the exile of the Jewish people. It was this hatred among the Jews the Messiah was addressing (Remember what I’ve said in the past…these are just my “reflections” as I’ve read through Romans as associated with previously acquired information…it’s not a researched and annotated doctoral dissertation).

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zacharias, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife from the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.

Luke 1:5-6 (NASB)

As you can see, there were likely many righteous people in Israel, including Zacharias the Priest and his wife Elisheva (Elizabeth). We may never know how many among Israel were at their level of spiritual enlightenment since as the Master said, he came for the “lost sheep of Israel,” and not for the righteous who did not need to repent of baseless hatred.

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:10-11 (NASB)

The Death of the MasterOur hope isn’t just in the atonement provided for mankind by the death of the tzaddik, but in the resurrection and the life, for even as we die with him, we rise with him from the tomb as new creations and have the hope of life eternal in the Kingdom of Messiah, a Kingdom of utter peace and tranquility. We are no longer enemies of God but sons and daughters by adoption, Gentiles who are now included in the blessings alongside God’s people Israel.

Therefore, just as through one man sin entered into the world, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men, because all sinned—for until the Law sin was in the world, but sin is not imputed when there is no law. Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Romans 5:12-14 (NASB)

This admittedly is difficult for me to grasp. Paul is introducing something new which seems to be the origin of sin. It came into the world because of the disobedience of Adam, the willful disregard to the one and only negative commandment that existed in the world at that time.

It wasn’t just disobedience that was the sin but the lack of faith that rested behind it. Although the commandment to not eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil was not directly imparted to Havah (Eve), Adam allowed her to consume the fruit and then willfully ate it as well.

But then Paul says that there is no sin “when there is no law,” which I assume is Torah and it defines obedience and disobedience, and yet between Adam and Moses there was still sin and death.

Different translations of Romans 5:13 state “but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law” (NIV), “but sin is not counted where there is no law” (ESV), and “but no record of sin is kept when there is no Law” (ISV), basically saying the same thing.

I have a hard time depending on Christian commentary to guide me here since most or all of them draw a hard line between Torah and grace, believing the latter has replaced the former for Jewish believers (and everyone else). However the commentary from Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible on this verse states in part:

…but sin is not imputed when there is no law. This looks like an objection, that if there was no law before Moses’s time, then there was no sin, nor could any action of man be known or accounted by them as sinful, or be imputed to them to condemnation; or rather it is a concession, allowing that where there is no law, sin is not imputed; but there was a law before that law of Moses, which law was transgressed, and the sin or transgression of it was imputed to men to condemnation and death, as appears from what follows.

NoahFrom this I gather that there were actually standards for sin and righteous for mankind prior to the giving of the Torah at Sinai but that the Torah defined heightened responsibilities specifically for the Children of Israel. This suggests that the rest of humanity still operated under the older standards and, given a more Jewish perspective, that said-standards for the nations were the Noahide Laws we see God issuing in Genesis 9.

Of course there were no Noahide Laws prior to Genesis 9, so there must have been some sort of standards in place between Adam and Noah. These standards are hinted at (how did Abel know about animal sacrifice and how did Noah know what a clean animal was?) but never listed in the Bible.

But what about the next verse?

Nevertheless death reigned from Adam until Moses, even over those who had not sinned in the likeness of the offense of Adam, who is a type of Him who was to come.

Romans 5:14 (NASB)

Death continued between Adam and the time of the giving of Torah at Sinai because of the continuation of sin, and presumably it continued after that and continues to this day, if we’re talking about bodily death (and since Paul has been talking about the bodily resurrection up to this point, I think it likely). Mankind would have remained accountable to God under Genesis 9 covenant and its conditions, then with Moses and the Torah, Israel was elevated to a much higher place in terms of blessings, responsibilities, and curses.

In a way, this put the Israelites in a rather unenviable position, because the conditions of obeying God, the Torah mitzvot, were so many, so complicated, and so much more involved than the Noahide commandments, that they had to do a lot more work to maintain their covenant relationship with God.

