Tuesday, January 27, 2015

   So I was in the male latrine showering after physical training. I don’t know if it was because the pollen count was extremely high or because someone somewhere was cutting the grass on post but the very air I breathe was trying to assassinate me. I sneezed, and someone who was also in the latrine over in the area of the toilets said “bless you”. I responded with the customary and courteous “thank you”, followed by an immediate volley of three more sneezes. “You only get one blessing” said the voice from the toilets.  I chuckled, taking it as the lighthearted jibe that it was. There was a pause and I glanced out of the crack of the door between the shower area and the rest of the latrine and I could see the soldier had paused mid way to washing his hands. After his momentary pause he went on to wash his hands and said, “You know that’s not true. The blessings of the lord are constant and beyond our imagining.” “Amen” I replied. Without another word the unknown soldier dried his hands and walked out of the latrine. Now what he did was a blatant violation of Army policy with regards to Equal Opportunity. He didn’t know what my religion was or if I was an atheist. There is a real possibility that he could have gotten in trouble for his comment.
   I have been hearing a lot of talk recently in Messianic circles about what it really takes to be “saved”, and what salvation really means. G-d spoke to me however in this quick exchange. Is it more important to argue the theological and doctrinal definitions of salvation, or the renewal of the heart by the Holy Spirit, or whatever flowery description you want to place on this change that is supposed to take place? Do we need to have some special knowledge in order to be saved (Gnosticism)? Is there some magical set of words you need to say with just the right mental intention that assures you a place in the world to come? I think first of all that this is not for us to judge in other people. Your salvation is for you to work out with fear and trembling before your G-d. Maybe it is more important to show the G-d that is in your heart to others, and that connection between you and your G-d can touch the heart of someone who needs a touch from the king of the universe. That small seed is the kind of thing G-d uses to make changes in the world.

As always, I could be completely wrong about this.

Be Blessed, and go study.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Discovering a Geologist While Rockin Out to Spark Seaker

“In the earth, there are so many wonderful treasures, and if you know where to dig, you’ll find gold and diamonds, and silver, and all kinds of treasures. But, if you don’t know where to dig all you’ll find is rocks, and dirt. A Rebbe (teacher) is the geologist of the soul. He can show you where to dig, and what to dig for, but the digging you must do yourself. “

Rabbi Zalman on Matisyahu’s “Spark Seaker”

I heard this quote while listening to M’s newish album and, being an analyst, I needed to know who this teacher was. So I dug and found Reb Zalaman and read some things about him, and checked him out on YouTube. Like any other teacher there were things I agreed with and things I disagreed with. One thing he said that really stood out to me was something he said with regards to possibly the most famous line from Parashat Shoftim; “tzedek tzedek tirdof” “Justice, Justice shall you pursue.” There is some famous debate as to why the word Justice is repeated. The most commonly accepeted being that we must not only seek out justice “by any means necessary”, so to speak, but that the method by which we seek justice must also be just.

I kinda like that; however, Reb Zalmans explanation was quite good as well. He said tzedek, tzedek was like a scale in that the justice we pursue must be justice for all involved. He relays a story about a friend who did some work for him who asked “how much should I charge seeing as we are friends?” and his response was “Tzedek, tzedek; it should be righteous for you, it should be righteous for me, for the sake of his name” The explanation being that G-d gets a good reputation when both people are right. Think about that, when both parties in a social transaction, especially a dispute, walk away thinking I was treated fairly, with justice and righteousness, then G-d gets the praise from all involved.

This line of reasoning is not new. In Tractate Sanhedrin 32b of the Babylonian Talmud, it says;

“R. Ashi said: The [contradictory] teachings are reconciled as above;12  but as for the [Scriptural] verses, one13  refers to a decision based on strict law, the other to a compromise. As it has been taught: Justice, justice shalt thou follow; the first [mention of justice] refers to a decision based on strict law; the second, to a compromise.”

This is a great reminder that in all of our most impassioned debates (Facebook people I’m talking to you), we must strive to remember that there are two sides to every story and sometimes both sides of an argument have valid points of view. So Avram, sometimes they can both be right.

All of this from rockin out to M while I was starting my work “day”. Go out there and find your teachers. Remember Confucius said “Walking along with three people , my teacher is sure to be among them. I choose what is good in them and follow it and what is not good and change it.”

Once again as always, I could be completely wrong about this.

Be Blessed, and go study.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Guilty as Charged

     OK I know, I know it has been over a year since I posted last. That comes mostly from not being deployed, and not having near as much time on my hands to simply think and reflect. I just read a blog post however that made me sit and think for a sec. It is a review of a chapter from a book by Boaz Michael of FFoZ fame entitled "Tent of David: Healing the Vision of the Messianic Gentile". Part of my spiritual growth since I was introduced to the Hebrew roots of my faith has been a shift from an initial fear of anything from Jewish "tradition" to seeing the beauty, wisdom, and necessity of those traditions. Unfortunately at the same time I progressed from wanting to learn and incorporate the Torah into my life, to a complete rejection of anything from the "Church". I have gradually over the last year or so come to the realization that a rejection of the traditions of the church is just as unbalanced as rejection of the "Law".

