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Archive for the ‘Torah’ 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 »

Arguing with G-d – Moshe

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 2, 2009


The background to this is Bamidbar/Numbers 14.

Bamidbar/Num 14:1-2 “And all the congregation lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night. And all the children of Israel murmured against Moses and against Aaron; and the whole congregation said unto them: ‘Would that we had died in the land of Egypt! or would we had died in this wilderness!”

The Children of Israel are in an uproar, they are dissatisfied with the way Moshe and Aharon and ultimately G-d is running things as they near the Land of Canaan and are told that they will soon have to face the inhabitants of that land, fearing that they will be killed there.

They start to pick up stones to stone Moshe and Aharon. That’s when G-d enters the scene:

Bamidbar/Num 14:11-12 “And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘How long will this people despise Me? and how long will they not believe in Me, for all the signs which I have wrought among them? I will smite them with the pestilence, and destroy them, and will make of thee a nation greater and mightier than they.’”

G-d is coming out all riled up (verse 10), threatening the Israelites with all sorts of horrible things, including disinheriting them and make another People for Moshe and Himself. On the surface He is in His right. He has over and over shown them what a wonderful G-d He is, He has clothed them and fed them and defended them against  hoards of enemies, and all they do in return is yell and scream, groan, moan and whine, object to his commands and generally be extremely obnoxious. Anyone would lose their temper in the face of such obstinacy and adversity! So G-d loses it. He loses His temper and is about to go berserk on the Israelites when Moshe confronts G-d:

Bamidbar/Num 14:13-16 “And Moses said unto the LORD: ‘When the Egyptians shall hear – for Thou broughtest up this people in Thy might from among them – they will say to the inhabitants of this land, who have heard that Thou LORD art in the midst of this people; inasmuch as Thou LORD art seen face to face, and Thy cloud standeth over them, and Thou goest before them, in a pillar of cloud by day, and in a pillar of fire by night; now if Thou shalt kill this people as one man, then the nations which have heard the fame of Thee will speak, saying: Because the LORD was not able to bring this people into the land which He swore unto them, therefore He hath slain them in the wilderness.”

This is absolutely wonderful! Moshe throws G-d’s own vanity in His face! “Hey here’s what your enemies are going to say about this if you kill this people. You went about getting this people for yourself by virtually stealing it from the Egyptians. You made a big show of things, in fire, smoke and all sorts of fireworks and now, because they grumble a little, you give up!?” Then Moshe throws G-d’s own words in His face: Bamidbar/Num 14:17-19 “And now, I pray Thee, let the power of the Lord be great, according as Thou hast spoken, saying: The LORD is slow to anger, and plenteous in lovingkindness, forgiving iniquity and transgression, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, upon the third and upon the fourth generation. Pardon, I pray Thee, the iniquity of this people according unto the greatness of Thy lovingkindness, and according as Thou hast forgiven this people, from Egypt even until now.’”

See what Moshe is doing? He is using the same tactics that Avraham used in Bereshit/Gen 18 – he points out to G-d that what He is planning is not in accordance with Who He Is. Again G-d is confronted with the other side of the Justice coin, this time through His own word –  Shemot/Exo 34:6-7. He might, on the surface, be in His right to obliterate the entire people, He is G-d after all, but not when the matter is looked at on a deeper level. On a deeper level G-d must act with Mercy and in accordance with His own word. Oh, by all means, punish those who are actually guilty, but Justice without Mercy is no Justice! Moshe knows it, and he points this out to G-d. And then he asks G-d to forgive the people. Which G-d does, immediately.

So what’s in this for us?

First the understanding that true Justice is spelled Justice/Mercy. One cannot exist without the other. Even when we violate G-d’s Law and mess up to a point where we can imagine G-d tearing His hair in frustration can we hold up G-d’s own Torah to Him and claim G-d’s justice for our crimes and know that the moment we ask Him to fogive us, we are forgiven. We still have to live with the consequences (such as having to apologize to other people and accept that they are angry at us, change how we deal with similar situations, pay the fine for speeding or attend AA meetings for drunk driving, etc) of the mess-up, but we are no longer “at odds with G-d” over it. This is grace in its truest meaning.

