Friday, October 31, 2008
I can picture the Biblical Mount Sinai most clearly in my mind, the base encampment, the path Moses took, the rock cleft where he stood to view God's glory pass by, the place where he received the Commandments (not on the very top peak) and finally, where he is entombed. Lacking being there in person to see and relying on the photos I've seen, Mount Serbal is just as I would expect it to look as the Biblical Mount Sinai. Where God met with Moses it was not as "squished" and steep as modern people imagine, and how the other proposed locations look in their photos, which is all wrong compared to how I recall it in my mind's eye.
Just a note on what I see is a reference that the historian Josephus is said to have written that Biblical Mount Sinai is the "highest" mountain peak. If he said this (I'm not curious enough to look it up), then he was in error. He simply assumed, as most would, using human points of view that God would select the "highest" mountain. That is not Biblically correct nor how God has manifested on all other occasions. God, for example, appeared to Moses in a burning bush, not the "tallest tree in the land." God would select a place where the Israelites could safely encamp, and where Moses could reach him without incredibly undue strain. So it's a human flaw that they assume that God would pick the highest peak around as a reflection of his glory. I mean, even the highest peak in the world is less than a pimple to God in the fullness of his creation, no? So God selected friendly terrain to the Israelites, a mountain, yes, but one that was quite humble when it was not encased in the glory of God's presence. The tradition about Mount Serbal had it right.
It's a very good book and a brave one. I can only imagine the asbestos underwear that the author would have needed, as he broke from what is called the "Evangelical circuit" and wrote this honest memoir of his childhood and adult crisis of faith.
The "oy vey" is because it spells out the incredibly elitist and exclusionary "faith" that is pushed by many of these Evangelicals, and why I have pointedly ignored them for most of my life thus far. Their hostility toward Catholicism obviously does not wrap them in glory in my eyes, and their spiteful sanctimonious oneupmanship of each other is also not praiseworthy. But that's the way they are, and that is why none of the famous Evangelicals were even on my radar (I'd never heard of the Schaeffers, ha ha, seriously) except for the one I admire the most, Billy Graham (Happy Birthday, by the way!) But what I do admire is where Frank Schaeffer can paint for his readers a fair assessment of the qualities of a good parent and grandparent, in a time when as those of us of at least a "certain age" well recall, there were many more good examples and role models than there are today. Even social climbing moms in those days still were, well, moms, who loved and cared for their children without making every motion of theirs a "striking a pose," as do many modern mothers or, yuck, "caregivers" do today.
I'll write a little review when I finish reading it.
Oct 30, 2008 11:51
Kol Isha: When the women refused to strip off their finery
By RACHEL ADELMAN
The writer lectures in Hebrew Bible and midrash at Matan, the Sadie Rennert Institute for Women's Torah Studies, in Jerusalem, as well as internationally.
In the context of the Golden Calf, the women refrained from contributing their finery (edyan) Later, in response to consequences of the sin, the people stripped off their finery [edyam] (Ex. 33:6) as a symbol of mourning. According to the Talmud, these were the crowns that the Israelites had gained with their declaration of faith at Sinai: "We shall do and then we shall hear/understand" [na'aseh venishma] (BT Shabbat 88a). Because the women did not contribute their jewels to the making of the molten calf, they maintained a loyalty to the original experience at Sinai; they never lost those precious crowns as a consequence of participating in idolatry. The jewels of their words bound them. They were thus rewarded with the Rosh Hodesh festival as the ultimate symbol of integrity, despite the vicissitudes of time.
Oct 30, 2008 11:35 Updated Oct 30, 2008 11:39
Ask the Rabbi: Intelligent design?
By SHLOMO BRODY
The writer, editor of TraditionOnline.org, teaches at Yeshivat Hakotel and is pursuing a doctorate in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University.
I have spoken about the compatibility of Judaism and the theory of evolution in many forums, and am constantly amazed by the widespread fear and ignorance of this issue. Among many others, I've met haredi rabbinic students who never heard of fossils, Evangelical Christians at Ivy League universities searching for help from others and modern Orthodox Jews seeking but incapable of showing the compatibility of science with Torah.