Of course, there are also terrific blessings attached to Israel’s covenant with God including having God dwell among His people in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple. But the Temple and the sacrificial system was never designed to permanently remove sin from the Israelites, or for that matter, the rest of humanity (even though the prayers and sacrifices of Gentiles were acceptable in the Temple).

And who is this “who is a type of Him who was to come?” Apparently, according to various translations and commentaries, it’s Messiah. Adam was the first man and the first to sin, the prototype of sinful mankind, but also the prototype human being as the first created man. Yeshua, as Messiah, sent to be the hope of humanity, is sort of an “anti-Adam,” one who entered the world perfect, just like Adam, but unlike Adam, one who never sinned even though sorely tempted.

But the free gift is not like the transgression. For if by the transgression of the one the many died, much more did the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abound to the many. The gift is not like that which came through the one who sinned; for on the one hand the judgment arose from one transgression resulting in condemnation, but on the other hand the free gift arose from many transgressions resulting in justification. For if by the transgression of the one, death reigned through the one, much more those who receive the abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness will reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ.

Romans 5:15-17 (NASB)

Paul continues his theme of the duality of Adam and Jesus, the transgression of Adam and the free gift of grace through Christ. Adam’s faithlessness and disobedience condemned humanity to sin and death and Messiah’s faithfulness and obedience, even to the point of death, reverses that curse…or rather, it will.

exileLet me explain.

Sin and death are still in the world, even for Christians. Believers still sin. We’re not perfect (or perfected). And believers still die. But if we are faithful and obedient, we will not be dead forever, and when we are resurrected, we will be resurrected as perfected people. God will heal our physical imperfections but more importantly, He will heal our hearts and write His Word upon them, so it will be natural for us to obey and not sin, even as it is now human nature to disobey.

That is why Jesus is our hope because he is the hope of our future perfection and the redemption of the world, all through God’s covenant with Abraham, then with Isaac, then with Jacob, and then the Sinai covenant with the tribes that issued from Jacob, the Israelites, and with their descendants, the Jewish people. Salvation for the rest of the world comes from the Jews (John 4:22) and from their King Messiah.

Jesus reverses the curse that Adam initiated.

Paul calls all this a “free gift,” and I admit to having a bit of a problem with the wording.

It’s true that we don’t have to do anything to produce this solution to the problem Adam introduced into the world, and it’s true that we didn’t even ask for it, and it’s true that we don’t and in fact we can’t pay a price to purchase this gift. On the other hand, we still have to do something. We have to choose. We have to hear the “good news,” and we have to listen, and we have to allow the Holy Spirit to influence us, and then we have to repent and accept the Lordship and rule of Messiah over our lives.

And then we enter into discipleship, start studying, and finally realize what all that actually means. Then we realize what it is to accept Jesus as Lord and oh boy, it’s not as easy as we were led to believe by whoever evangelized us.

Then and only then comes the hard part. Living the life of a disciple and a slave with Jesus as Lord and Master…yeah, Master like Master over a slave. Living the life of a slave with Jesus as our Master, surrendering any priority over our life to him and making all of his priorities our priorities.

Do you do that all the time, 24/7/365? Really? Are you sure?

So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous. The Law came in so that the transgression would increase; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Romans 5:18-21 (NASB)

It sounds like Paul is getting a little repetitive, but then he says the “Law came in so that the transgression would increase.” God introduced the Torah to Israel to increase their sin? That seems odd. The Torah lists the conditions of the Sinai covenant between Israel and God, a covenant which says God will be Israel’s God and they will be His people and that they agree to obey a certain set of conditions listed in the Torah. If they don’t, and disobedience (sin) is also defined in Torah, then the curses laid out in the Torah will be applied to Israel. If they continue to obey, the blessings, which are also spelled out in the Torah, will be applied.

