Tag Archives: yetzer hara

Growing Up Playing on the Railroad Tracks

I realized that it’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve written anything on this blog. There are a few reasons for this. The first, as I chronicled here, is that for the past week, I’ve been sick as a dog. Actually, the whole family has, thanks to some nasty bug my poor granddaughter (who now is thankfully on the mend) picked up at the Germ Factory Day Care Center.

Oh, it’s not like I haven’t been blogging at all. In addition to the aforementioned Old Man’s Gym blog post, I’ve been attempting to generate some traction on my newest blogspot, Powered by Robots, including a discussion on how I’m developing my forthcoming science fiction novel, promoting my latest textbook (yes, I write those, too), and reviewing a scifi short story available for Kindle.

But that’s not the whole reason I haven’t been writing here.

aloneI haven’t been writing “Morning Meditations” because I haven’t been inspired to do so. I suppose that should be disturbing since, given my life situation, this is pretty much the only spiritual outlet (or intake) I’ve got.

I’ve seen a meme on Facebook that says something like, “If you’ve given up on God because your church has failed you, then it wasn’t God you had faith in.”

I’ve been thinking a lot about that meme lately.

It seems kind of trite and not exactly true, though. When I walked out of my little church the better part of two years ago, a lot of people tried to find me an alternative. They seemed to think without belonging to a community, that my faith would wane, and that I would eventually stop having faith at all.

It hasn’t been easy.

But it does go to show that when you have problems with community, for whatever reasons, it is generally believed that you cannot go it alone, just you and God.

So the meme isn’t exactly correct.

On the other hand, it’s not entirely incorrect, either.

I’m writing all this because I’ve seen various messages in social media lately saying stuff like “just returned from such and thus spiritual event and had a wonderful time with old and new friends.” I won’t name names, because that’s one way I get into trouble with “the powers that be”.

But I am reminded of the great times I had in community, both regular, weekly get-togethers and special events and conferences. Those doors are closed to me now, precisely because I closed them (and I had good reasons to do so).

gratitudeThis morning (couldn’t sleep, coughing and return of the evil nose bleed), I came across something at Aish.com, a quote from Rabbi Zelig Pliskin’s book Thank You, Gratitude: Formulas, stories, and insights.

A few years ago a person who would be considered successful by most people’s standards shared with me, “Looking back at my childhood, a pattern that I remembered having is, ‘He has more than me.’ ‘His birthday present was better than mine.’ ‘He gets to travel to more interesting places.’ ‘He is luckier than I am.’ ‘He has more friends.’ ‘He lives in a nicer house.’

“On my fortieth birthday I made a mental accounting of my life. I thought about various traits and patterns that I had. The most distressful part of this mental accounting was that I noticed I wasn’t very happy in my life. When I asked myself why, and thought about it, I realized that I kept feeling that I had less than others. I was told to look back at my childhood for this pattern, and that’s when I realized how often this theme came up. There were many ways that others had it better than I did. And my mind was full of thoughts of not only having less, but of being less.

“I realized that if I wanted to live the rest of my life joyfully, I needed to do one of two things. Either I could make it my goal to be so successful in every way that is important to me that I would be far ahead of everyone I knew. Then I would find it easier to be grateful for my accomplishments, successes, and possessions. Or I could learn to gain greater mastery over my thoughts. I would choose to think thoughts of gratitude as my automatic way of thinking. The first choice would take so much time, effort, and energy that I would be in a constant frustrating race with others. I might never reach my goal and even if I did reach it, it was certainly not going to last. Eventually someone would pass me by. This way of thinking would give me many years of stress and frustration and there really wasn’t a way that this would give me gratitude and happiness. It was obvious that the wiser approach would be to be grateful for what I had. Choosing this pattern of thought was one of the best choices I have made in my life.”

So if I feel “deprived” or feel “less” in any way, particularly in the area of spiritual company, I either have to work so hard that I outshine anyone I may be envious of, or I change the way I think about what I do have in my life and be grateful to God for that.

Kind of a no-brainer once you put it that way. Oh, and there’s this:

Ben Zoma says: Who is rich? The one who is appreciates what he has…

-Talmud—Avot 4:1

Talmudic RabbisI saw another “meme” (not really a meme, but it read that way to me) that said something like “Torah without Rabbinics” or “Judaism without Rabbinics”. Yeah. Good luck with that.