Yet as Rabbi Natan Slikfin (zootorah.com) has painstakingly documented (despite vitriolic attacks against him), many leading Orthodox figures have affirmed the compatibility of Torah and evolution, including Rabbi Samson R. Hirsch, Rabbi Abraham I. Kook and Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik. While various arguments, some more developed than others, were taken by different figures, two major schools of thought have emerged to show the compatibility of Torah and evolution.
To my mind, modern Orthodox Jews, like me, have wisely not supported the "intelligent design" movement. We believe that Torah represents both true doctrines and a passion for truth, and see no reason, as believers, to attack universally-held scientific theories that do not contradict traditional interpretations of the Torah. We have no need for bans and no desire to guise our theology in pseudo-scientific theories, and will continue to use the full range of traditional sources to understand God's Torah and His universe.
Oct 30, 2008 11:44
Parashat Noah: God doesn't want yes-men
By SHLOMO RISKIN
The writer is the founder and chancellor of Ohr Torah Stone Colleges and Graduate Programs, and chief rabbi of Efrat.
Most significantly, when these individuals were faced with similar challenges they each reacted very differently. When the Almighty tells Abraham His plan to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah, the first Hebrew argues aggressively, railing against a wholesale destruction: "Will you then destroy the righteous together with the wicked?... Far be it from You to do such a thing as this, to slay the righteous together with the wicked!... Will the judge of the entire earth not act justly? (Gen. 18:23-25).
And Abraham goes on to bargain with God as if they were standing in the Mahaneh Yehuda market.
In stark contrast, when God informs Noah that He is about to destroy the world, we hear not a peep of protest.
It seems to me that precisely in this contrast we can understand the entire picture. Noah's greatest virtue is obedience - whatever God wishes to do, Noah is ready to accept. He takes the world as it is, and submits to whatever plan God suggests.
That is not the mission that God wishes to impose on His chosen people. God knows that He has created an imperfect world, and wants His people to perfect it, to challenge and goad even Him to cause His compassion to overcome His anger and even His strict justice. God is not seeking pure obedience; He wants to be challenged.
John the Baptist’s Testimony to Himself. And this is the testimony of John. When Jews from Jerusalem sent priests and Levites [to him] to ask him, “Who are you?” he admitted and did not deny it, but admitted, “I am not the Messiah.”
((This passage means that John the Baptist admitted being someone on a divine mission, but he admitted that he was not the actual Messiah.))
So they asked him, “What are you then? Are you Elijah?” And he said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” So they said to him, “Who are you, so we can give an answer to those who sent us? What do you have to say for yourself?” He said:
“I am ‘the voice of one crying out in the desert,
“Make straight the way of the Lord.”’
As Isaiah the prophet said.”
((Notice that John the Baptist replies by quoting from the Book of Isaiah. A true prophet always quotes God or the prior servants of God; he or she does not make up new doctrine.))
((Isaiah 40: 3-5. A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord! Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God! Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill shall be made low; the rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley. Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all mankind shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.))
((See, John the Baptist’s glory is that he did not claim a mission or an identity that was not his. His glory is that he recognized his right to cite the words of Isaiah, who had come before him. Rather than carving out a role for himself, John the Baptist’s glory was that he knew he was there to proclaim what Isaiah had foreseen.))
Some Pharisees were also sent. They asked him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah or Elijah or the Prophet?” John answered them, “I baptize with water; but there is one among you whom you do not recognize, the one who is coming after me, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to untie.” This happened in Bethany across the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
John the Baptist’s Testimony to Jesus. The next day he saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.
He is the one of whom I said, ‘A man is coming after me who ranks ahead of me because he existed before me.'"
((By this John the Baptist is confessing that Jesus lived before him in the sense of either the literal continuity of Elijah or in the eternal being of God’s intention to send the Messiah. In other words, Jesus is already ‘alive’ from the first moment of God’s intention to create and send him.))
John testified further, saying “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God.”
