Tag Archives: intimacy

Asking to Walk with God

father-son-walkingOn further reflection, a person might also become disheartened, G‑d forbid, wondering how is one to fulfill adequately one’s real purpose in life on this earth, which is, to quote our Sages, “I was created to serve my Creator” — seeing that most of one’s time is necessarily taken up with materialistic things, such as eating and drinking, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc. What with the fact that the earliest years of a human being, before reaching maturity and knowledgeability, are spent in an entirely materialistic mode of living.

-Translation of a letter from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
“Is Most of My Life a Waste?”
Chabad.org

Some people feel discouraged. They then assume that these feelings are facts: since they feel discouraged that is a “proof” there is no hope. But feelings only represent a person’s present state of mind, they cannot predict the future.

They can ask themselves: “Do my present feelings actually prove that there is no hope?” Of course not. There is never absolute proof that your situation will not improve. By believing you have no hope, you are causing yourself great harm. Adopt the attitude: “It is always possible that the future will turn out much brighter than I presently feel it will. What constructive action can I take for improvement?”

-Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
Daily Lift 943: “Feelings Aren’t Facts”
Aish.com

Last Sunday afternoon, a friend challenged me. I hate these sorts of challenges because they always mean that I have to crawl out of my comfort zone. Yes, we all have one. The place where we spend most of our lives or want to, anyway. The place where we excel. The place where people see us as competent, and significant, and see all of the good things in us we want them to see.

And we see them in ourselves.

But…

…but there isn’t so much to actually achieve there. The comfort zone is where you exercise all of the skill sets you are already really good at. There’s nothing more to learn in the comfort zone. Oh, you may learn some stuff, but it’s stuff that never really surprises you. It never shocks you. It certainly never scares you.

That’s why when my friend suggested that I get out of my comfort zone and ask God to show me more of Himself…a real encounter with Him, I experienced true dread. I know that sounds horrible. After all, in the realm of religious people, who doesn’t ask, plead, beg to experience a closer walk with God?

Most of us. A closer walk with God means having to change, not just a little bit and not in the direction we feel comfortable changing (or not changing and just pretending to change). I mean real, unanticipated, unpredictable, uncomfortable, “I don’t wanna go there” change.

Yuck! Who wants that?

But what’s the alternative?

My soul thirsts for You; my flesh pines for You.

Psalms 63:2

One Yom Kippur, after the Maariv (evening) services that ended the 25-hour fast, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok of Berdichev exclaimed, “I am thirsty! I am thirsty!” Quickly someone brought him water, but the Rabbi said, “No! I am thirsty!” Hastily they boiled water and brought him coffee, but again he said, “No! No! I am thirsty!” His attendant then asked, “Just what is it you desire?”

“A tractate Succah (the volume of the Talmud dealing with the laws of the festival of Succos).” They brought the desired volume, and the Rabbi began to study the Talmud with great enthusiasm, ignoring the food and drink that were placed before him.

Only after several hours of intense study did the Rabbi breathe a sigh of relief and break his fast. The approaching festival of Succos with its many commandments – only five days after Yom Kippur – had aroused so intense a craving that it obscured the hunger and thirst of the fast.

It is also related that at the end of Succos and Pesach, festivals during which one does not put on tefillin, Rabbi Levi Yitzchok sat at the window, waiting for the first glimmer of dawn which would allow him to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin after a respite of eight or nine days.

Today I shall…

…try to realize that Torah and mitzvos are the nutrients of my life, so that I crave them just as I do food and water when I am hungry or thirsty.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski
“Growing Each Day, Tishrei 11”
Aish.com

plead1Particularly in Jewish thought, performing the mitzvot are the nutrients of life but what you do lacks meaning if you do not employ kavanah, otherwise known as “intention” or “direction of the heart.”

When asking for a closer connection with God, it’s always important to consider that time-honored caveat, “Be careful what you ask for.”

It’s sort of like dying of thirst but being afraid to drink because you might drown. It’s like dying of thirst, but the only source of water is at the bottom of a massive waterfall. You only need a few drops or a glassful, but your only option is a raging torrent.

How about just a little revelation, God…something I can handle, something not too scary or overwhelming. Let’s warm up with that and see where we should go from there.

Believing in God is easy. Trusting God is hard, and yet we have this.