See also 2 Shmuel/Sam 12:13

Secondly we are taught that we are to treat others with the same Justice/Mercy as G-d is treating us with. Moshe and Aharon were about to be stoned by the angry people – still Moshe interceded and asked G-d to forgive. I.e Moshe forgave the people that they attempted to kill him. Why? Because, I think, he remembered what is said in Vayikra/Lev 19:2 “Ye shall be holy; for I the LORD your God am holy” and in Vayikra/Lev 19:18 “Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the LORD.”

Posted in Numbers 14, Torah | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Arguing With G-d – Avraham

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on March 2, 2009


Background:
Bereshit/Gen 18:17 And the LORD said: ‘Shall I hide from Abraham that which I am doing; seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?

G-d is debating with Himself whether to tell Avraham that He intend to destroy Sodom – enumerating the reasons for including Avraham in His counsel. He decides to tell Avraham (perhaps also because Lot is living there, which we are informed about in Gen 19).

Bereshit/Gen 18:20 And the LORD said: ‘Verily, the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and, verily, their sin is exceeding grievous. I will go down now, and see whether they have done altogether according to the cry of it, which is come unto Me; and if not, I will know.’

The Argument:
What ensues in the next batch of verses (23-32) is one of the best examples of how to argue with G-d, and actually win!

Bereshit/Gen 18:23-32 “And Abraham drew near, and said: ‘Wilt Thou indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked? Peradventure there are fifty righteous within the city; wilt Thou indeed sweep away and not forgive the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? That be far from Thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked, that so the righteous should be as the wicked; that be far from Thee; shall not the judge of all the earth do justly?’ And the LORD said: ‘If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will forgive all the place for their sake.’ And Abraham answered and said: ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes. Peradventure there shall lack five of the fifty righteous; wilt Thou destroy all the city for lack of five?’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it, if I find there forty and five.’ And he spoke unto Him yet again, and said: ‘Peradventure there shall be forty found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not do it for the forty’s sake.’ And he said: ‘Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak. Peradventure there shall thirty be found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not do it, if I find thirty there.’ And he said: ‘Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord. Peradventure there shall be twenty found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it for the twenty’s sake.’ And he said: ‘Oh, let not the Lord be angry, and I will speak yet but this once. Peradventure ten shall be found there.’ And He said: ‘I will not destroy it for the ten’s sake.’”

What I find absolutely wonderful in this passage is how Avraham not only argues with G-d about Sodom (well, he raises the question anyway), but how he makes it virtually impossible for G-d to deny him his request – he questions G-d’s sense of Justice! He points out to G-d that a truly Just G-d would consider sparing the people in Sodom on account of the righteous that might live in the city. By implcation he is telling G-d that if He destroys Sodom without taking into consideration even ten righteous people, He is a flawed G-d! There is no way Avraham can lose this. Now, Sodom was destroyed, but only because Lot’s family was short a few people.

How does this affect us? Well, first of all it teaches us that according to Torah, Justice without Compassion is no Justice, and that not even G-d may disregard this. Secondly it teaches us that questioning G-d is acceptable. It’s ok to reason with G-d and tell Him that whatever is going on is not ok by us. We might not be in a position to know first hand what G-d intends or to save ten people, but we certainly are in a position to tell G-d that we are questioning His actions, His sense of Justice and His  capacity for Compassion. Thirdly it teaches us that the Will of G-d is not cut in stone, that life is open-ended and it’s up to us to influence both G-d and events. G-d is actually interested in our points of view. We aren’t pre-destined by our genes or memes to be a certain way or live a certain life, what is in store for us around every new corner is ours to form. G-d will accept our decisions. He won’t do things “over our heads”.

Posted in Genesis 18:22-32, Torah | Tagged: , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Theistic Evolution 1