((This is crucial testimony by John the Baptist, and while it is well known, there is a vital informative piece of this testimony that most people totally miss, for some reason. Everyone knows, and has seen in art work, the event where the Holy Spirit descended on Jesus when John the Baptist baptized Jesus. But what everyone misses is that God had instructed John the Baptist to watch not only for the one upon whom the Holy Spirit descended, but the one where the Holy Spirit REMAINED. The Holy Spirit remained on and within Jesus from that point forward. Jesus was born “of” the Holy Spirit, and of course was filled with the Spirit from infancy. But this is the public declaration of God that Jesus is his Son, and God is calling Jesus his Son not because of a genetic, clan or biological symbolism, which is what causes question among Muslims about how God would have a “son,” but God is calling Jesus his Son because from that point of baptism the actual Holy Spirit of God is “remaining” upon and within Jesus. THAT is the “how did he do it” explanation and testimony about the mystery of God’s relationship as Father to Jesus as Son. God is the Father because at the time of baptism he sent his Holy Spirit to “remain” with Jesus. This is why it is crucial to understand the fullness of this event.
Much of the strong language in the Qur’an is a result of people not understanding this passage or, rather, their not even being properly informed. As I said, many argued for centuries within the Christian Church trying to understand Jesus’ “true nature,” rather than having the serenity and faith in mind that comes from trusting and believing in God. This is why I was moved to cite and comment on this passage in today’s background and context Bible reading. People knocked their brains against the wall trying to figure out the “nature” of Jesus, yet God has explained the simplicity of it all along. Jesus was born “of the Holy Spirit” from the immaculate Virgin Mary. Thus Jesus had his human nature directly from Mary, and was born at the behest, will and mercy of God through the Holy Spirit. But Jesus gained his right to be called the “Son of God,” and to call God the Father, when God sent the Holy Spirit “upon” him at baptism but also to REMAIN with him. The Holy Spirit remaining upon Jesus as he entered and conducted his public ministry is not only the granting of the power to perform miracles, but also the “letter of authorization,” in a sense, for the only son to conduct the business of the Father. This is why no one need to be alarmed that acknowledging Jesus as the Son of God by any means implies a sharing of god-ship with God himself. When Jesus said that people are speaking to God, and looking upon him, through him, this is exactly what he meant, that the Holy Spirit that God sent has “remained” with him.
This is, obviously, one of the greatest mysteries of God, but it by no means as difficult, gimmicky or mysterious, or as complicated as humans have endeavored to make it, to their loss. So this is another piece of the puzzle about why God, through Gabriel, to the Prophet, “sounds” so “frustrated” by the misidentification problem of Jesus. God had made it clear that Jesus was not the son in the way that humans mean it, either as human genetics and biology that is traced via some sort of supernatural manipulation back to God, or a splitting of the functionality or actual being of God himself. Humans have swung wildly and incorrectly among all the extremes of “theory” about Jesus. They have thus managed to exaggerate and be plain wrong, instead of actually reading what God said. The Arabs who gained the Qur’an through the Prophet (PBUH) naturally had even less chance of reading, discerning and comprehending the nuance of “how” and “why” God made Jesus his Son since few people at that time had access to the written Gospels and obviously, Christians had reading and discernment problems of their own. God, in his wisdom, knew that the view of Jesus as Son would be a great stumbling block among Muslims due to their cultural emphasis upon the structure of the biological family. Therefore God did not push the point. God, however, through Gabriel, shared with the Muslims a beautiful love for the biological Son of Man, Jesus born of Mary of the House of David, and also his admitted virgin birth by Mary from the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, and the accompanying will of God that he perform miracles and be the Messiah.))
There is so much more that I can write to illuminate this point, using analogies and other scripture, and citations from the Qur’an, but the important point has been made and the most fruitful progress will be from my dear readers to ponder this and think through the implications of its new clarity. I hope that you find this helpful.
By the way, I don't know how many Christians realize that the head of John the Baptist is a holy relic in the Grand Mosque of Damascus, Syria. Both Muslims and Christians revere his memory, and Pope John Paul II became the first Pope to visit a mosque in 2001 when he visited that mosque in particular. A description of the mosque is here:
Tribute to Father Cullen
By Dave Waddell, Windsor Star
Published: Wednesday, October 29, 2008
With a teaching and coaching career that lasted nearly a half century at Assumption Secondary School, Father Ronald Cullen watched a whirlwind of change take place over that time.