So how does all that “increase sin” and especially for the whole world since the Sinai covenant and its conditions (Torah) only apply to Israel?

Is there some other “Law” that Paul could be talking about in this context?

For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Romans 6:23 (NASB)

There is what’s called “the Law of Sin” which the above-quoted verse defines, but that doesn’t seem to fit the context. However, it also makes no sense at all for God to give the Torah to Jews at Sinai just to increase their culpability for sin so that in their sins, God could demonstrate how much they needed His grace, send Jesus to die for their sins, and replace the Law with grace.

sefer torahThe only way I can see how the Torah could “increase sin” is that it raised the bar quite a bit for the Children of Israel relative to the rest of mankind. It certainly increased the chances of any given Jewish person to come into transgression. After all, it’s no sin for me to not wear tzitzit but it is for a Jewish person (man). It’s no sin for me to eat a pork chop (although I don’t) but it is for a Jewish person. Even as a Christian and the receiver of many blessings through Israel’s covenants with God, I’m still not held accountable to as high a standard of behavior as my wife (who is Jewish), at least not this side of the Messianic Kingdom.

But if Gentile believers are the primary audience of this letter, what does Paul mean? I suspect the answers may be yielded in the next chapter and in next week’s edition of my “reflections.”

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Terumah: Waiting for God On Earth

When dedicating the Beis HaMikdash, King Shlomo exclaimed in wonderment: “Will G-d indeed dwell on this earth? The heavens and the celestial heights cannot contain You, how much less this house!” For the Beis HaMikdash was not merely a centralized location for man’s worship of G-d, it was a place where G-d’s Presence was and is manifest. Although “the entire earth is full of His glory,” G-d’s Presence is not tangibly felt. He permeates all existence, but in a hidden way. The Beis HaMikdash, by contrast, was “the place where He chose to cause His name to dwell.” There was no concealment; His Presence was openly manifest.

Why was man’s activity necessary? Because G-d’s intent is that the revelation of His Presence be internalized within the world, becoming part of the fabric of its existence. Were the revelation to come only from above, it would merely nullify worldliness. To cite a parallel: when G-d revealed Himself on Mount Sinai, the world ground to a standstill. “No bird chirped… nor did an ox bellow, nor the sea roar.” Although G-dliness was revealed within the world, material existence did not play a contributory role.

When, by contrast, the dwelling for G-d is built by man himself part of the material world the nature of the materials used is elevated. This enables G-d’s Presence to be revealed within these entities while they continue to exist within their own context.

-Rabbi Eli Touger
“A Dwelling Among Mortals”
from the In the Garden of the Torah series
Adapted from
Likkutei Sichos, Vol. III, p. 902;
Vol. XVI, p. 286ff; Vol. XXI, p. 146ff
Chabad.org

The building of a Mishkan foreshadows the transformation of the entire world into a dwelling place for G-d. This is accomplished through Torah, Divine service, and deeds of kindness – the “three pillars” upon which the world stands. (Avos 1:2.)
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XVI, pp. 292-297.

In this week’s Torah portion, we see the Children of Israel being commanded to bring contributions that will be used as materials for building the Mishkan (Tabernacle) in the desert. Moses is provided with what me might think of as a “diagram” of the Heavenly Court and told to direct the Children of Israel to build, for all intents and purposes, a “scale model” so that God might dwell among His people. This is a strange enough request when you try to picture the “environment” where God dwells in the Heavens, and then imagine what it would be like to build a physical representation of that metaphysical “place.”

But it gets even stranger.

Thus, it is understood that although the construction of the Mishkan and the bringing of donations had to have happened in accordance with only one of these three schedules, all three opinions are true as they relate to the spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew.
-Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VI, pp. 153-156.