Do not trust in princes,
In mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.
His spirit departs, he returns to the earth;
In that very day his thoughts perish.
How blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob,
Whose hope is in the Lord his God,
Who made heaven and earth,
The sea and all that is in them;
Who keeps faith forever;
Who executes justice for the oppressed;
Who gives food to the hungry.
The Lord sets the prisoners free.

Psalm 146:3-7 (NASB)

I have plenty of experience being disappointed in human beings, including me. I don’t think I’ve ever been disappointed by God, but then again, have I ever given Him the chance?

Has this ever happened to you?

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Sukkot: From Sticks and Leaves

Under the sukkahYou won’t find any intimacy with G-d by keeping the so-called “Noahide laws”. If all you need is to be ethical then you don’t need the Bible. Everyone has a conscience and already knows how to be ethical.

But the Tanak says that G-d wants more than ethical followers–He wants INTIMACY with us. The prophets all say that the Gentiles will be joined to G-d and joined to His People (Israel), that they will flock to Jerusalem/Zion to learn the Torah, they will keep Shabbat, Sukkot, etc. Have you read Isaiah 56, Isaiah 2, Micah 4, Joel 2, Amos 9, etc, etc?

Here’s something else: you will FAIL to keep the Noahide laws, which means you NEED atonement. As it happens, tonight is Yom Kippur so it’s a good time to consider how you have no atonement unless you accept Yeshua. Your Orthodox friends have deceived you but you need to realize that Yeshua is G-d. Thus, to deny Yeshua is to deny HaShem. That’s it! There’s no way around it!

Shalom,

Peter

-from a comment on
orthodoxmessianic.blogspot.com

The High Holy Days don’t play to our strength. The extended services put a premium on prayer, an activity at which we are no longer very adept. Yom Kippur asks of us to spend an entire day in the synagogue immersed in prayer. But we find it easier to believe in God than to pray to God.

-Ismar Schorsch
Commentary on Yom Kippur
“Why Pray? To Help Us Hold Up the Heavens,” pg 660
Canon Without Closure: Torah Commentaries

Why am I starting a blog post about Sukkot by quoting people talking about Yom Kippur? Patience. The answers are coming.

I don’t often engage Peter, especially by referencing his home ground (his blog). There is a great deal about which we disagree and endless rounds of “head butting” have produced nothing but bruises and headaches. I can do without both.

Occasionally, however, he makes a good point, such as saying that simply engaging in ethical behavior for its own sake or imagining that it is only what we do that pleases God misses the point. As Professor Schorsch points out, in the end, it’s our engagement of God on God’s own terms, in prayer, devotion, supplication, and “brokenness” that forges a relationship and helps to deepen the bonds between mankind and our Creator.

But Peter also misses the point in imagining that a Gentile going beyond the Noahide laws and attempting to keep the full 613 mitzvot as the Jewish people are commanded somehow will make the difference. Does keeping the Torah mitzvot (a much longer list of activities than the Noahide laws), in and of itself, foster intimacy with God and spiritual growth within our souls? Didn’t Peter say something about atonement and a believer’s relationship with God?

Dependence is part of the human condition, of which we are also reminded by the fragile nature of the sukkah itself. Our feelings of thanksgiving and anxiety, of uplift and unease, are united by the inescapable sense of how subordinate we humans actually are to God’s will.

-Schorsch
Commentary on Sukkot
“An Undertone of Angst,” pg 674

Not all sages agreed, however, that sukkot were huts. Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanus early in the second century contended that the protection came in the form of a divinely provided cloud cover (ananei kavod). That is, for the duration of their forty-year sojourn in the wilderness, the Israelites were fed by manna and sheltered by clouds, beneficiaries of a caring God.

-ibid, “Huts of Clouds?” pg 683

rainningWhile Judaism richly interweaves faith, prayer, and mitzvah performance, it is still less what we do than who we depend upon in our weakness as human beings, as if a Christian (non-Jewish believer in Jesus), by either wearing or not wearing tzitzit periodically during prayer, or even continually during waking hours by donning a tallit katan, will cause God to grant or withhold favor, blessings, and intimacy. If I fail to wear tallit and tefillin in prayer or refrain from building a sukkah in my backyard this year, will God frown upon my Christian soul if I choose to approach God in earnest prayer, with supplication, with a wounded spirit, and a broken and contrite heart? Is it only prayer, devotion, and tzitzit and sukkah construction efforts that create the “magic” combination and gets God’s attention?