For the many he counseled, from the future pro athletes to state Supreme Court judges to the plain old solid citizens he valued as much as any, the lessons learned from a blunt-talking Catholic priest have helped form the blueprint of their lives.
Monday at the Fogolar Furlan Club many of them will gather to say thank-you to 93-year-old Father Cullen with a night in his honour.
"I'm going to enjoy meeting a lot of people I haven't talked to in many years," said Father Cullen, who now resides in Toronto.
"Once you know it's for charity, you jump right in."
In addition to honouring Father Cullen, the dinner is aimed at raising funds to help the University of Windsor Lancers men's hockey team spend a week working on a Habitat for Humanity project in New Orleans.
The idea for the project and the evening in Father Cullen's honour came from Lancer coach and Assumption graduate Kevin Hamlin.
"This is an opportunity to share and hear the story of Father Cullen," Hamlin said. "At 93, sometimes we just don't know how many more opportunities we'll have to say thank-you.
"He played an important role in so many lives. I can't think of a more appropriate honour than to say thank-you and at the same time raise money to help the less fortunate.
"Father Cullen was about giving people life lessons and that's what we're trying to do with this trip to New Orleans."
Most people have been in the situation where someone in their family, or a loved one, is gravely ill. If people are honest, even those who do not believe in God per se would admit that they pray, or at least yearn for, a miracle to save their loved one. This is never more obvious than when it is a helpless baby who is in dire medical condition. The baby may have been born profoundly premature, or with a very serious medical condition that threatens its life before it can even begin. Or the baby may have been harmed in a car accident, or is the victim of violence. Hardly anyone would not pray, or yearn, for a miracle, and when one does occur, that is usually what they say, in blessed relief, that it was a miracle.
Then why do some people refuse to acknowledge a rare and precious miracle, when a baby that is being aborted, somehow survives the process and lives? How can people with any conscience not apply what they would feel if a premature “wanted” baby pulled through, miraculously, a grave condition, yet when a baby that is not “wanted” is graced with a miracle by God, it is murdered like dirty trash?
I honestly wonder how people can be as schizophrenic in their morality on such a fundamental and obvious phenomenon as this. In one room in the hospital people pray for a miracle to save their premature baby. In the other room of a hospital, “health care workers” say “Darn it! This supposed aborted baby was born alive! We blew it!” And then they dismember it, or simply put it in the trash can, or a cold metal tray, to let it feebly suffer and twitch, silently crying, as it dies.
I have never been able to understand people who do not see the evil in such an attitude. I must assure you that God certainly sees, and is filled with wrath. While one can understand how many moderns think that abortion is a “right” or a “choice,” how can even they think that not providing life giving aid to a helpless baby who miraculously survives an abortion is somehow “right” and even more loathsome, being a “health care giver” or “just doing one’s job.” I cannot understand why even the “pro choice” lobby is not in outrage when a baby who miraculously survives is not given basic care so it can live and be adopted, if still not wanted. When God moves his hand to provide a prayed for (in any other circumstance) miracle, how dare people slap his hand away, and allow the baby to suffer to death?
I have always felt this way, and I have always been baffled by the “spiritual” “pro choice” side who do not see a problem with letting a God given miracle die, and worse, think that it was a “mistake in the abortion procedure.” Anyone who would ever have asked me would have had their ears burned off in hearing this stance from me, and thus been giving fair warning at how God perceives this cold heartedness rejection.
But by now I guess you can figure out why I am patiently explaining this to all of you on the blog (wondering why that has to be spelled out, but humans are nothing if not having a strong bias toward doing the wrong and wicked thing even in obvious situations such as this). One of the Presidential candidates has no shame in thinking that it is A-OK to let a baby suffer and die, after that baby had been given a miracle and survived the death of the abortion, and that candidate is, of course, Barrack Obama. He’s not even ashamed and that amazes me (not amazed in a good way, in case I need to spell that out too).