The use of the term ‘them’ rather than ‘it’ has been interpreted as a message that the purpose of the Mishkan sanctuary was to facilitate the dwelling of the Divine Presence within the heart of every Jew. The role of the Mishkan in the wilderness and during the first four centuries of a Jewish presence in Eretz Yisrael was perpetuated by the first and second Beit Hamikdash Temples which spanned a period of nine centuries. All of this is today but a memory to which a visit to the Kotel (Western Wall) gives a special dimension. This does not mean, however, that a Jew cannot build a mini-sanctuary in his heart even today. The Divine Presence is waiting to dwell within the hearts of all Jews if only they will let it enter!

-Rabbi Mendel Weinbach
‘The “Holy Sites”‘
For the week ending 8 February 2003 / 6 Adar I 5763
Ohr Somayach

If it seems unusual or even incomprehensible to be able to build a “scale model” of the Heavenly Court and then expect God to take up residence, how much more incredible is it to expect God to take up residence within the “spiritual Mishkan within the heart of every Jew?”

Oh, have you heard of this before?

When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. –Acts 2:1-4 (ESV)

Perhaps this isn’t so strange, since the Jewish disciples of the Master had a precedent for the Pentecost event act at Sinai, but what came next was completely unexpected.

While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word. And the believers from among the circumcised who had come with Peter were amazed, because the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out even on the Gentiles. For they were hearing them speaking in tongues and extolling God. Then Peter declared, “Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people, who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ. Then they asked him to remain for some days. –Acts 10:44-48 (ESV)

God desires to dwell among His people, which we can understand, because God once did dwell among His people in Eden before the fall. God once again, though in a somewhat different sense, arranged to dwell among His people Israel, and that dwelling was to be a light to the nations. As part of the process of God being among man, each Jew was to consider that the Divine Presence was also dwelling within each of them. This was repeated at the Pentecost event and while all of that is magnificent, the truly amazing thing in the eyes of God’s chosen ones, was (and perhaps still is for some Jewish people) that the Creator extended His splendid and compassionate grace, even to the Gentiles.

But is this the whole story and, now that Christianity boasts of the “indwelling of the Holy Spirit,” is this work finally complete?

On the ninth day of the month of Av (“Tish’ah B’Av”) we fast and mourn the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem. Both the First Temple (833-423 bce) and the Second Temple (349 bce-69 ce) were destroyed on this date. The Shabbat preceding the fast day is called the “Shabbat of Vision,” for on this Shabbat we read a chapter from the Prophets (Isaiah 1:1-27) that begins, “The vision of Isaiah…”

On the “Shabbat of Vision,” says Rabbi Levi Yitzchak, each and every one of us is granted a vision of the third and final Temple — a vision that, to paraphrase the Talmud, “though we do not see ourselves, our souls see.” This vision evokes a profound response in us, even if we are not consciously aware of the cause of our sudden inspiration.

Adapted by Yanki Tauber
“Shabbat of Vision”
Based on the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Chabad.org

I previously mentioned that Christianity abandoned a major portion of it’s history and heritage by tossing the Jewish foundation of our faith aside, so I can understand that the church would view any Jewish “vision” of the Third Temple with skepticism if not utter disbelief. Perhaps they are right, but could there be any way to reconcile all of the imagery we have of the bodies of believers being as Temples for the Spirit of God and the coming of a Third, physical Temple where God will once again dwell among His people Israel?

Maybe.

Especially in western thought, we tend to see conditions as “either or”. Either the Spirit dwells in the Temple, or it dwells within the heart of the believer. For some reason, it can’t be both, although I’m not sure why. After all, in Judaism, the Divine Presence dwelt within the Mishkan, but it also dwelt within each Jewish heart in some mysterious, spiritual, and mystic way. God, in a metaphysical manner, dwelt within the Heavenly court, but He also made it possible for a physical replica of His “abode” to be created among His people Israel so He could also dwell among men, even though no structure could possibly contain Him.

God’s desire to be among us is fraught with problems when we actually make ourselves wonder how it is possible, and yet we see reliably, that God has indeed done so, in Eden, in the Mishkah, and in Solomon’s Temple. Jews are said to be able to have a vision, on a mystic level, of the Third Temple on the Shabbat just before the Ninth of Av. What are the Jewish people supposed to see and understand? Perhaps this.