Actually, I’ve heard this one before, and more than once. The first time I can remember was when I was in graduate school. One of my instructors described his childhood and how he would literally play on the railroad tracks behind where he lived because his family didn’t live near a more appropriate venue such as a park.

Now you may think that was terrible, and looking back, a lot of people might tell themselves they had a bad childhood because they were poor, but he said at the time, he was having a blast. When you esteem what you have, it’s hard to focus on what you lack (or what others may think you lack).

Over every single blade of grass, there is a heavenly force that whispers to it and commands, “Grow!”

-Bereishis Rabbah 10:7

OK, there is that. It’s easy, without external prompts, to simply tread water in your own little pool, and I have plenty of experience doing that.

In his commentary on the above-quoted Bereishis Rabbah, Rabbi Abraham J. Twerski says in part:

Every living thing in the world has potential, and it is the Divine will that everything achieve its maximum potential. We think of humans as the only beings that have a yetzer hara which causes them to resist growth. Certainly animals and plants, which do not have a yetzer hara, should achieve their maximum potential quite easily.

Not so, says the Midrash. Even plants, and in fact all living matter, have an inherent “laziness,” a tendency towards inertia. Even the lowly blade of grass needs to be stimulated and urged to grow.

We can see from here that a human being thus has two inhibiting forces to overcome in order to achieve growth: (1) the yetzer hara, which is unique to us, and (2) the force of inertia, which is common to all matter.

plant growing through concrete
Image: xellow.com

So while Heaven prompts us to grow, our yetzer hara and plain old inertia counters that. However, if a single blade of grass can push its way up into the air through solid concrete, and if drops of water can slowly wear down a stone, then it possible for a human being, namely me, to pick away at the barriers between me and a more spiritual life, a tiny bit at a time.

Dimming the Divine Light

Our teacher the Baal Shem Tov said: Every single thing one sees or hears is an instruction for his conduct in the service of G-d. This is the idea of avoda, service, to comprehend and discern in all things a way in which to serve G-d.

-Compiled by the Lubavitcher Rebbe;
Translation by Yitschak Meir Kagan
Chabad.org

If only we could keep this in mind throughout our days and nights, in the midst of our conversations, and particularly when we “talk” to each other on the Web. But it seems that each disagreement, each challenge, is an excuse to forget about how all experiences are instructions for how to serve God, even as we believe we are serving God.

I suppose I could cite the Baltimore riots since it’s all over the news and social media just now, but a sense of powerlessness, fear, rage, and violence is what has fueled this latest conflagration.

And that has little or nothing to do with us as a community and how we are to serve God.

I know that we people of faith are also just people and we often use that as an excuse for our own outbursts (though thankfully, they’re not on the same order or scale as the aforementioned-rioting). Still, when we argue and particularly, when we go out of our way to tear down a fellow disciple, then we have borne witness to how far the ekklesia of Messiah has fallen in an already fallen world.

I don’t hold myself as some sterling example. I have failed God and my comrades in the Messiah’s “body” in many ways. I simply am astonished that, on the one hand, we have such wonderful words and sentiments to use as examples, such as the quote I begin this blog post with, and on the other hand, who we are and how we actually behave as flesh and blood people attempting, however poorly, to live the life we were born to live.

Show a mighty emperor the world and ask him where he most desires to conquer. He will spin the globe to the furthest peninsula of the most far-flung land, stab his finger upon it and declare, “This! When I have this, then I shall have greatness!”

So too, the Infinite Light. In those places most finite, where the light of day barely trickles in, there is found His greatest glory.

-Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“Conquest”
Chabad.org

As little pieces of the Divine Light, we are to conquer the world by shining our light into every corner of it, replacing darkness with illumination.

But how are we supposed to do that when we can’t even conquer the yetzer hara within ourselves?