This year, as in past years, I have built my little sukkah (it’s a kosher sukkah kit my wife and I ordered from Israel some years ago), but I didn’t build it because I thought that not doing so would result in my being sent to Hell without so much as a pitcher of ice water and an electric fan. I didn’t even do so because I thought God would withdraw his lovingkindness from me if I didn’t. I didn’t even do so because there’s a commandment in the Torah to build and live in a sukkah for eight days.

That’s not the point.

But I didn’t say that Christians are to totally refrain from all of the Torah mitzvot either. In fact, Christians who show true fruits of the spirit and authentically transformed lives actually do observe many, perhaps most of the Torah mitzvot, which in part, was the intent of the Jerusalem Council’s letter to the Gentiles we see recorded by Luke in Acts 15. We just don’t adopt those practices that have been given specifically to Israel, the Jewish people, because being people of the nations who are called by God’s Name (Amos 9:11-12) doesn’t make us Jewish or Israel.

I build a sukkah every year for two simple reasons. One, because my wife and children are Jewish and as the head of my family, it is my responsibility to build a sukkah for them, supporting and encouraging their Jewish Torah observance. Two, because, as Professor Schorsch says, building a sukkah illustrates the vulnerability all human beings experience in a universe created by God, and how we very much depend on Him for shelter from the elements and even for every single morsel of food we need to sustain our lives.

You open Your hand And satisfy the desire of every living thing.

Psalm 145:16 (NASB)

It may have been huts or tents and not literally clouds that spared the Children of Israel from wind, and rain, and harsh desert heat for those forty years in the desert, but the handiwork of man only goes so far. After that, only God can protect and nurture.

In short, grace in Judaism is not undeserved. If we take the first step, God will meet us more than halfway.

-ibid, “Creating Settings of Holiness,” pg 682

rain_on_meI agree, we (not just Jewish people, but everyone in relationship with God) cannot be inactive in God’s grace, and in fact, God expects us to actually do something in participation with Him, but it’s God who does the heavy lifting and in the end, even if we fail completely in our attempts to interact with His Holiness, He is more than gracious enough to meet us, not only more than halfway, but all the way, as we crawl and bleed into the desert sand, in order to lift us up, hold us lovingly, and shelter us from harm.

For it is obvious and known that nothing we can do in and of itself can “force” God to draw nearer if it is against His Will. Our deeds are not righteous, and though He greatly desires obedience, it is not obedience that “makes” God become intimate with us or shelter us from the storm. It’s the fact that in the eyes of God, we are more helpless than newborn babies, unable to do anything for ourselves, as measured by an infinitely powerful and Holy God. It is only out of grace, mercy, and even pity that God takes the fragile sticks and leaves we build from our lives and makes them capable of withstanding even the mightiest of hurricanes.

This year, Sukkot begins tonight at sundown.

Chag Sameach Sukkot!

If Water Can Wear Down A Stone

prayer-hitbodedutSet aside time each day to meditate and pray alone in a room or some meadow and express your innermost thoughts and feelings and personal prayers to God. Use every kind of appeal and argument. Use words that will endear you to God and win His favor. Plead with God to draw you closer and let you truly serve Him. This is Hitbodedut.

You should hold these conversations in whatever language you speak best. Our set prayers are said in Hebrew, but if this is not one’s native language, it is difficult to use it to give expression to all one’s innermost thoughts and feelings and the heart is less drawn after the words. It is easier to pour out your heart and say everything you need in your own language.

You should tell God everything you feel, be it contrition and longing to repent over the past or requests and supplications to come truly close to God from now on, each person according to his level.

Be very careful to get into the habit of spending time every day on your personal prayers and meditation. Fix a regular time for this and then be happy for the rest of the day!

-Rebbe Nachman of Breslov
Translated by Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
azamra.org

Sunday before last, I was having my bi-monthly coffee encounter with my friend. We spoke of many things, including matters both painful and necessary to me, but one of the topics we briefly touched upon was hitbodeut. I should say that neither of us could remember the name, but this is what we were describing when discussing an encounter with God. To briefly quote from Wikipedia:

Hitbodedut refers to an unstructured, spontaneous and individualized form of prayer and meditation taught by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Through hitbodedut one may establish a close, personal relationship with God and gain a clearer understanding of one’s personal motives and aspirations. However, Rebbe Nachman states that the ultimate goal is to free oneself of all negative traits that obstruct the spiritually-transforming non-dual realization of the “Imperative Existent,” which is the Divinity inherent in all being.