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on January 6, 2008


I am a Theistic Evolutionist, a Evolutionary Creationist. This means that I make one assumption which is squarely planted in Faith as a matter that cannot be scientifically proved – G-d exists. Other than that I accept the Evolutionary Account of the Origins of the Universe and everything in it. I am not a scientist. I am theologian with an interest in science, and especially in reconciling Science with Faith, hopefully without making the mistakes I think many people of Faith have made, in such a manner that it becomes clear that there really is no conflict between Faith and Science.
I choose to do it “from Scripture to Science” i.e adapting Scripture to Science, rather than the other way around, which seems to be the manner of f.i Intelligent Designists and Literal Creationists, who invariably try and adapt Science to the Scriptural Account, and in my opinion fail horribly and only manage to perpetuate a conflict that really doesn’t exist.
In order to harmonize the Biblical Creation Account with existing Scientific Evolutionary Facts, we have to understand the Biblical TEXT and how it works. It is fine to just see the Biblical Creation Account as an allergory that gives the basic answers to the questions of Who? and Why? from a religious perspective and stop there. This assumes of course that one wants to have such answers, this is not necessary, one is perfectly fine without those answers. However, I don’t think it’s necessary to stop at a mere allergory. I think that if we look at the actual Text of Bereshit/Genesis Chapters 1 and 2, and are willing to read beyond what Tradition teaches, we will see that there is, within the very text, support for a pure scientific understanding of “How it All Came Into Being.”

“In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” Genesis/Bereshit 1:1

Apart from the fact that this verse works like a head line in a newspaper article, simply summarizing the contents of what is to follow, this verse is interesting. In English or most other languages is just says “In the beginning G-d created the heaven and the earth.” In Hebrew, the Original Language of Torah, there is a textual elememt that implies that the Author was aware that Creation is an on-going process, and not something that is finished. It actually says: “In the Beginning of G-d’s Creating Heavens and Earth.” Which leads to a quite startling discovery, which I will get to after this brief message:

This verse makes 2 statements.
1. It all began somewhere in Reality, timed or timeless. This has been established by Science. The Universe is not without beginning. Bereshit 1:1 concurs with Science on this point. The existence of a Universal Beginning can be Scientifically observed and verified.
2. G-d did it. This is a statement of pure Faith. This cannot be verified by Science, it can only be believed. We might be able to deduce from findings within Science, that the Idea of G-d as Creator would be viable if we put Him out-side Time and Space.

“Actually, the latest understanding of the origin of the universe indicates that prior to the Big Bang, time itself did not exist. Without the existence of space produced by the Big Bang, time had no meaning. And without time, references in space have no meaning. So in a sense, the theological idea that God as Creator exists outside space and time makes perfect sense.” (Dale Husband)

This however would be by deduction only. We cannot establish that He actually did it. For all we know, from a perspective of Science, He might as well be non-existent, at most a non-active Spectator of a Random Event that took place 13.7 billion years ago without His intervention or participation.

“And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.” Genesis/Bereshit 1:2

This verse makes another 2 statements:

1. At one time, most likely just prior to the Random Event that took place 13.7 billion years ago, Matter/Mass had no form, it was free-floating out-side Space and Time. This can be verified by scientific observations. Bereshit/Genesis 1:2 concur with Science. Here we get to the startling discovery through the realization that the Biblical Account speaks of Creation as an on-going process. Contrary to what Popular Theology, both Xian and Jewish teaches, this verse makes very clear that G-d did not Create “ex nihilo” (out of nothing) God had access to matter/mass. Something was present from which He created.

“In 1952, George Gamow, one of the founding fathers of Big Bang cosmology, proposed that the period before the Big Bang be called the Augustinian era,[1] after the philosopher Saint Augustine, who believed time was solely a property of the God-created Universe. Even though one could philosophically argue over the meaning of the phrase “to create”, through the theory of general relativity space and time can be related to each other. The phrase “Augustinian Era” stands as a testament to the fact that the known laws of physics break down in a gravitational singularity of a geometric point at the time zero of the Big Bang and that, before then, time as we know it is meaningless.” From Wikipedia

So far our our Biblical Account confirms what Science says.

2. G-d was present prior to a Random Event that took place 13.7 billion years ago. This cannot be verified scientifically, therefore must remain a matter of Faith.

This far I am startled by one single seeming fact: How Faith and Fact seem to be proposed by the Biblical account through its statements of description that can be verified by Science and its statements about a Creator, which can only be “verified” through Faith. It is as if the Biblical Account wants us to accept both in conjunction. I just marvel at those who refuse to realize that if one accepts through Faith that G-d exists, one must also accept that Faith is meaningless without sound Reason/Science. Faith cannot be proved. By the same token Reason cannot be believed. There is a “No-mans-land” between Faith and Reason that we have to cross, and interestingly enough it can only be traversed through a leap of Faith, in both directions, and the border crossing is guarded by Logic.