The Enemy Within Us

The truth is that the yetzer hara also uses both of these tactics, but it is more successful when it approaches as a friend. Chovos HaLevavos (Yichud HaMaaseh Ch. 5) describes at length the dangerous power the yetzer hara possesses: “A person must realize that his biggest enemy in this world is his yetzer hara, which is well-connected to his character and is mixed into his personality. It is a partner in all of a person’s spiritual and physical aspirations. It gives advice on all of one’s movements, the revealed ones and the concealed ones, and lies in ambush to persuade one to sin at all times. Even while sleeping, one is not safe: the yetzer hara is always wide awake, seeking to harm. A person may forget about it, but it never forgets. It masquerades as a friend and a close confidant; indeed, with its shrewdness it tries to be considered a most loyal and trusted friend. The yetzer hara is so convincing that a person might think that it is running to fulfill his every wish. But in truth, it is shooting dangerous, deadly arrows, to uproot the person from the World to Come.”

Mussar Thought for the Day
for Monday’s Commentary on Parashas Vayishlach, p.191
A Daily Dose of Torah

“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.”

Genesis 4:7 (NASB)

According to a midrash on the Torah portion for this coming Shabbat, when Jacob is contemplating his upcoming encounter with Esau after many years, he fears two things: being killed by Esau and being befriended by Esau. Rabbinic commentary likens this to how the yetzer hara (evil inclination) operates inside of a human being. Our most basic nature or what a Christian might call our “sin nature” seeks to disobey God and lead us into ruin and exile from the World to Come, the ultimate physical and spiritual harm. In that, it’s easy to see the temptation to sin and resistance to repent as our enemy and something we must actively battle.

But the flip side of the coin is the deceptiveness of our own human natures, and this I think (and the commentary quoted above agrees) is the greater danger. People have a tremendous capacity for self-delusion and often choose to see and hear only what fits into their own dynamic or world view, regardless of the objective facts. We define good and evil by our own human standards and justify any harm we might be doing to ourselves and others in any number of creative ways. This is the yetzer hara as our friend, leading us down the peaceful and attractive path to destruction.

Other commentaries on this Torah portion say these are the twin dangers of the nations toward the Jewish people. History is replete with terrible acts done by non-Jews upon Jews including inquisitions, pogroms, torture, and murder. But the other danger, and this seems strange at first glance, is for the nations (that is, Gentiles) to extend friendship toward the Jews. Why is this a problem? Because it often leads Jewish people away from Torah, away from performing the mitzvot, and away from God. It waters down Jewish distinctiveness and we have a clear record of how Jews have assimilated into secular culture or even converted to other religions including Christianity (this is complicated when you add Messianic Judaism to the mix, but that’s a conversation for another time).

I haven’t come to talk about Jewish distinctiveness, but of a more personal danger:

In working with alcoholics and addicts, I have come to realize that the most absolute slavery does not come from enslavement by another person, but from enslavement by one’s own drives. No slavemaster has ever dominated anyone the way alcohol, heroin, and cocaine dominate the addict, who must lie, steal, and even kill to obey the demands of the addiction.

Such domination is not unique to addiction. We may not realize that passion of any kind may totally control us and ruthlessly terrorize us. We may rationalize and justify behavior that we would otherwise have considered as totally alien to us, but when our passion demands it, we are helpless to resist.

-Rabbi Abraham J. Twersky
“Growing Each Day” for Kislev 11
Aish.com

Infinite darknessLittle by little, we are guided away from the light with small, even tiny deviations off our original course and by the time we realize it, we are as Rabbi Twersky describes: slaves. When we finally realize the yetzer hara is not our friend, we are totally engulfed by this nature.

But in speaking of the yetzer hara as it if were something separate from the whole person, I’m denying the truth that our nature is who we are or at least part of who we are. That’s why it is so difficult to detach our temptations and our giving in to them, that is, our sin, from the rest of our identity and being.

So when we have fallen and fallen far, what are we to do?

This concept helps us better understand the true power of prayer. We know that, on the one hand, the Gemara says: “one cannot rely on a miracle,” and must do whatever we can to protect himself naturally. On the other hand, the Gemara (Berachos 10a) tells us that even when a sharp sword is placed upon the neck of a person, he should not give up hope, but rather he should pray for mercy from Hashem. How do we reconcile these mixed messages?