The First Temple was built on Divine command and assistance. The Second Temple was constructed at the orders of a human being. The level of revelation associated with it, and the accompanying miracles, were far less intense. Yet, precisely because it came to be built through human efforts and on human initiative, it had a greater impact on this world. It was larger than the first Temple, taking up more of this world in terms of space, and it lasted longer, occupying this world for a greater length of time.

The Third Temple, like the Shabbat on which we are shown its image, combines the strengths of both the first and second Temples. It combines the Divine revelation, an inspiration from Above, along with human effort, an inspiration from below, to create a permanent home for G-dliness. Thus is the lesson and inspiration of this Shabbat. We are given a Divinely revealed vision which we must combine with human efforts to permanently alter the world we live in, and, even more challenging, ourselves.

-Chana Kroll
“Make It Real”
Shabbat Chazon
chabad.org

Repeatedly, we’ve seen how God must contribute to the construction of His dwelling on Earth, but so must man. While God does not need human beings to offer their efforts in the service of Divine tasks, we see in the Bible how people are continually involved in “building” with God and repairing the world. While God does not “need” our help, something about the nature of God dwelling among us requires that we be actively engaged. In this, we must take “ownership” of our desire to return the holy sparks within us to Him, not by our going up to God, but in allowing God to come down to us. Somehow, God dwelling within us and God dwelling among us in a Temple are all interconnected. We must change the world for Him but we must also change ourselves. Paradoxically, we can do neither without God’s help, but then, those tasks cannot occur without us, either. I can’t explain how it all works. I only know that God is showing all of us, not just the Jewish people, a picture of His future with His people; His human beings.

Chassidic master Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berdichev uses the following metaphor to explain the necessity of the Three Temples and why we must wait such a long time for Him to be truly among us again.

A father once prepared a beautiful suit of clothes for his son. But the child neglected his father’s gift and soon the suit was in tatters. The father gave the child a second suit of clothes; this one, too, was ruined by the child’s carelessness. So the father made a third suit. This time, however, he withholds it from his son. Every once in a while, on special and opportune times, he shows the suit to the child, explaining that when the child learns to appreciate and properly care for the gift, it will be given to him. This induces the child to improve his behavior, until it gradually becomes second nature to him — at which time he will be worthy of his father’s gift.

God has shown us His gift in the Messiah, but He also withholds the Messiah’s coming until we are ready. But God is gracious enough to show us what will happen once we reach this state of being worthy. Through the vision of a prophet, we can see the return of the Messiah, our later return to Eden, and finally, the placing of the Throne of God among us at a future time when the requirement for Ezekiel’s Temple is no longer necessary.

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. No longer will there be anything accursed, but the throne of God and of the Lamb will be in it, and his servants will worship him. They will see his face, and his name will be on their foreheads. And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever. –Revelation 22:1-5 (ESV)

But before all that happens, we must come to terms with our struggle between life in this world, in the spirit and in the body, as Rabbi Tzvi Freeman relates:

The human mind despises the body that houses it, but the soul has only love.

The mind would soar to the heavens, but for a body that chains it to the earth. The mind would be consumed in divine oneness, but for the body’s delusion of otherness, as though it had made itself.

But the soul sees only G-d.

In that very delusion of otherness,
in that madness of the human ego,
even there, the soul sees only G‑d.
For she says, “This, too, is truth.
This is a distorted reflection of the Essence of all things,
of that which truly has neither beginning nor cause.”

And so she embraces the bonds of the body,
works with the body, transforms the body.
Until the body, too, sees only G-d.

—Basi LeGani 5712

Good Shabbos.