I’ll stop here for now. Next will be the actual Big Bang…

Posted in Creationism, Torah | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Psalm 8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on December 12, 2007


Posted in Torah | Tagged: , | 2 Comments »

Parasha Vayetze – Daily Care or Grand Designs?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on November 20, 2007


Torah Portion: Genesis 28:10 – 32:3 Haftarah for Ashkenazim: Hosea 12:13 – 14:10 Haftarah for Sephardim: Hosea 11:7 – 12:12

Ya’akov… Last year I would have written about how horrible Ya’akov is as a character – a cheat, a fraud, a sorcerer, liar, coward, thief a great manipulator in general and someone who uses G-d for his own ends. I would have been right. But describing him as an honorable sceptic, an agnostic, and a true believer would be just as right. Ya’akov in his basic make-up is extremely human.

“If G-d does this… I will acknowledge…” Bereshit 28:20-21

Ya’akov starts his adult life with a session of bargaining with G-d.

He is running for his life – from his enraged brother whom he, just few days earlier, has cheated out of his birth-right (enthusiastically assisted by his mother) – towards the homelands of his mother, uncle and grandfather. On the way there, according to the Sages, (Sanhedrin 95b) he is surprised by an early sunset and decides to go to sleep. Dream. Ladder. Angels. G-d making a speech. Grand Designs and Spiritual Experiences.

“Surely the Lord is present in this place, and I did not know it!” Shaken, he said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the abode of God, and that is the gateway to heaven.” Bereshit 28:16-17

Interestingly enough, Ya’akov’s exclamation isn’t specific about WHAT G-d he is speaking of. He is clearly aware that “G-d” is present there. This, however doesn’t convince him. To Ya’akov grand visions, dreams and spiritual incidents are not sufficient “proof” or reasons to accept G-d’s presence in one’s life. A far more prosaic G-d is what he will put his trust in. A G-d who keeps him fed, clothed and safe is what Ya’akov is looking for. He knows that spiritual experiences cannot do that. Although he acknowledges that G-d can be and is present in visions, dreams and grand spiritual events, what he will trust in is not visions, dreams and spiritual incidents, but a G-d who will take care of him on a daily basis.

“If God remains with me, if He protects me on this journey that I am making, and gives me bread to eat and clothing to wear, and if I return safe to my father’s house — the Lord shall be my God.” Bereshit 28:20-21

Here’s the bargaining point, the matter which is more important to Ya’akov than the dream he just had – daily divine action as opposed to occasional divine revelation. He accepts the latter, but is seeking the former.

This point ask a question of us. Ya’akov, in all his complex humanity, asks US which is more important to us: Daily Divine action or Occasional Divine Revelation? What do we seek? Signs and Symbols or the Fatherly love and care expressed through having our daily needs met?

If we look closely at the story of Ya’akov we see that he gets his grand designs and spiritual experiences as a side dish to a main course of daily care. In fact when he finally accepts the G-d of his fathers as his own, he is not only fed, clothed and safe – he is fat, rich beyond belief and living safely in the midst of his large family.

A funny thing about Ya’akov is that while G-d is running on idle in the background, just making sure that events follow the plan approximately, Ya’akov is very much the maker of his own fate. He gets what he wants and needs through his own hard work, ingenuity and humility, backed by an unspecified trust that his bargain with G-d will pay off in the end. He doesn’t get fat, rich and safe by sitting on his backside waiting for grand visions, signs. He gets there through hard work and trusting a G-d he is not at all sure is his.

He puts in the legwork and lets G-d do His bit – the daily care.

Amen

Posted in Bereshit 28:10 - 32:3, Parasha Vayetze, Torah, Weekly Parasha, Weekly Parsha | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

Parasha Bereshit – What’s bothering Kayin?