A Closer Look at the Siddur
for Monday’s Commentary on Parashas Vayishlach, p.193
A Daily Dose of Torah

I mentioned this Gemara in a previous blog post and it is a critical one, for as I also mentioned, repentance, particularly if we look at it as a set of stages or steps, is hardly linear. We may start out on the path to repentance with high hopes and set a straight course, only to find ourselves being pulled back into the darkness as if we were tethered to it by a large rubber band. We get so far only to snap back into our old habits and patterns.

Many people think they are free, yet they are really pawns in the hands of their drives. Like the addict, they are not at all in control, and do not have the fundamental feature of humanity: freedom.

-R. Twersky, ibid

This first step is to realize that the yetzer hara is not a friend and that we are not free. However, we must realize that we are exercising free will in our behavior, which is confusing when you consider yourself a slave. Does a slave stay with the slave master voluntarily? In our case, the answer is often “yes”.

Our only defense is to become masters over our desires rather than their slaves. We must direct our minds to rule over the passions of our hearts.

R. Twersky offers this as the answer to our slavery, but he’s only got so much room to write and article, and he can’t say everything that may need to be said.

For that matter, all the reading and writing in the world wouldn’t say enough or do enough because once a person recognizes they are a slave, they can only become the master through effort.

But one of those efforts is prayer.

sword on neckAbove, it was suggested that we shouldn’t depend on miracles to get us out of these messes but on the other hand, we should pray to God to help us out of our troubles. Is this a contradiction? The Rabbinic sages don’t think so, and resolve the apparent conflict by stating the power of prayer was built into the nature of Creation when God made the universe. No, that’s not in the Bible, but what it may mean is that when God made a perfect universe and human disobedience broke it, something in the essential nature of our world included a way to fix the world and to fix ourselves by invoking our relationship with God.

While God’s nature is incompatible with sin and human despair, it’s not like God can’t see or hear us when we are in the darkest corners of our own souls.

If at first you don’t succeed,: Try, try, try again.

-attributed to William Edward Hickson (1803-1870)

Just as the yetzer hara can attack us in two ways, we can be defeated in two ways. The first is to simply give up, to say to ourselves that we are weak and worthless and there is no hope. The enemy has won. The second is to never realize that we’re fighting an enemy at all and to believe that nothing is our fault. The yetzer hara is our friend and he/she would never lie to us. If we have problems in life or with other people, someone else is responsible, not us.

Either way is no good, but at least in the first situation, we realize there is an enemy and there is a sharp sword resting on our neck poised to execute us. Then we know to pray and to hope in God. In the second situation, we may never realize our danger and may fail fatally unless we are shocked out of apathy and delusion by the consequences of our folly and by a loving God. But at that point, the fight is just beginning.

Korach: Who is Speaking to Your Heart?

In the Torah portion Korach we read how Korach led a band of 250 men in a rebellion against Moshe and Aharon. Underlying their revolt against Aharon’s High Priesthood was the charge: “All the people in the community are holy and G-d is in their midst; why are you setting yourselves above G-d’s congregation?” (Bamidbar 16:3.)

From Moshe’s response, (Ibid. verse 10.) “…and you seek priesthood as well,” we readily perceive that Korach and his band desired to become priests. This being so, their argument that “All the people…are holy,” and nobody can set himself above anybody else seems to contradict their desire to be above others by obtaining priesthood.

“A Lesson in Priesthood”
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. VIII, pp. 116-118
Commentary on Torah Portion Korach
The Chassidic Dimension series
Chabad.org

Rav Yisrael of Ruzhin, zt”l, gives a fascinating explanation of a famous statement on today’s daf. “Our sages say that today the yetzer hara says to do one sin, tomorrow another, until one finally falls to idolatry. This statement does not mean that the yetzer hara increases the sins that one indulges in from day to day. It means that the yetzer hara pushes a person who falls to keep falling in the same manner day after day, time after time. Even this is enough to cause one to worship idolatry eventually, God forbid!

“This can be compared to a sick person whose weakened constitution does not improve. If his system does not overcome what ails it, he gets sicker and sicker and eventually he reaches the point where he is dangerously ill.” Rav Shalom Schwadron, zt”l, offers his own insight here. “It is interesting that the yetzer doesn’t demand that one stop fulfilling mitzvos; it merely pushes one to follow his instructions. He wants to bring a person to a place where he will fulfill only that which interests him. A student in yeshiva will learn Torah until very late at night, missing out on a meaningful shachris. Another person will express his zealousness at the expense of fulfilling his obligations to his fellow human beings.