Mystic aspects aside, why am I bothering to write about this? Those of you reading my blog who are aware of hitbodedut, probably know far more about the practice than I do, and those of you who don’t can simply reduce the concept down to a way to be alone and talk to God. What’s the big deal?

First off, I have been aware of hitbodedut off and on for a few years but mentally, I always manage to lose track of both the term and the practice. This is a sort of “bookmark” in my memory so if I lose my place again, I can just search my blog and find it. Beyond a reminder, there is also what we know about how Jesus prayed:

At about morning light he left and went to a desolate place.

Luke 4:42 (DHE Gospels)

But he departed to the wilderness areas and prayed.

Luke 5:16 (DHE Gospels)

As he was praying alone, his disciples were gathered to him.

Luke 9:18 (DHE Gospels)

Although we can’t draw a direct connection between these examples of Jesus praying from Luke and Rebbe Nachman of Breslov, we can say that both of them seemed to practice a similar manner of prayer, withdrawing to wilderness areas or other places to be alone in order to pray. Even in his most desperate hour, Jesus continued to seek his Father alone.

Afterward, Yeshua came with them to a courtyard that was called Gat Shamnei. He said to the disciples, “You remain here until I have gone over there and prayed.” He took Petros and the two sons of Zavdai with him, and he began to become distressed and disheartened. He said to them, “My soul is bitterly troubled to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.” Then he went a little bit away from them, fell on his face and prayed, saying “My Father, if it is possible to be so, let this cup pass from me, yet not according to my will, but according to your will.”

Matthew 26:36-39 (DHE Gospels)

I’ve often wondered if Jesus wanted to be alone, why he also took his closest companions with him. Maybe he wanted them to keep watch in case anyone might come who would disturb his prayers. Maybe he wanted them to pray for him in his hour of terror and hardship, before the betrayer came. What is he trying to say to us? Is it better to be alone with God than to pray in assembly?

But as for you, when you pray, go into your room, close your door behind you, and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees the secret things will {openly} be generous to you.

Matthew 6:6 (DHE Gospels)

Being alone with God can be a lonely or terrifying experience. It can be lonely if all you experience is the emptiness of your own words. It can be terrifying if God answers you.

Really? How can I say that? Sure, we all have experienced times in prayer when it seems as if God isn’t listening, as if He has taken a two-week vacation to some distant place, leaving us to fend for ourselves, but why would God answering prayer be terrifying?

Because it’s God. He’s not a “cosmic teddy bear” who allows us to hop on His comfortable lap as if He was Santa Claus. We are trying to be seriously alone with the creator of the entire universe, who can and has laid waste to the surface of the Earth. Do we…do I know what I’m asking for?

And how can Nachman of Breslov say, “and then be happy for the rest of the day?”

Hitbodedut is of the greatest value. It is the way to come closer to God, because it includes everything else. No matter what you lack in your service of God, even if you feel totally remote from His service, tell God everything and ask Him for all that you need.

If at times you find yourself unable to speak to God or even open your mouth, the very fact that you are there before Him wanting and yearning to speak is itself very good. You can even turn your very inability to speak into a prayer. Tell God that you feel so far away that you cannot even speak to Him! Ask Him to have mercy on you and open your mouth to tell Him what you need.

Many great and famous Tzaddikim have said that all their achievements came only through Hitbodedut. Anyone with understanding can recognize the supreme value of this practice, which ascends to the most sublime heights. This advice applies to everyone equally, from the very least to the very greatest. Everyone is capable of practicing it and can attain great levels. Happy are all who persist in it.

It is also good to turn Torah teachings into prayers. When you study or hear a teaching of a true Tzaddik, make a prayer out of it. Ask God when you too will be able to fulfill this teaching. Tell Him how far from it you are and beg Him to help you attain everything contained in the lesson.

A person of understanding who wants the truth will be led by God in the path of truth, and he will learn how to practice Hitbodedut and offer words of grace and sound arguments to persuade God to bring him to true service.

Hitbodedut rises to a very high place. This applies especially to turning Torah teachings into prayers, which creates the greatest delight above.

Hitbodedut is the highest level: it is greater than everything.

When God helps with Hitbodedut, it is like a person talking to his friend.

prayers_in_the_darkI get the sense that the “talking to his friend” part is more familiar to some Christians than to many religious Jews. I could be wrong of course, but when I pray from a siddur, the words communicate a more formal relationship with God, a greater awe, the powerful majesty, as we stand before the King of all Glory. Not exactly like schmoozing with a good buddy.