John McCain cannot be accused of being a dishonorable man who imposes his beliefs on others. To the contrary, John McCain has set the judicial and moral good example by recognizing that no human has the right to murder a baby who miraculously survived an abortion. One does not even have to get into the entire “pro choice” versus “pro life” argument to recognize something as screamingly obvious as this problem of “partial birth” abortion and worse, the willful killing of a child who survives an abortion and struggles to live outside the womb. John McCain has demonstrated himself to be a man, a humanitarian, and a protector of those who are given a God given miracle try at life, but who need actual human beings around him or her to actually not treat the baby like trash that missed the garbage disposal. I do not understand how Barrack Obama, regardless of being “pro choice” or not, cannot see the difference. But then again, it is difficult to recognize the God, his works, his mercy and his miracles, as they have been characterized in that charade of exclusionary faith that he seemed to have embraced for so many years. I cannot look at a picture of Barrack Obama without thinking of a miraculously born baby writhing in a cold metal pan until it dies, and him thinking “That’s cool. That’s right.” It has nothing to do with the color of Barrack’s skin, but there is a darkness of the heart in him, and those like him, who cannot see the difference between “pro choice” and putting to death a miracle baby.
Isn’t that enough to make anyone with fundamental decency vote for John McCain???
Thursday, October 30, 2008
One of the greatest confusions about their relationship, and barrier to understanding that all three faiths are sprung from the same tree and worship the same God (both in concept and also in the reality of the historic details) is the seemingly harsh words regarding Judaism and Christianity in the Qur'an. One cannot properly understand and interpret why God allowed such things to be expressed without considering the "state of the faith" of both Judaism and Christianity at the time. Remember, God is concerned at all times with the details of the "here and now." It is humans who worry about "legacy" and "who won." Thus, God "worries" and seeks to find all the sheep to bring to his protection and love when they are alive, when they are lost, not hundreds or thousands of years in the future. In other words, God does not think to himself, "Well, I'm going to give them a faith because in a thousand years there will be a billion believers." God is always seeking to reveal his consistent truth. The same God is revealed in the holy books of the ancient Israelites, the Gospels of the Christians, and in the Qur'an. It is incorrect to take a partisan view of the sequence and time spans between these revelations. It is, after all, the very same God who is revealed within each of the three faiths.
So why did revelations occur when they did? The revelation started with first man, Adam, of course, so that is easy to understand. God sought a relationship with his creation from the beginning, and indeed, this is why humans were created at all, so that God could express his love and share his kingdom with humans. But humans are, by definition, flawed, because physical reality is so far distant from God's realm (the weakness of the flesh and mortality in contrast to the perfection of God) and also because, sadly, humans often opt to be distant from God. Thus God had to give to humans the Law and codes of conduct for their own survival, ethics and well being. This is the obvious reason for the timing of the Chosen People and the giving of the Law to the Israelites, plus God's continuing relationship with them through the ages.
The Israelites knew that they needed a Messiah, a Savior, not only because God prophesied this for them in his promise to the prophets, but also in their wisdom and discernment they recognized this need. Jews await the Messiah, while Christians proclaim that Jesus Christ was the Messiah and Savior. Thus the timing of the revelation of God for the Christians is the arrival of the Messiah and Savior, Jesus Christ. This is also easy to understand.
So why did God give a revelation to the Prophet (PBUH) many wonder. To answer this question you must remember and reflect on what I said above. God does not "wait" over the generations to reach out to humans and bring them closer to him. Thus, to understand why God chose that time and that place to bring the Arabs to him, to know him as the one true God, and to recall their roots to the patriarchs, from Adam to Abraham and the prophets, including acknowledgement and love for the message of Jesus, one needs to look at the status of Judaism and Christianity in the decades following 610 AD, the year that the angel first descended on the Prophet with a message from God.