“The yetzer wants to be in the driver’s seat; that one should only do what interests him in the manner that he prefers. He knows that a person who only acts when he is inclined to do so will eventually stop fulfilling the mitzvos. We need to recall that the main thing is to fulfill the mitzvos of the Torah because this is the will of the Creator. We must not be swayed by the compelling-seeming logic of the yetzer hara which causes one to forget God.”

Daf Yomi Digest
Stories Off the Daf
“In the Driver’s Seat”
Niddah 13

Here’s the key portion of the above-quoted lesson:

He wants to bring a person to a place where he will fulfill only that which interests him.

By the time I finished reading this “story off the Daf,” I found that the conclusion didn’t match up with what I thought it would be at the beginning of the story. I thought fulfilling certain of the mitzvot would be contrasted against overt sin, such as a person who fulfills the mitzvah of feeding the hungry and then turns around and cheats his business partner. I didn’t think it would be focusing on fulfilling one mitzvah, the one that fits your personal desires, at the expense of other equally worthy mitzvot.

We’ve seen this sort of thing before:

Then Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus from Jerusalem and said, “Why do your disciples break the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat.” He answered them, “And why do you break the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God commanded, ‘Honor your father and your mother,’ and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honor his father.’ So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. –Matthew 15:1-6 (ESV)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” –Matthew 23:23 (ESV)

We see a couple of important points taught by the Master relative to the story off the Daf, and both are related to hypocracy and setting human priorities on what we choose to do for good.

In the example from Matthew 15 (yes, I know this passage is typically used to say Jesus did away with man-made traditions and only endorses obeying pure Torah law, but he was perfectly fine with many other aspects of the normative halachah of the Judaism of his day, so I consider his main “rant” against hypocrisy, not tradition) , Jesus turns on his critics and accuses them of neglecting the commandment to honor parents by committing the money that could have been used to support their parents to the Temple. Outwardly, the Pharisees involved may have appeared holy, but in their neglect of their parents, they were reprehensible.

The short quote from Matthew 23:23 shows us something similar. Certain Pharisees were again, outwardly appearing as holy by their tithes but in the process, they completely ignored what Jesus called, “weightier matters of the law” such as the principles of “justice and mercy and faithfulness.” I should note that Jesus did not say one was really better than the other and told his audience that they should have performed their tithes without neglecting the other mitzvot.

But what does that have to do with us? On the one hand, these arguments could support the classic One Law position in the Hebrew Roots movement which states that non-Jewish people, when we become Christians and are “grafted in” (Romans 11) to the Jewish root, are obligated to the identical set of commandments as the Jews are, and we should not pick and choose which ones to obey. It would appear as if Jesus is telling us to not pick and choose as well, but to obey all of the 613 commandments, or at least as many as can be obeyed without the existence of a Temple, a Levitical priesthood, a Sanhedrin court system, and (for most of us), while living outside the Land of Israel.

On the other hand, we could use the same texts to consider just what our (I’m speaking to Gentile Christians now) true obligations are to God and whether, in our performance of the mitzvot, we are doing what God actually wants us to do, or only obeying what we want, what makes us feel righteous, and what makes us look “cool” in the eyes of our peer group. Are we falling into the same trap as Korach, Heaven forbid?

I know that sounds a little harsh, but I’ve encountered more than one non-Jewish person in the Hebrew Roots movement who seems really pleased with his tzitzit, his Hebrew prayers, and how he laid tefillin. OK, I want to be fair and say that there are many who subscribe to the One Law position who sincerely believe this is the one and only way a Gentile can please the God of Heaven, and these folks feel really picked on when people like me say that obeying many of the Torah commandments is a choice and not an obligation (your behavior doesn’t have to change in any way just because it’s voluntary rather than obligatory). But consider this.

When you say that non-Jewish believers in the Jewish Messiah are obligated to obey the full yoke of Torah, your saying that it is a sin for any Christian to fail to observe the full range of the mitzvot. You are condemning the vast, vast majority of Christians who have lived, loved the Master, observed the “weighter matters of the Torah,” and died, based on your personal interpretation of the Bible. By saying you are obligated to the Torah and that you are fulfilling the Torah, you aren’t equalizing conditions between Christians and Messianic Jews but (whether you mean to or not) elevating yourself above your brothers and sisters in the church.

