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The Torah of Fellowship and Peace

The Ten Commandments (Shemos 22:2-17, Devarim 5:6-21) as spoken by G-d to the Jewish nation at Sinai were engraved upon the Shnei Luchos Habris, Two Tablets of the Covenant. The first Five Commandments belong to the category of laws between “man and his Creator” while the remaining Five Commandments are precepts between “man and man”.

The Ten Commandments engraved upon the tablets of stone and brought down by Moshe from G-d to the Jewish people are accorded a special distinction over all the other 613 precepts.

The Ten Commandments written upon the Two Tablets are comparable to the Kesubah, “marriage contract” drawn up as the essential contractual terms under which a Jewish man and woman enter into Jewish matrimony. Herein the parties pledge their allegiance and the principle obligations to each other thereafter. (The Avos deRabbi Nosson 2:3 fascinatingly explains this is why Moshe smashed the Two Tablets, tearing up the marriage contract, when the Children of Israel were disloyal by worshipping the Golden Calf and had to provide a substitute upon their national repentance).

The Ten Commandments forge this eternal relationship.

The covenant struck between “two” parties, affirming the relationship between G-d as the “Source” and Israel as the “product”, is mirrored in the Ten Commandments inscribed upon the Shnei Luchos HaBris, “Two” Tablets of the “Covenant”. The emphasis is on how this relates to the eternal bris, “covenant” of Torah that unites man and his Creator.

How this bond is intrinsic to the national Jewish psyche is magnificently captured in the Ten Commandments engraved through the thickness of the Tablets – such that the letters and stone were inseparably one.

Herein is included the symmetrical record of the laws pertaining both to man’s relationship to “G-d” and to “man”. The first grouping, those of “man-G-d laws”, relate to G-d the “Source” while the second grouping, those of “interpersonal laws”, relates to man, the “product”.

Side-by-side, the Ten Commandments are the microcosm to all 613 Commandments (See Bamidbar Rabbah 13:15). They embrace the acceptance of G- d’s Sovereignty at Sinai as the essential platform for strict adherence to all the other 613 laws in the Torah, which serve to polish and perfect man to become more G-dly.

Through its symbolism of the “eternal covenant” between man and G-d, of two parties inextricably bound in their mutual relationship…

-Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene
from his commentary on Torah Portion Yitro
“Two Tablets: Prescription for Jewish Observance”
Torah.org

When the Prushim heard that he had shut the mouth of the Tzaddukim, they conferred together. A certain sage among them asked him a question to test him, saying, “Rabbi, which is the greatest mitzvah in the Torah?” Yeshua said to him,

“Love HaShem your God with all of your heart, with all of your soul, and with all of your knowledge.” This is the greatest and first mitzvah. But the second is similar to it: “Love your fellow as yourself.” The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two mitzvot.Matthew 22:34-40 (DHE Gospels)

In one of my recent morning meditations, I commented how the Torah functioned as a ketubah or “wedding contract” between God, the groom, and national Israel, the bride. For Christianity, this is a puzzle (unless you wholly substitute “the Church” for “Israel” in this event), since how can God be eternally married to the Jewish people, the inheritors of the Mosaic covenant, and at the same time, have the Christian church be “the bride of Christ? I asked this question on the aforementioned “meditation,” but no one was willing or able to respond to my query.

In studying the Torah portion for last Shabbat, I noticed an interesting parallel between the Rabbinic commentary and the teachings of the Master:

Side-by-side, the Ten Commandments are the microcosm to all 613 Commandments… -Rabbi Levene

The entire Torah and the Prophets hang on these two mitzvot. –Matthew 22:40 (DHE Gospels)

Traditional Judaism, at least as Rabbi Levene describes it, compresses the entire 613 commandments into the ten mitzvot we see on the two tablets that Moses brought down from his personal encounter with God, while Jesus tells us that they are represented, along with all of the writings of the Prophets, by the two greatest commandments, which he cites from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Neither source is saying that all we need are only the ten commandments or the two greatest commandments, but they are the foundation and representation upon which we formally base our obedience to God, for Jew and Christian.

Am I saying that both Jews and Christians have identical responsibilities to God relative to the Torah? Absolutely not. There have been plenty of debates, both among scholars and on the various religious blogospheres on this topic, and my personal opinion is that we non-Jewish disciples of the Master are not obligated to take upon ourselves the full yoke of Sinai. The Master himself tells us that “my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:30) while we find Peter, who walked with the Master, saying, “why are you putting God to the test by placing a yoke on the neck of the disciples that neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? (Acts 15:10), referring to the non-Jewish disciples (and a comparison of these two verses is a study all its own).

So are we to say that God has two brides, that there are two paths to salvation, and that there are two laws? Is this the veil of separation that I’m rebuilding between Jew and Gentile that was supposedly torn down? (Ephesians 2:14)

Heaven forbid.