The Prophet received the word of God, through instruction by the angel, known to be Gabriel, starting in the year 610 AD and continuing for twenty three years, to the end of his life. Thus the Qur'an was revealed and dictated in an unfolding process from the years 610-632 AD. To understand Christianity during that time, one must read the history of the Popes and the progresses and problems of their reigns. You see, the Prophet of course had no way of knowing what was going on within the faith of Christianity, only God knows all and sees all. Likewise the Jews had long ago lost their Temple, the heart of their faith, and were dispersed, and God alone knew their present and foresaw their future. God alone knows when to "wait" for humans to come to him, and when he needs to provide a push. By trusting in God's timing humans can glean some insight by looking at the facts of what the Arabs who had not yet been brought to God and who had no way of knowing, which is "what was going on in Christianity at the time?"
Think of Judaism and Christianity as the cures for mortal diseases. However, the cures are only as good as the availability to the "doctors" and their medicine. How available was Judaism and Christianity in the years from 610-632, and how "effectively" were the "cures" reaching the millions of people in the world? Judaism had been dispersed and scattered, and the Christians were still in their infancy, and in fact, I'd say the Christians were going through their "terrible two's" stage of being toddlers. And, for haters of the Roman Catholics, that has nothing to do with the Church being "invalid." The hubris and narcissism of such accusations always takes my breath away with astonishment. The Church was the sum total of the people, the Christians, all of them, so when one disrespects the ancient Catholic Church one is disrespecting your very Christian ancestors, the ordinary people, who were struggling to make the faith take root for the benefit of all. In fact, Pope Honorius I (625-638) was called Dux plebis, 'Leader of the ordinary people' because he was an active builder of churches and a continual advocate for the ordinary and average Christian. But the average and ordinary Christians were caught in the constant arguing and what we would call today "navel gazing" of the theologians, who were, believe it or not, arguing about the "true nature of Jesus Christ." Six hundred years after Jesus Christ was crucified and resurrected, the Church was embroiled in decades of debate about defining the exact nature of Jesus Christ's being.
Do you start to have a clue, now, about why God would see the need to remind people of what Jesus had constantly done, which is to point back to God, whose nature cannot be "defined?" It is one of the least attractive of humankind's faults. The Israelites, despite their many times of sin and arrogance, never, ever dared, nor would it occur to them, to try to "figure out" and "exactly define" God. Jews have, for the large part, remained true to that humility, and that is to their great credit. That is why I often say, no one "gets" (slang for comprehends) God like those Jews who retain the orthodox understanding of God. But Christians, oh Christians, what a weakness they have in this area. Part of that is because the arrogance of the pagan culture (where they make up idols and fictional gods and mythologies whenever they feel like it) of the Gentiles brought along an intellectual snobbery where they feel they can "dissect" and "define" God, particularly in the personage of Jesus Christ. Honestly, it's amazing that God "waited" six hundred years to turn to people he could trust to trust him, and not "dissect" him.
So if you want to understand why there was a revelation by God to the Prophet (PBUH), you have to be a bit of a history student, and study what was going on in the worldly events and the "status of the faith" in the reigns of Pope Boniface IV (608-15), Pope Deusdedit (later Adeodatus I) (615-618), Boniface V (619-25) and Honorious I (625-38). Again, this is not because there was something "wrong" with the Popes and, in fact, there would not be any Christianity at all today if it had not been for the keys of St. Peter being faithfully passed through many terrible times. But one cannot claim to understand Christianity, say nothing of understanding "God," if one ignores the reality of how humans, in their weakness, interacted with the kingdom of God that Jesus Christ revealed. The fact that they were arguing over the nature of Jesus Christ six hundred years later is hardly to their credit. And it was not the Popes who were to blame. In fact, Pope Honorious inadvertently took himself into heresy in an attempt to come up with a "Cliff's Notes" version of the nature of Jesus Christ, in order to simplify the complex arguments for the benefit of the suffering ordinary Christian. In trying to damp down the pointless and arrogant arguing over the "true nature" of Jesus Christ, he actually gave an oversimplified and inadvertently heretical "simple definition" to the people.
