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Archive for the ‘Torah Observance’ Category

Who goes to ‘heaven’?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 29, 2010


I was alerted to a blog entry today by thegodguy

I am referring to the words in Deuteronomy 23:1 which read:

He that is bruised with a bruising, or is bruised in the testicle, shall not come into the congregation of Jehovah . . .

What many don’t understand is that this biblical passage is a warning to all people. Even a woman is not spared from such a predicament. People of all genders must guard their “testicles” from being bruised or injured.

Of course, the biblical passage quoted above does not make sense theologically. The condition of a person’s testicles cannot have anything to do with the quality and sincerity of one’s faith. And surely, God’s Infinite Wisdom and Holy Word would not discriminate.

So what gives here?

The passage actually contains a deeper meaning than the literal words convey. This deeper meaning deals with the human psycho-spiritual condition – not the condition of one’s physical genitals. […] Doesn’t it make more theological sense that faulty thinking and wrong beliefs would keep a person from joining Jehovah’s congregation than a sports accident or getting kicked in the groin would? Link

The pasuk (verse) in Devarim 23:1(verse 2 in JPS) is meant LITERALLY. Any MAN who has had their genitals mutilated either by their own will or by others’ cannot become an Israelite – i.e convert to Judaism, join the Jewish People. This has nothing to do with ‘heaven’ or being ‘spiritual’ – this is singularly about the fact that in Judaism – and whatever people say; Torah and Tanakh (Hebrew Bible) is concerned ONLY with the conduct of the Jewish People – it is the male’s obligation to procreate, not the female’s. Torah is all about ACTION, not about thoughts or beliefs or feelings. Also, circumcision is only performed on males, as a requirement for joining the Jewish People and become Jewish and if there is nothing to circumcise, Torah says that they can’t join. But they can pray, they can bind themselves to G-d, be His servants and they are as welcome as any Jew.

Yeshiyahu (Isaiah) 56:1-8 is clear evidence that the ‘interpretation’ you give this pasuk is faulty:

Thus saith the LORD: Keep ye justice, and do righteousness; for My salvation is near to come, and My favour to be revealed.
Happy is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that holdeth fast by it: that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.
Neither let the alien, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying: ‘The LORD will surely separate me from His people’; neither let the eunuch say: ‘Behold, I am a dry tree.’
For thus saith the LORD concerning the eunuchs that keep My sabbaths, and choose the things that please Me, and hold fast by My covenant:
Even unto them will I give in My house and within My walls a monument and a memorial better than sons and daughters; I will give them an everlasting memorial, that shall not be cut off.
Also the aliens, that join themselves to the LORD, to minister unto Him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be His servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from profaning it, and holdeth fast by My covenant:
Even them will I bring to My holy mountain, and make them joyful in My house of prayer; their burnt-offerings and their sacrifices shall be acceptable upon Mine altar; for My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.
Saith the Lord GOD who gathereth the dispersed of Israel: Yet I will gather others to him, beside those of him that are gathered.

Further more King Solomon’s Dedicational Prayer (Melahkim Alef/1 Kings 8:41-43) for the First Temple says:

Moreover concerning the stranger that is not of Thy people Israel, when he shall come out of a far country for Thy name’s sake- – for they shall hear of Thy great name, and of Thy mighty hand, and of Thine outstretched arm – when he shall come and pray toward this house; hear Thou in heaven Thy dwelling-place, and do according to all that the stranger calleth to Thee for; that all the peoples of the earth may know Thy name, to fear Thee, as doth Thy people Israel, and that they may know that Thy name is called upon this house which I have built.

Naturally each is allowed to have their own understanding – but there are more or less probable ‘interpretations’ of Torah – and yours is very improbable, especially since it is a gross violation of the SPIRIT of Torah, which also says ”You shall not curse the deaf nor place a stumbling block before the blind; you shall fear your God – I am your Lord.” – i.e don’t make life harder for people who are already in a hard situation. Those who are in need of being taught about “faulty thinking and wrong beliefs” will not hear, because they don’t think they need it, and those who are already circumcised in their hearts, but in doubt of their worth to G-d, will increase their doubt through needless self-examination and spiritual self-flagellation. I.e they will stumble on the block you just put in front of them.