Yet, if I am not describing two brides separated by a veil, must I say that the only resolution to this conflict is to adopt a supersessionist viewpoint and to declare that the Church has replaced Judaism in all of the covenant promises, creating a new “spiritual Israel” out of the non-Jewish Christians? Must I say that the Jews become “one new man” with the Church only be renouncing their Judaism in totality and converting mind, body, and soul into Gentile Christians, trading in the Jewish Messiah for the “Greek” Jesus?

No, I’m not saying that, either.

According to Rabbi Dr. Stuart Dauermann in his blog post Inconvenient Truths: The One New Man:

Rather than superseding the Jewish people, the Church from among the nations joins with them as part of the Commonwealth of Israel. Only in this way can the “dividing wall of hostility” – which supersessionism maintains – be removed. Gentiles are no longer categorically outsiders to the community of God’s people, but neither do they supplant Israel. However if Gentiles were required to obey Torah and live as Jews, one would be perpetuating their categorical exclusion as Gentiles. And it is a major component of the good news as proclaimed by Paul that this former categorical exclusion is over and done with through the work of Messiah!

The balance of unity and diversity in the One New Man is further highlighted in Ephesians 3:6, where Paul says “Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.” The terms “fellow heirs, fellow members, and fellow partakers” require another communal reality with whom the Gentiles are joined, and that other partner is the community of Messianic Jews living in solidarity with wider Israel. It is only as Messianic Jews embrace this calling that their communities become the communal joining point whereby the Church from among the nations is joined to the Commonwealth of Israel.

Admittedly, this is a set of points that most traditional Christians and Jews will find difficult to absorb into their current understanding of how God relates to each of our religious groups. This also gives us something new to think about in terms of how Jews and Christians are supposed to relate to each other. But in giving the Torah at Sinai and the blood of the Son at Calvary, God provided the means by which the Jews could become a special, unique and “peculiar people” to God in a way no other people or nation had ever or has ever become to Him, and has also opened the door for the rest of the world, through the Messianic covenant, to allow the larger body of humanity to draw close to God, alongside the descendants of Jacob.

This isn’t a realization that all Jews and all non-Jews have, even though this open door is available to everyone. Secular Jews are just as much a part of Sinai as their religious brothers, whether they choose to acknowledge that fact or not. Every non-Jewish person on earth is equally invited to stand before the throne of the King by the mercy of God who sent the Messiah to both Jewish and Gentile humanity, if only we will accept that gracious offer. Jesus presents the Jews with the continual and perpetual fulfillment of the prophesy of the Messiah and a life lived in obedience to Torah as God intended from the beginning, and brings close a “grafted in” humanity together with the Jews in one Kingdom as we too respond to the Torah as proceeds from Jerusalem and as it is meant for us to comprehend and obey.

There is one Torah but two intents. Torah is the ketubah of Sinai for the Jews and at the same time, it is a light unto the nations. How Jews are forever “married” to God and we Christians are the “bride” of Messiah, I do not know, but of all the different mitzvot among the 613, many are selected to identify Jews as Jews forever, and other portions are indeed universal truths applied to all, for no man made in the image of the Creator should murder his fellow, or steal from him, or covet his property, or blaspheme the name of God or worship idols of stone or wood or paper.

Jew and Gentile, where do we start? Where do we start establishing a relationship with God and an understanding of each other? We start with studying the mitzvot of the tablets and the commandments of the Messiah. Most of all, we start with this one, new commandment that I believe Moshiach gave to each and every one of us, if only we have ears to hear.

I am giving you a new mitzvah: that you love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. –John 13:34 (DHE Gospels)

and many peoples shall come, and say:
“Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,
to the house of the God of Jacob,
that he may teach us his ways
and that we may walk in his paths.”
For out of Zion shall go the law,
and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. –Isaiah 2:3

The Torah has gone forth from Zion, carried on the teachings of Jesus and the Apostles, and we among the nations have heard the words of the Messiah and the “Word made flesh”. If we who are Christians can learn those lessons and the Jewish people can turn their hearts toward the Torah given by Moses and Jesus, then we will someday truly love one another in obedience to that Torah, and sit and eat together at the table of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:11) in fellowship and peace.

The Torah of Hashem is perfect, restoring the soul; the testimony of Hashem is trustworthy, making the simple one wise; the orders of Hashem are upright, gladdening the heart; the command of Hashem is clear, enlightening the eyes; the fear of Hashem is pure, enduring forever; the judgments of Hashem are true, altogether righteous. They are more desirable than gold, than even much fine gold; and sweeter than honey, and the drippings from its combs. –Psalm 19:8-11 (Stone Edition Tanakh)