     Many Messianic Believers like to point out the presumptuousness of Christian theology in supposing that G-d had done away with the law, and that Jews who have been studying there scriptures for over 3000 years don’t have as good a grasp on those scriptures as Christians who have been studying it for at least a thousand years less.  What some of us (and I say us because I know I am guilty of this as well) have failed to realize is that it is equally as presumptuous to think that Christianity could have spread across the entire planet without the approval of The Most High. Of course we have theological differences with people on all sides of the equation. There is nothing wrong with good natured open debate. Debate is a cornerstone of Jewish learning in fact. We have to keep the vitriol out of the tone of the discussion however. Remember that this to comes from G-d. The prophet Isaiah cautioned:

"Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil;
Who put darkness for light, and light for darkness....
Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes,
And prudent in their own sight!"

Once again as always, I could be completely wrong about this.

Be Blessed.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It Just So Happened I Was Running

    So, like the title says I was on my nightly run (2 mile, easy pace, gravel roads...18 min) when my mind begins to drift towards writing a new post. But, I thought, What is there to write about? I haven't exactly been in any extremely high brow theological discussions lately except on Facebook, and most of those I get out what I had to say in that forum, so why repeat myself. Most of the things I write about in my BLOG are a result of conversations I have in real life, and this is the place I flesh them out. The only thing anybody ever seems to want to talk about are my dietary habits. It's understandable it is one of the easiest things to see that makes a person stand out. But diet is such a simple thing that I felt that a post on kosher diet practices would be...I don't know...kinda silly?

Then I was reminded in a still small voice that none of the most highs laws are beneath examination or merrit. His commands are the blueprints of the universe and "not one yot or tittle" should be discarded as being unimportant. This post however is not about what one should and shouldnt eat. Like I said thats the easy part. basically dont put cheese on your burger, stay away from pork and shellfish, and your good. Of course it can be a little more complicated then that, but not really that much. the law itself is the easy part. The part that is difficult is in realising that all of His Laws, all of His commands are important.

 Rab. Yahuda haNisi says, "Be careful with a minor mitzvah (commandment) as with a major one, for you do not know the reward for the mitzvos." It's true, think about it. The vast majority of the commandments don't say what the accomponying reward is for performing them. They only state that these are the commands of the most high. Yeshua does go on to say that we need to focus on the "weithier matters of the Law", BUT he never says that the other laws can be ignored. Not only this, but knowing the reward associated with a command would tend to make the mitzvot into little more then magickal incantations, used to make things happen. Prob not what Hashem had in mind when he asked Moshe to write this stuff down.

Rav Ben Azzai said, "run to perform [even] a minor mitzvah (commandment) and flee from sin, for one mitzvah leads to another mitzvah, and one sin leads to another sin; for the reward of a mitzvah is a mitzvah and the 'reward' of a sin is a sin."  So we see that a focus on the ways of G-d perpetuate that lifestyle, just as living in a state of sin tends to perpetuate that sin. It is populer in our culture to think of life as a journey (don't stop believing...hold on to that fealing...sorry), however we often forget that a journey conotates movement. If we are on a rightious path we will continualy have opertunities put in front of us to greater and greater mitzvot. Just as walking a path of death leads us deeper and deeper into depravity.

Here is a Rabbi who explains the point better then I could (http://torah.org/learning/pirkei-avos/chapter4-2.html)  "The Talmud teaches that if one sins and repeats it, the sin becomes "permissible" to him (Sotah 22a). It has just lost its severity. He wasn't struck by lightning. Nothing seems to have changed; the world goes on as usual. R. Yisrael Salanter, one of the great scholars and ethicists of the 19th Century, commented on the above passage: Say one commits the same sin a third time? What then? Why then it becomes a mitzvah! We get so used to ourselves and our behavior -- not to mention our need for self-justification -- that we will no longer see any wrong in our failings. That angry streak, cynicism, loose tongue etc. -- they're all necessary to stand up for our rights, hold our own, get on with our friends etc. Slowly, our evil inclination whittles us down, and what was once unimaginable and unthinkable becomes routine and unthinking. "

I deffinitly recommend this entire article. It was extremely insightfull.

Be blessed.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Whats a Goy to Do?

OK so here is a sticky subject that I still have not come to a reasonable conclusion on. We learn from the words of the master that we are to follow the decisions of the Rabbi's as they "sit in the seat of moses". (ok no problems there so far right?) It is a sort of do what they say not what they do kind of arrangement. Well here's the thing. According to the rulings of the Rabbi's (Orthodox at least) it is not permited to teach Torah to gentiles unless it is for the experssed intention to convert to Judaism. In fact to teach a gentile Torah who does not intend to convert to Judaism would be to contribute to Avot Azarah (idolitry). On the other hand to study the torah without the guidence of  the people handpicked by the most high to be "given the oracles of G-d" sets us up for giving dishonour to those very writings.