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 3, 2007


onthewingsoflove.jpg

Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Point: Bereshit 4:1-5, 10-16 – What’s Bothering Kayin

“And the man knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of HaShem.’And again she bore his brother Abel. And Abel was a keeper of sheep, but Cain was a tiller of the ground. And in process of time it came to pass, that Cain brought of the fruit of the ground an offering unto HaShem. And Abel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof. And HaShem had respect unto Abel and to his offering; but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect. And Cain was very wroth, and his countenance fell….[…]And He said: ‘What hast thou done? the voice of thy brother’s blood crieth unto Me from the ground. And now cursed art thou from the ground, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother’s blood from thy hand. Then thou tillest the ground, it shall not henceforth yield unto thee her strength; a fugitive and a wanderer shalt thou be in the earth.’ And Cain said unto the L-RD: ‘My punishment is greater than I can bear. Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid; and I shall be a fugitive and a wanderer in the earth; and it will come to pass, that whosoever findeth me will slay me.’ And the L-RD said unto him: ‘Therefore whosoever slayeth Cain, vengeance shall be taken on him sevenfold.’ And the L-RD set a sign for Cain, lest any finding him should smite him. And Cain went out from the presence of the L-RD, and dwelt in the land of Nod, on the east of Eden. “

It’s pretty understandable, Kayin’s anger and depression. Who wouldn’t be angry and depressed if one’s best effort at showing appreciation and gratitude, was spurned? Kayin’s problem isn’t with G-d or with Hevel. Kayin’s problem is that instead of taking responsible for his own feelings and turn to G-s with a simple question: “Why, what’s wrong?” he looks down and inward, at his own anger, depression, feelings of rejection and fear of inadequacy, away from G-d. Because he feels rejected and inadequate, he feels lonely – to alleviate that loneliness he seeks out his brother. But instead of alleviating his pain, the sight of Hevel flips Kayin’s mind, and Hevel becomes the reason why he feels rejected by G-d. It’s more than he can bear and in his anger and fear, he murders his brother. Was Kayin’s anger and fear wrong? Or his offering? No. But the way he dealt with the situation was. Kayin went first – offering to G-d the best he had from his crop. Then Hevel did the same – only with a twist – to me the ‘he also’ implies that Hevel offered grain, fruit and such, just as Kayin, but then Hevel added to the offering of grain and fruit some of the “firstlings of his flock and of the fat thereof”. Seeing Hevel’s offering, so much more abundant than his own, Kayin is suddenly struck by fear that G-d won’t accept his offering – this is the “but unto Cain and to his offering He had not respect” – it’s all in Kayin’s mind!

To G-d Kayin’s offering was fine, just as fine as his brother’s, which to me is implied in the events that follow the murder. When Kayin realizes what he has done, he exiles himself from G-d “Behold, Thou hast driven me out this day from the face of the land; and from Thy face shall I be hid”. There was never any need for that, G-d never said that – He said that Kayin would be exiled from farming the earth, not from G-d’s presence. On the contrary, when Kayin adds to his punishment that he will be outlawed and that every man will be against him, G-d says ‘Not so, I will make sure that no one kills you for this!’ So in the eyes of G-d Kayin’s offering was ok, Kayin was OK. But to Kayin it wasn’t good enough. What he had to offer wasn’t good enough compared to Hevel’s offering, and the price Kayin paid for his low self-esteem was even more fear, the loss of his brother and the self-inflicted loss of his G-d.

Poor Kayin! Fearful and shame-ridden, he turns away from the only source that could have saved him and his brother – G-d – Had he turned towards G-d with his feelings of shame, fear, inadequacy, envy, anger and rejection, he would have found a G-d ready to say: ‘Not so, you are my child just as much as Hevel’.

The other side of the Story is that of Hevel – and the lesson of not shaming a fellow in public. By adding to his offering what was not inherently his to offer (the fruit of the earth) he shows off, and creates the implication that what he offers G-d is better than that of Kayin. The price he pays is steep, but on the other hand they say that shame is the killer of the soul – something that becomes quite clear through the re-actions of Kayin.

Did Hevel draw death upon himself? No, but he wasn’t an innocent victim either – his need to show-off, to be better, to best his brother, became his own downfall.

So where does this leave us?

From Kayin we learn that it’s better to look outward and upward when we feel downcast and doubtful, than inward and downward, we risk missing the loving and caring words and help from our Father and those friends around us. We are never so bad off that G-d doesn’t want us, that is just our stinking thinking that speaks. We are so much better of sharing with others what is on our minds than holding it in.

From Hevel we learn that showing off and besting others at their expense is just another expression of pride that goes before downfall. We also learn that using others to shine causes them shame, and shame is the #1 soul killer, and we might just end up in deep shit as a result. If we share our good fortune, try and make others part of our success, we will in the end be richer than before.