But then again, that’s not exactly right, either. God is closer, more intimate than a friend. As the Master says, He is our Father, our “Abba.”

It is very good to pour out your heart to God like a child pleading with his father.

Doesn’t God call us His children? “You are children to the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 14:1) . Therefore it is good to express your thoughts and feelings and all your troubles to God, like a child nagging and complaining to his father.

Even if you think you have done so much wrong that you are no longer one of God’s children, remember that God still calls you His child. As the Rabbis taught: “For better or worse, you are always called His children” ( Kiddushin 36a) .

Even if you think God has rejected you and told you that you are no longer His child, you must still say: “Let Him do His will – but I must do my part and continue acting as His child.”

How good it is when you can arouse your heart and plead with God until tears stream from your eyes and you stand like a little child crying before his Father.

Confusing thoughts may enter your mind, but if you stand firm, God will send you another thought to encourage you. You may think you are no longer one of God’s children. But if you do your part, God will eventually send you thoughts of encouragement.

Jesus encouraged his disciples to pray to their Father who is in Heaven. These were his Jewish disciples but by extension (and since we have no other model from the time of Jesus), we may apply the teachings of the Master about prayer to we non-Jewish disciples as well. What choice do we have?

I know Nachman of Breslev is addressing Jews in his teachings, but he does say, “From the smallest to the greatest, it is impossible to be a truly good person without Hitbodedut,” implying that one’s station in life or relative level of spirituality is beside the point. No matter who you are, unless you pray Hitbodedut, that is, pray totally from the heart, you are missing something.

Can we small, finite creatures be intimate with an infinite and Holy God?

Christianity seems to think so and sometimes I think some folks are a little too intimate. I’ve never been one of those who thinks that I can simply sit down at my kitchen table and share a casual cup of coffee with Jesus. He’s a King, not my next door neighbor. Not even his own disciples treated him so commonly.

But I’ve got to “reboot” my journey by starting somewhere. I’ve got to attempt to rise to a higher level. Even if I get it wrong, it’s better to stub my toe while walking the path than to stand frozen in one spot out of appearing foolish or a fear of failure.

During your Hitbodedut, it is good to say: “Today I am starting to attach myself to You!”

Make a new start each time, because everything that comes later is always in accordance with the beginning.

No matter what happens, it is always good to make a new start each time and say, “Today I am beginning…” If things were already good, now they will be even better! And if they were not good before, then you certainly need to start anew.

You’re probably familiar with the phrase, “today is the first day of the rest of your life,” generally attributed to Charles (“Chuck”) Dederich, and that seems to be part of what the Rebbe is saying too. Each day is a new beginning. Every moment is a fresh opportunity. The Master said, the spirit desires but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). We want to draw nearer to God, but there are so many things we let get in the way. After a while, we start to feel as if there are too many barriers and we stop trying.

But while we live there are always opportunities. Pushing the walls aside is as easy as finding some place to be alone and then starting to talk to God. Our first words can always be, “Today I am starting to attach myself to You!” Even if nothing seems to “happen” first, be patient.

Even if many days and years pass and it seems as if you have accomplished nothing with your prayers and conversations with God, don’t give up! Every single word makes an impression.

“Water wears away stone” (Job 14: 19 ) . It may seem that water dripping on hard stone could not make any impression, yet when water drips on stone continuously for many years, it can literally wear a hole in the stone. We actually see this.

Even if your heart is like stone and it seems that your words of prayer are making no impression at all, still, as the days and years pass, your heart of stone will also be softened. For: “Water wears away stone”.

rabbi-akiva-stone-waterThere is a story told about the great Rabbi Akiva that applies to us and particularly (I hope) to me.

Rabbi Akiva was a shepherd, a laborer, an am ha’aretz – religious in observance, but ignorant of Torah knowledge. At age 40, he didn’t even know how to read the aleph-beis.

One day, while sitting by a brook, Akiva noticed a steady trickle of water hitting a rock. It was only a drip, but it was constant – drop after drop after drop. Akiva observed something incredible: A hole had been carved out by that steady drip of water. He wondered how that could be. He concluded: If something as soft as water can carve a hole in solid rock, how much more so can words of Torah – which is hard as iron – make an indelible impression on my heart.

That marked a turning point in Rabbi Akiva’s life. He committed himself to Torah study, and went on to become the greatest sage of his generation, with 24,000 students learning under him at one time.