Immanu-El

Ending and Beginning“Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know – this Man, delivered over by the predetermined plan and foreknowledge of God, you nailed to a cross by the hands of godless men and put Him to death. But God raised Him up again, putting an end to the agony of death, since it was impossible for Him to be held in its power. For David says of Him,

‘I saw the Lord always in my presence;
For He is at my right hand, so that I will not be shaken.
‘Therefore my heart was glad and my tongue exulted;
Moreover my flesh also will live in hope;
Because You will not abandon my soul to She’ol,
nor allow Your Holy One to undergo decay.
‘You have made known to me the ways of life;
You will make me full of gladness with Your presence.’

“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to his seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was neither abandoned to She’ol, nor did his flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:

‘The Lord said to my Lord
“Sit at My right hand,
until I make your enemies a footstool at your feet.”’

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ – this Jesus whom you crucified.”

Now when they heard this, they were pierced to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brethren, what shall we do?” Peter said to them, “Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off, as many as the Lord our God will call to Himself.” And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation!” So then, those who had received his word were baptized; and that day there were added about three thousand souls. They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.Acts 2:22-42 (NASB)

I have a personal tradition of reading this passage from the Book of Acts on Yom Kippur every year along with the other Yom Kippur readings. It is a reminder that people can be confronted with the truth and by the Spirit of God, change at the core and become new again in Him. These words provide hope and a certain warmth in my heart along with the Yom Kippur Haftarah portion:

If you refrain from trampling the sabbath,
From pursuing your affairs on My holy day;
If call the sabbath “delight,”
The Lord’s holy day “honored”;
And if you honor it and go not your ways
Nor look to yours affairs, nor strike bargains —
Then you can seek the favor of the Lord.
I will set you astride the heights of the earth,
And let you enjoy the heritage of your father Jacob —
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken. –Isaiah 59:13-14 (JPS Tanakh)

For another year, Jews all over the world feel a lightening in their souls as they approach the world and a new year with much excess baggage lifted from them. For Christians, there is no analogous time on our calendar in which we specifically approach the Throne of God in humility and perhaps in shame, and beg our Creator to make everything clean between us again. We can approach God through Jesus Christ on a daily basis, so there’s no need for a “Christian Yom Kippur”, right? Believe it or not, Jews think this way about Yom Kippur too and ask:

Question: Regarding Yom Kippur, why is there a necessity in Judaism to designate a particular day for atonement when one could atone any minute of the day as he or she chooses? Isn’t G-d listening all the time? Why designate a day that could potentially encourage sinful behavior during the year only to repent on Yom Kippur?

Answer: Maimonides addresses both your questions in his “Laws of Repentance”. In Chapter 2 he states,

Even though repentance is always good, during the ten days between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur it is more desirable, and is accepted [by G-d] immediately… Yom Kippur is the time for repentance for the individual and community, and it is the end time of forgiveness and atonement for Israel. Therefore everyone is obligated to repent at this time…

During the year, a person has the option. At this time it is obligatory, and easier to accomplish. Consider the difference between flicking a bug off the table, and pushing a tiger off the table.

In Chapter 4 he says that one who sins with the intent of obtaining forgiveness on Yom Kippur is held back from repenting. We all know, the guy who says, “my diet starts tomorrow” never loses weight.

Best Wishes,
Shlomo Soroka
JewishAnswers.org

Inner lightAre there times of year when God is closer and repentence is more at hand? Remember, traditionally Jews prepare for the Days of Awe for over a month prior to the actual Day of Atonement. I hardly think the intent and anguish built up over that period of time in anticipation of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur can be compared to asking for God’s forgiveness in your prayers each morning (but who am I to know).

Rabbi Mordechai Dixler, Program Director at Project Genesis – Torah.org puts it this way:

Many have had the experience of offering an apology, only to be told that “sorry isn’t good enough.” It’s fundamental to Judaism that G-d always accepts a sincere apology, is always ready to welcome us back. There are, however, times that a person can commit such a breach that the relationship with G-d needs major repairs, where a simple apology is not enough by itself.