Amen

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

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Parasha Bereshit – The Setting Up of Chava

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 2, 2007


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Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Point Bereshit 2:15-17; 3:1-3

And the L-RD G-d took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. And the L-RD G-d commanded the man, saying: ‘Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it; for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.’ […]Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the LORD God had made. And he said unto the woman: ‘Yea, hath God said: Ye shall not eat of any tree of the garden?’ And the woman said unto the serpent: ‘Of the fruit of the trees of the garden we may eat; but of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden, God hath said: Ye shall not eat of it, neither shall ye touch it, lest ye die.’

I have always found the traditional (Xian) interpretation of this story fishy to say the least. It seems that Chava was set up here. First of all – she wasn’t present when the command not to eat of the Tree was given – in fact she didn’t even exist yet! Secondly G-d didn’t command her – He commanded Adam, who creates the first “gereizah” and adds “…neither shall you touch it…” when he passes the command on.

Chava really didn’t stand a chance. She probably has already tried touching before the snake creeps up and talks to her, and nothing happened, which is as it should be, since G-d never said “…neither shall you touch it…”, so how can she trust that the “eat and die” part is true – her only source of this is Adam – if the “no touching” just proved to be a lie? It turns out that it isn’t bollocks – but who is responsible and in what way?

Chava has traditionally been made to bear the guilt alone – both Jewish and Xian Traditions have in some way or other based a misogynist world view in this singular idea, that it was all Chava’s fault.

Tradition has made Adam an innocent victim of Chava’s “female viles”, and that according to the Story is simply not an accurate image. It turns out he played a very crucial role in this domestic drama. He sets himself up as the authority of the Law, and causes his wife to have reason to distrust what G-d has actually said, adding to G-d’s command in a manner that makes clarity of Torah difficult to reach.

Chava on the other hand does try the limits of what she perceives to be the Law – that it wasn’t the Law doesn’t change the fact that she tested it. She feeds her own doubt by not turning to G-d and ask for a clarification when part of what she thinks is the Law turns out to be untrue, instead she assumes that all she has heard is untrue, and throws out the baby with the bathwater.

Both are equally culpable according to the recorded events, and in the eyes of G-d they certainly are.

What’s in this Story for us?

Don’t mess up Torah – if it’s clear and understandable – don’t try and make it “clearer”, chances are you’ll just make a mess that causes someone else to stumble. Don’t make additions to Torah, It works fine as It is.

Check the facts for yourself, don’t trust Authorities blindly, just because you love them or they seem sensible. Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater – yes, some things you hear may be nothing but bullocks, but that doesn’t mean everything similar is bullocks too.

Amen

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

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Parasha Bereshit – In The Beginning – Bereshit 1:1-6:8

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on October 1, 2007


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Parasha: Genesis 1:1 – 6:8 Haftarah:Isaiah 42:5 – 43:10 – Sefardim reads: Isaiah 42:5 – 42:21

Focal Points: 1:1-5 – Creation that continues

1 When God began to create heaven and earth —

Bereshit bara Elohim et hashamayim ve’et ha’arets.

2 the earth being unformed and void, with darkness over the surface of the deep and a wind from God sweeping over the water —

Veha’arets hayetah tohu vavohu vechoshech al-peney tehom veruach Elohim merachefet al-peney hamayim.

3 God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light.

Vayomer Elohim yehi-or vayehi-or.

4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.

Vayar Elohim et-ha’or ki-tov vayavdel Elohim beyn ha’or uveyn hachoshech.

5 God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, a first day.

Vayikra Elohim la-or yom velachoshech kara laylah vayehi-erev vayehi-voker yom echad.

—-

“In the beginning of G-d’s creating…” that’s what the very first line of Torah says. Literally. This to us indicate two things:

Creation is an ongoing process and G-d didn’t create out of nothing.

G-d creates out of that which is already in existence. This is good news to us – this means that G-d can use whatever chaos and deformity we are at the moment to make something great out of, and that we don’t have to despair at being slow to learn or taking our time to “get it” – G-d’s creative work is an on-going process, so we don’t have to worry about a timetable.

“…with darkness over the surface…”

G-d starts out His creating in darkness and then He decides to make a counterpart to Darkness – Light.

This is important for us – because for most of us life up till now has been much on the Dark Side, we too started out in darkness. We need Light to counterpoint the Darkness of our unmanageable lives. So G-d creates Light, makes distinct lines between Light and Darkness to separate them from each other.