Let’s continue the Chabad commentary on Korach. I think you’ll see that he and his followers were doing something very similar.

The Kohanim , the priestly class, differed from the rest of the Jewish people in that the Kohanim were wholly dedicated to spiritual matters. This was especially true with regard to the Kohen Gadol , the High Priest, who was commanded “not to leave the Sanctuary.” (Vayikra 21:12.)

Their apartness from the general populace notwithstanding, the Kohanim in general, and the Kohen Gadol in particular, imparted their level of sanctity to all the Jews. Thus we find that Aharon’s service of lighting the Menorah in the Sanctuary imparted sanctity to all Jews, and enabled them to reach Aharon’s level of service and love of G-d. (See Likkutei Torah , beginning of portion Beha’alosecha.)

You may consider this a bit of a stretch, but I think the unique standing and “choseness” of the Jewish people and their obligation Sinai covenant also imparts a “level of sanctity” to we who are grafted in from among the nations. I think there’s a relationship to Israel being a light and to those of us who have seen and been attracted to that light.

I’ve tried talking about this before, especially in blog posts such as Redeeming the Heart of Israel, Part 1 and Part 2, where we see a partnership between the Jewish and Gentile disciples of the Master that is complementary and interwoven, and I’ve tried to show that this partnership does not require a fused or homogenous identity between Christians and Jews in the Messianic realm.

Granted, I believe this manner of thinking is still in its formative stages and requires a great deal more research, especially in Scripture, but we see a classic example in the Korach rebellion of how a group desiring to separate themselves from their fellows and assume an identity not their own results in disaster. In the end, Korach and the rebels didn’t really believe that all of Israel had the right to become priests.

Korach and his band’s complaint that “All the people…are holy,” however, did not contradict their own desire for priesthood, for they desired a manner of priesthood totally removed from the rest of the congregation.

This manner of priesthood would not cause them to feel superior to the rest of the Jewish people, a superiority that resulted from their imparting holiness to them, for in their scheme of things they would not impart holiness to other Jews — they would remain totally separate and apart.

But Korach and his band were badly mistaken: It is true that there are different categories of service — Jews who are solely occupied with spiritual matters, and other Jews whose task it is to purify and elevate the physical world through the service of “All your actions should be for the sake of heaven,” (Avos 2:12.) and “In all your ways you shall know Him.” (Mishlei 3:6.)

Putting all this together, we can paint a picture of those Gentiles who want to assume a full “Jewish” identity without having to convert to Judaism as not demonstrating equality between Jews and Gentiles in the covenant, but perhaps setting themselves above their fellow Christians by taking on Jewish identity markers. I’m sure that many One Law proponents aren’t motivated in this direction, but ask yourself if this could be describing you.

If you, as a Christian (non-Jewish disciple of the Jewish Messiah) in the Hebrew Roots movement, choose to take on additional mitzvot that could be considered specific to Jews, please study up on them first, including the relevant halachah for performing the mitzvot. Shooting from the hip probably isn’t as effective way to perform any of the Torah commandments as using the accepted standards established in normative Judaism.

From my personal perspective, a Gentile publicly appearing as a Jew, even with completely pure motives, is like walking into a room full of trapdoors and tripwires. You might be successful in your efforts, but more than likely, once you step outside your local congregations and into the larger world, you could encounter unanticipated conflicts. Be sure whatever you do is actually what God wants and not just something that makes you feel special.

I’m sure no one wants to make Korach’s mistake. Ask yourself who or what is speaking to your heart?

Addendum: This all gets more complicated when you factor in people who claim a Jewish identity without Jewish parents and exist outside of Messianic Judaism, as we see in this Huffington Post article. One person has blogged about her experiences as a “Jewish” non-Jew, and Derek Leman has offered his own commentary. True, it doesn’t have a direct relationship with this week’s Torah portion or the matter of any Christian’s perceived obligation of Torah, but it is very much relevant to the “identity wars” between Jews and non-Jews, so I include these references here.

Good Shabbos.