On Yom Kippur this all changes. The Nesivos Shalom writes (based on the Zohar) that Kol Nidrei‘s annulment of vows erases all spiritual decrees. Major repairs are no longer needed. The opportunity to approach G-d and ask forgiveness for the past and make a commitment for the future is suddenly open to everyone. That is why on Yom Kippur, a simple apology is indeed all it takes. As all obstacles vanish, all hearts and souls open up.

You may not see any validity in Jewish mystic teachings, but if your faith is a Jewish faith, then the entrance to the gates of Heaven are open a bit wider at a certain time of year than at other times. Even without a Jewish faith, in preparing yourself over the course of time to stand and face God as the person you are, you can only be assumed to have a greater readiness to pour your soul out like a drink offering at His feet in this most holy of encounters. We can see God’s desire for this, not only in the Yom Kippur service, and not only in Kaballah, but in Christianity’s own mystic writings:

And He who sits on the throne said, “Behold, I am making all things new.” And He *said, “Write, for these words are faithful and true.” Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. –Revelation 21:5-7 (NASB)

In Yom Kippur, we can see the imagery of “He who overcomes” and at the breaking of the fast, as “one who thirsts” we can receive “the spring of the water of life without cost.”

But the day after Yom Kippur is also like another day we have yet to see.

And he carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God. Her brilliance was like a very costly stone, as a stone of crystal-clear jasper. It had a great and high wall, with twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names were written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the sons of Israel.

I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. And the city has no need of the sun or of the moon to shine on it, for the glory of God has illumined it, and its lamp is the Lamb. The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their glory into it. In the daytime (for there will be no night there) its gates will never be closed; and they will bring the glory and the honor of the nations into it… –Revelation 21:10-12; 22-26 (NASB)

Throughout the Bible, the chronicle of God’s interaction with human beings, we see an unbroken thread of God’s intent to live with us, from Eden, to the Mishkan in the desert, to the Temple in Holy Jerusalem, to the Spirit which has always lived in the heart of the faithful, and finally to a New Jerusalem descending from Heaven, with God and the Lamb as its Temple. Here, both Christianity and Judaism have a tradition of the Song of the Lamb (Revelation 15:2-3) and the Song of the Messiah representing “a new song, shir chadash”; a “universal vision of complete redemption and the perfection of the world” as a “promise of a glorious future for all humanity” and “one of Judaism’s greatest gifts to the world.”

The Lord is with youChristians tend to create a dichotomy between the secular and the holy, between man and God. We also see some of this symbolism of division in how Judaism presents the Shabbat in opposition to the rest of the week. We strive for God in His Heaven above while we struggle with our mortality and humanity on the earth below. Christians talk about “going to Heaven” to be with God when they die, but we see in the vision of Eden and New Jerusalem that in the end, we do not go to God; God comes to us…as it was in the beginning.

The teachings of the Rebbe are not just a collection of advice and nice thoughts —just as a year is more than the sum of 365 days. The teachings of the Rebbe make up one simple whole. All revolve around the same essential concept: The fusion of the loftiest spiritual heights with the most mundane physicality. In the Rebbe’s words, “the highest with the lowest”.

The concept is not only radical but powerful: It means I can be myself, living a “down to earth” existence, and yet fulfilling a transcendental goal. It means that there is nothing we are trying to escape – other than the notion that we must escape something. We don’t run away from this world to join a higher one, instead we work to fuse the two. We aren’t in the business of “making it to heaven” – we’re busy bringing heaven down to earth.

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

It’s no coincidence that the expression of God’s desire to live among men comes right before the Festival of Sukkot which will be upon us in just a few days. We will pitch our tents in our backyards and at the synagogues and invite all His holy ones to dwell with us in an imperfect container, with God providing the sheltering roof over us, making the incomplete, complete.

May the expressions of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart find favor before You, HASHEM, my Rock and my Redeemer. –Psalm 19:14

God is with us.