Notice that He doesn’t remove Darkness, He makes a special room for it – “Night”. Now, if He is G-d, then why on earth didn’t He just get rid of Darkness and go completely with Light? Perhaps because without each other Light and Darkness would be meaningless. Creation needs both to function, and so do we.

Darkness in our lives works much like Night in nature – it provides dew, moisture that feeds/waters nature, inspires it to grow. If nature never experienced Night/Darkness, it would very quickly be scourged to dry dust by the Light/Day. That same way we need to soak up “moisture” from Darkness in our lives in order to grow during the times of light. We too would be scourged to dry dust if all we ever experienced was light.

And G-d saw that it was good…

On the other hand – the Light that explodes onto the scenery in v.3 is a Light that leaves no shadows. To that Light we are totally transparent. That is good, because it means that G-d knows exactly what He has to work with, so that in the end we become exactly what we are supposed to be – not what we might have been if the Light had been just any other light.

So the to-and-fro between Light and Darkness has another function – every now and then we need to be completely transparent in order to find the areas in ourselves that needs working on. At those times, Darkness is the Sweet Shadow in which we can rest between turns at digging in ourselves.

Whether we are in Light or Darkness – we are exactly where we are supposed to be, in the middle of G-d’s Continued Creating

Shabbat Shalom!

This article, including artworks and photos in this Blog is Copyright © Henric C. Jensen aka Shadow Bear/Silly Old Bear and are NOT public domain – unless otherwise specified.

 

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Sukkot – Dwelling in Trust

Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 26, 2007


Torah Portion: Leviticus 22:26 – 23:44 & Numbers 29:12 – 29:16 Haftarah Zechariah 14:1-21

Focal point: Vayikra/Lev 23:34

“Say to the Israelite people: On the fifteenth day of this seventh month there shall be the Feast of Booths to the Lord, [to last] seven days.”

“Sukkot reminds us that ultimate security is found not within the walls of our home but in the presence of God and one another. Indeed, there is a midrash that says that sukkot are not buildings at all but the glory of God. This holiday helps us understand that sometimes the walls we build to protect us serve instead to divide us, cut us off, lock us in.

The walls of our sukkot may make us vulnerable, but they make us available, too, to receive the kindness and the support of one another, to hear when another calls out in need, to poke our heads in to see whether anybody is up for a chat and a cup of coffee. In contrast, our walls of concrete and steel can enslave us in our own solitude and loneliness. Sukkot reminds us that freedom is enjoyed best not when we are hidden away behind our locked doors but rather when we are able to open our homes and our hearts to one another.” From Kolel

This ties in very nicely with what I quoted from Alcoholics Anonymous when I wrote about G-d, Promises and The Days of Awe:

That feeling of uselessness and self-pity will disappear. We will lose interest in selfish things and gain interest in our fellows. Self-seeking will slip away. Our whole attitude and outlook upon life will change. Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us. We will intuitively know how to handle situations which used to baffle us. We will suddenly realize that G-d is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. Are these extravagant promises? We think not. They are being fulfilled among us – sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly. They will always materialize if we work for them.” (Alcoholics Anonymous p83-84)

On Yom Kippur we had a close encounter of the third degree with G-d during which we looked at who we are, what we have been and how to go on, and now on Sukkot we are asked to trust that G-d is going with us into the New Year, just like He went with the People during the forty years of wanderings in the desert. In fact we are to physically build that trust as we build the sukkah, and dwell in it for seven days, eat in there and invite our friends into our sukkah to share with us. And we are to visit others’ sukkot and share with them.

The sukkah is a fragile building, but as it is made of tree branches it is also resilient. It gives some protection from view, but that’s it. Trust is the same, it does give protection – inner protection – because when we trust, G-d, ourselves and others we build strength and wholeness, we learn to deal with the past, let go of it and move on with our Program trusting that G-d will care for us like He took care of our ancestors.

In one of our Bed Time Prayers we say: “Spread over us Your Sukkah of peace, direct us with Your good counsel, and save us for Your own Name’s sake.”

There are many versions of this line – some have say “wings” others say “presence” – but I like this version best, because it indicates something tangible, a structure, and since it’s G-d’s it’s constant, it’s always there for us, to take shelter in and learn more about what trust and wholeness is.

Amen

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