So then where is the balance to be struck? I guess the easy answer is to say that the rulling of the Rabbi's doesnt fit in with teachings of the master and so this is one of the instances in which we must disgaurd their rulling, and go ahead and study on our own. However this raises another problem. How then do we keep the people from doing "what is right in their own eyes" (abreviation mine)? What is the standard going to be, and who will deicde that standard. Well I don't have any easy sum it all up answers this time. So, lets talk about it. What is a Torah observant gentile to do (please, please, please don't say just do the Noachide laws, cause you can't be a Christian and Noachide at the same time either so there ttthhhhpppp) :P

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Home Again, Home Again Jiggidy Jig

   OK well I didnt buy a fat pig but I did go home for R&R and have returned safe and sound to wonderfull Aganistan. I had a wonderfull time full of friends and family, spent time with one of my spiritual mentors, did some verbal sparring with Brady (that is always fun). Nothing amazingly spiritually edifying or poignant in this post just wanted to check in and say howdy to yall (sorry, I did just get back from Texas). Hey if anyone else has anything interesting tosay feal free to post it hear,and  letds get  to talkin (I swear this drawl will clear up in a few days).

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Lets Start Some Trouble.

   Ok, so I was going to write on this subject anyways. It is a subject that has come up several times in the last few weeks and so I thought why not post on the topic and see if I can stir the pot so to speak. See what floats to the surface, and get some interesting discussions going.

   Did I want to pick a verbal fight, no...no...ok yes. And then someone went and replied on another BLOG about the same topic. Well I had to respond (yes had to). So instead of rewriting the entire response in the form of another post I am mearly going to repost my responce here. It's not cheating. It's my BLOG and I can put what I want in it. ttthhhhppppp. (thats the sound of a resberry if you couldnt tell). So here is the topic guerunteed to garner some lively debate. The trinity. And FIGHT... (ding ding ding)

    The question of a succinct Christology is a distinctly Greek concept. There is a level of mystery surrounding who and what Messiah is that should be maintained or we risk dethroning G-d in our own hearts and minds. We are not meant to understand everything. Search out yes, completely understand no.

    That being said there is a way of looking at the G-dhead that has always worked for me. At the risk of putting the Most High into a box it is this.

"And God said; Let us make man in our image, after our likeness"

tselem, dĕmuwth” image and likeness. The most predominant use of the Hebrew word tselem throughout the Tanak is when people make idols or in other words physical representations of the appearance of something here on earth. And that is what G-d did. Not make an Idol, G-d forbid. But he made something in the physical and made it with attributes like himself. We come to understand that man is made of body, soul, and spirit. And no spirit and soul do not mean the same thing. Pneuma and psyche in the Greek, or ruach and nephesh in the Hebrew. In the whole of the Bible there is a line of demarcation between these two concepts, between our being or essence if you will and our thinking or consciousness. There is also a physical component.

    That is how The Most High created us in his image, having three essential components. We alone in creation have all three of these components and are therefore the only ones made “in his image”. Now does this mean that G-d is, was, or ever will be a man “just like me”? G-d forbid. What it does mean is that the most high has these three essential components. But wait, the sages teach us that God has no shape or form, and is utterly incomparable. Well in the scriptures we read,

“And he gave unto Moses, when he had made an end of communing with him upon Mount Sinai, two tables of testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God.”

Again when Daniel explains the vision of the Hand of G-d writing on the wall of king Belshazzar,

“and the God in whose hand thy breath [is], and whose [are] all thy ways, hast thou not glorified: Then was the part of the hand sent from him; and this writing was written.”

This paring of the word “Yad” (hand) indicates that there is a connection between the two actions. G-ds hand was not glorified and so G-ds hand was sent to convey a message.

    I’ve chosen these two verses because they cannot be argued to be allegoric or anthropomorphic in nature. They are examples of a physical aspect of G-d interacting with the physical realm in a way that was plainly observed. Now Yeshua is another example of G-d interacting in a physical way with the physical realm in way that could be plainly observed. Was that G-ds hand writing on the wall, of course not. It was The Most High humbling himself, or to put it another way purposefully limiting himself, in order to interact with humanity in way that man could understand (and not kill him with the mere presence of The Most High in his fullness).

    To what can the relationship between man and G-d be likened? It is like Star Trek the Next Generation. Data is made by a man. In fact, he can be argued to be mans crowning achievement in that fictitious world. He is made in his makers image (two arms, two legs, etc.) and in his likeness (he looks like him, has some of his charicteristics on a more personal level). And though he has what appears to be a spirit (he is programmed to think) and a soul (he develops the ability to dream), he can never be like his maker. He can never be human. He will always be a shadow of humanity. He will always be a robot. He will never in his entire existence even truly understand what being human really means.

As always I could be completely wrong about all of this.

Be blessed.