Micah 6:6-8

‘Wherewith shall I come before the LORD, and bow myself before God on high? Shall I come before Him with burnt-offerings, with calves of a year old? Will the LORD be pleased with thousands of rams, with ten thousands of rivers of oil? Shall I give my first-born for my transgression, the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?’ It hath been told thee, O man, what is good, and what the LORD doth require of thee: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God.

The interesting thing is that instead of actually commenting on my post/comment to his blog – he decided to attempt to change the subject and make it about me by making a slightly mocking comment about the moniker I had chosen for that comment:

Thanks for sharing your knowledge with my readers. However, I had to break out in a little giggle. You see, the symbolic meaning of a “bear” in Scripture is the literal sense of God’s Holy Word SEPARATE from its internal or deeper spiritual meaning. Amazing that you would pick such a name!

I decided to run with his bear-interpretation.

“All things in Scripture refer to our inner spirits. “

I respectfully disagree. So does the majority of people with any knowledge of the Scriptures, Judaism and world history. Torah isn’t concerned with our inner spirits, but with our conduct. Torah doesn’t split us into inner and outer. As G-d is One and Indivisible, so is Human One and Indivisible as Human is created in G-d’s image.

“the symbolic meaning of a “bear” in Scripture is the literal sense of God’s Holy Word SEPARATE from its internal or deeper spiritual meaning.“

Oh… what ever makes you believe this?
There are a few references to bears in the Hebrew Bible, and not once can those be understood as anything but references to actual bears. The symbolic meaning you assign to bears doesn’t even fit the passages!

When the ‘bear’ is referred to or described in Torah/Tanakh it’s as a just deliverer of retribution for sins committed either against G-d or other humans or as something preferable to meet when compared to a fool. – Shmuel B/2 Sam 17:8; Mishlei/Pro 17:12, ; 28:15; Hoshea/Hos 13:8

As I said in my previous comment: “Naturally each is allowed to have their own understanding – but there are more or less probable ‘interpretations’ of Torah…”

Unless one KNOWS the origin, context and purpose of any given text in Torah and Tanakh one cannot give an accurate account of Its meaning, and one will, while perhaps aiding oneself (as G-d speaks differently to each of us) ultimately lead others astray from the simple, plain truths of Torah.

It’s really simple. Torah speaks to our conduct here and now – the reward is here and now. There is no Heaven or even Afterlife in Torah. We live, we die and we are no more. Like the grass. The reward for conducting ourselves according to what Torah teaches (summarized in Vayikra/Leviticus 19:18 and Micah 6:8) is the continued existence and prosperity of Human (if one reads in a Global Context – of the Jewish People if one reads in a Jewish Context). Torah teaches us that we get ‘there’ by DOING. What we believe is totally irrelevant. What we DO is everything. In fact Torah says that by DOING we will eventually understand the ‘meaning’ of what we do.
THAT is the reward – not ‘heaven’ or ‘eternal life’.

And then he replies:

I respect your sincere interpretation of the Word of God. However, the Word comes to us from heaven – which is beyond time and space. Therefore, any communication coming from this non-physical source must have first existed in a purely spiritual form, abstracted from all terrestrial qualities. When angels read the Holy Word they understand nothing but the purely spiritual meanings of God’s revealed wisdom!

One thing that I truly dislike is when Torah is said to say things It doesn’t.

So I responded – pointing to his use of ‘heaven’:

“the Word comes to us from heaven”.

To me it seems that Torah disagrees with you – at least if one reads the plain words of It and doesn’t add interpretations and spiritual baggage to It.
Devarim/Deuteronomy 30:11-14
For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: ‘Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: ‘Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?’ But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it.

G-d IS. If nothing else, Tehillim/Psalms 139 will tell us that this is true according to Torah and Tanakh. It is clear from the way the words speak of all kinds of places that the author of the Tehilla/Psalm suggests he might go and still G-d would be there.

When Torah speaks of ‘heaven’ It is speaking of the actual physical ‘sky’ or ‘space’ that we can see if we look at it. It is not speaking of a spiritual, non-physical ‘place’ or ‘situation’ out-side time and space.

In the Torah that I read, Torah came to us (Globally and Specifically) from G-d, not heaven. Or Moshe would have had to go up to ‘heaven’ to get it, and Torah says he didn’t, (at most he went up a mountain and came down again) – nor was there any need for that – because G-d gave it to us, G-d spoke (if you will from the Mountain to Moshe) and there it was – in our mouths, and in our hearts, so that we might do It.