-from “Like Water on Rock”
Aish.com

It is said of Rabbi Akiva: If water can wear down a stone, then every Jew can and will study Torah…If water can wear down a stone, the Jewish people can overcome Rome…If water can wear down stone, then the Temple can be rebuilt…

If water can wear down a stone, then I can encounter God in prayer.

And so can you.

Naso: Bridegroom of the Sabbath

The Torah portion of Naso discusses the law of Sotah: (Bamidbar 5:11-31) When a husband warns his wife not to be alone with a certain man and she disobeys him, then even if she did not sin with that man, the very fact that she was alone with him causes her to become a sotah — a woman “straying from the path of modesty.” (Rashi, ibid., verse 12.)

The relationship between husband and wife in this world is analogous to the relationship between the A-lmighty and the Jewish people, who are deemed “husband and wife.” (See Likkutei Sichos , Vol. III, p. 984.) Thus all the laws of sotah apply to the relationship between G-d and the Jews.

The “warning” that G-d issues to the Jewish people is the command: “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Shmos 20:3.) This is similar to the warning: “do not conceal yourself with a certain man.”

The Chassidic Dimension
Commentary on Torah Portion Naso
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. IV, pp. 1032-1034
and the teachings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe
Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
Chabad.org

The Bible is replete with marriage metaphors, usually contrasting God and Israel as husband and wife. We also have a great deal of similar imagery in the Apostolic Scriptures depicting Jesus as husband and the church as his bride.

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands.

Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. –Ephesians 5:22-27 (ESV)

Many Christian women take great comfort in these metaphors but more than a few men struggle with the role of “bride” relative to the Messiah. But let’s not be incredibly literal, since the Bible writers are using metaphors to describe a level of close intimacy between the Messiah and his disciples that can only be likened with the closeness and love experienced by two people who are intertwined by devotion. But Israel and the church aren’t the only “bride” metaphors we know of.

The chorus of the classic Sabbath hymn Lekhah Dodi states in part:

Let’s go, my beloved, to meet the bride,
and let us welcome the presence of Shabbat.

But in this instance, if the Shabbat is the bride, who is the bridegroom? The traditional Jewish tradition casts God in that role, but we also have this:

Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless? I tell you, something greater than the temple is here. And if you had known what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would not have condemned the guiltless. For the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath.” –Matthew 12:5-8 (ESV)

The oldest text we have for this passage is in Greek, but if we try to “retrofit” these verses back into the Hebrew thoughts of the Jewish writer of Matthew, when he says “the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath,” what word did he use for “lord?”

“Adon” seems to be fitting under the circumstances, but a week ago, I heard a different interpretation by a young Jewish scholar (yes, I’m “borrowing” this from you, Nick) who offered a sort of midrash on this topic.

The word Baal is derived from the common Hebrew verb (ba’al), own, rule, possess. The verb is even used to indicate the husband’s relationship to his wife (Deuteronomy 24:1) and is applied to the relationship between God and man, “For your husband (ba’al) is your Maker…” (Isaiah 54:5).

-quoted from the
abarim-publications.com website

ShabbatBaal can mean both “lord” and “husband” but by deliberately applying the latter meaning, we can discover something about the relationship between Messiah and the Shabbat as well as something about the Messiah and us.

When we read the passage as “‘lord’ of the Shabbat”, we think of someone in charge or in command or with authority. These are very powerful images, but they don’t fit very well with how a loving groom should be approaching his bride. However, if we say, “‘husband’ of the Shabbat,” we completely change the meaning. Suddenly, we have an intimate, warm, caring interaction between the Messiah and the Shabbat.

Some Jewish sages state that the Shabbat is actually a small taste of the life in the world to come; Paradise, if you will. Creating the picture of a husband, the Messiah, welcoming his beloved bride, the Shabbat, into his arms, we can see something of the peace we will experience when he finally returns and fixes our broken world and our broken hearts.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore. –Revelation 21:4 (ESV)

This also fits very well back into what we saw in Ephesians 5 in comparing Jesus and the church with a husband and wife.

I know I’m being more than a little poetic here, but I take a certain amount of comfort in applying the lessons of both this week’s Torah Portion and the Shabbat to my walk of faith, and realize that Shabbat is not only a way for God to comfort us in the midst of our weekly trials, but His promise that He will always love us and, through the Messiah, grant us eternal peace.

Why should we stray after others to be alone with them when we can be the bride of the Moshiach and receive boundless intimacy with our bridegroom.

Good Shabbos.