Where do you find evidence in Torah that the angels read Torah?

Posted in Torah, Torah Observance | Tagged: | 3 Comments »

Comment on Yael’s Thoughts Bava Metzia 59b

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on August 9, 2007


My Friend Yael posted about a passage in the Babylonian Talmud – Bava Metzia 59b:

“In the story of Torah not being from heaven (Bava Metzia 59b), the rabbis use as proof texts passages that are made to mean something they do not seem to be saying. “[…]”That’s how I am with Torah as well. Some are bothered that I claim I have this same right to view Torah as mine, to let Torah speak to me in ways it may not speak to others. […]” Torah was given to all of us. It’s just as much mine as it was the sages. I’m quite at ease with Torah; it doesn’t bother me in the least to view verses in nonstandard ways any more than it bothered the sages. It’s my heritage. Cool.”

This is the passage, with it’s footnotes:

“On that day R. Eliezer brought forward every imaginable argument,3 but they did not accept them. Said he to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let this carob-tree prove it!’ Thereupon the carob-tree was torn a hundred cubits out of its place — others affirm, four hundred cubits. ‘No proof can be brought from a carob-tree,’ they retorted. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the stream of water prove it!’ Whereupon the stream of water flowed backwards — ‘No proof can be brought from a stream of water,’ they rejoined. Again he urged: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let the walls of the schoolhouse prove it,’ whereupon the walls inclined to fall. But R. Joshua rebuked them, saying: ‘When scholars are engaged in a halachic dispute, what have ye to interfere?’ Hence they did not fall, in honour of R. Joshua, nor did they resume the upright, in honour of R. Eliezer; and they are still standing thus inclined. Again he said to them: ‘If the halachah agrees with me, let it be proved from Heaven!’ Whereupon a Heavenly Voice cried out: ‘Why do ye dispute with R. Eliezer, seeing that in all matters the halachah agrees with him!’ But R. Joshua arose and exclaimed: ‘It is not in heaven.’4 What did he mean by this? — Said R. Jeremiah: That the Torah had already been given at Mount Sinai; we pay no attention to a Heavenly Voice, because Thou hast long since written in the Torah at Mount Sinai, After the majority must one incline.5

3. Lit., ‘all the arguments in the world’.
4. Deut. XXX, 12.
5. Ex. XXIII, 2, though the story is told in a legendary form, this is a remarkable assertion of the independence of human reasoning.”

Exodus 23:2 “Thou shalt not follow a multitude to do evil; neither shalt thou bear witness in a cause to turn aside after a multitude to pervert justice;”

Didn’t the Rabbis just say the very opposite? So why are they using Exodus 23:2 as a proof text?

Well, the Torah also says: Deuteronomy 12:8 “Ye shall not do after all that we do here this day, every man whatsoever is right in his own eyes; “

To me this all indicate that G-d wants us to exercise independent thinking in regards to Torah, but he also wants us to keep Torah the same way everyone else does. Why would He want that?

When I was first researching Judaism I asked a Rabbi if I could tie in a blue thread in my Tzitziyot. He asked me if I planned on wearing them in public or in private. I said either way. He said to me that Tradition says that all threads needs to be white, because the blue had at one time disappeared, and if I wore a blue thread with my white, perhaps I would tempt someone to envy, so for the sake of Chessed I should wear white Tzitziyot in public, but it would be ok to wear a blue thread in private.

I think that the Sages used the passage from Exodus 23 as a proof text, because they, as Bava Metzia implies, realized that it would be halachaic chaos for the PEOPLE if the Sages didn’t say that the “majority rules”. There is wisdom in this – there are people out there that are “weak”, unless they feel that they have something to back them up – their own understanding is not enough for them, so they need a majority to say: “You are Ok.”

For their sake, so that Torah does not become “a stumbling block” or “a curse” do we need to accept “halakha according to the majority” – this doesn’t mean that I cannot practice according to what I understand, or believe, it only means that if I do so in public I need to be careful, so that I do not inadvertently bring grief to my fellow man through my Torah Observance.

Posted in Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia, Deuteronomy, Exodus, Torah Observance | 20 Comments »

 
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