Ah ha. I can almost see those of you who have read the Qur'an now look up in comprehension and nod your heads. Do you now understand why God would have had, and human feelings and words are always inadequate when describing God, one could almost say an impatience and annoyance, expressed to the Prophet (PBUH) by the angel, with the state of Christianity, and of Judaism? That does not mean that anything in either of those God given faiths are invalid. But it means that God, in his wisdom, knew that he'd spend a lot of time sitting around and waiting for people to, if ever, sort themselves back into where they were supposed to be. God, of course, knows all and sees the future because God is the future, just as God is the past, the present and the realm that is totally outside of the existence of time. God balances free will of humans with a point where he will say "Enough!" The statement of "enough" is when God discerns that souls will be lost through humankind's delays and imperfections, NOT the imperfections of his prior message, prophets, or his Son in the form of Jesus, but in human delays and imperfections. And was God not correct? Look at the number of believers (Jews, Christians and Muslims) in the world today.
So that is the reason for the great misunderstanding that humans have brought among themselves. Instead of understanding that God knows humans and what they need far better than any human could, humans try to apply a "fault" or "supplanting" upon each other's faith, rather than understanding the context of the gift of revelation and the truth of all that has gone before.
I hope that you find this helpful. If you want to understand more about the churning that was taking place in history (Rome and Constantinople) and in the faith Christian faith, read these resources as a start.
Pope Boniface IV (608-615) (notice he's still busy kicking out temples of pagan worship in Rome, so Christianity was hardly in a position to reach the Arabs and that is why there is a tone of Christianity having "failed" in the Qur'an)
Pope Deusdedit (Adeodatus I) (political troubles, earthquake, leprosy outbreaks)
Pope Boniface V (619-25)
Pope Honorious I (625-38) (got comdemned as a heretic when trying to stop people from arguing about the true "nature" of Jesus Christ)
Of course after you read those Catholic Encyclopedia extracts you can search for more about the secular and political woes of those times and have an even greater understanding of God's perspective for the "timing" of the message of Islam.
To help in this understanding I have found a wonderful reference here, which is writing from the Rebbe Schneerson, explaining the significance of the Jewish month of Chesvan, which started today. If you read this it will instantly transport you to the time when the holy books were written, when you have a peek at the lifestyle and mindset of the people in the holy lands.
When the Holy Temple stood in Jerusalem, the festival of Sukkot (Tishrei 15-21) was a time of pilgrimage for all Jews, when all came to see and be seen at the Temple, the seat of G-d's manifest presence in the physical world. In the days following the festival, the caravans would stream from the holy city and make the long (physically for some, spiritually for all) trek back to plow and pruning hook, back to field, vineyard and orchard. The end of the first week of the month of Cheshvan found the people of Israel once more each under his grapevine, each under his fig tree.
Cheshvan is the month in which we return to our pedestrian involvements after many weeks in which the spiritual was at the forefront of our lives. Indeed, the only distinguishing feature of this month is the fact that it is the only month on the Jewish calendar that does not have a single festival or special day.
In truth, however, the month of Cheshvan, by virtue of its ordinariness, represents the very purpose of life on earth. For the Jew does not live only for the spiritual experiences of the festivals, merely tolerating the stretches of ordinary days and weeks in between; on the contrary-the holy days which dot our year exist for the sake of the so-called mundane days of our lives.
For the duration of the festival of Sukkot, the Jew left his field and field-related concerns behind and came to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem, where the miraculous was the norm and the divine presence was openly perceived. But then began his journey back home-home to his homestead, home to his mission and purpose. For some it was a journey of several hours, for others, of several days, and for the last Jew farming his land on the most distant frontier of Jewish settlement in the Land of Israel, it was a fifteen-day journey to the Euphrates. On the 7th of Cheshvan, when every last Jew was home on his own land, the entire community of Israel began to pray for rain, beseeching G-d to bless their efforts to work the earth and the earthiness of the world into an abode for His presence.
Do read the entire thing, though, because this commentary goes beyond just discussing the meaning of the past month and the new month, but also has some marvelous "insights" into what I call "God's point of view."
I've commented before that no one "gets" (comprehends) God better than the orthodox Jewish scholars, and as regular readers know, I am a great fan of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Schneerson. What is written here is a real gem and very helpful to those who struggle to understand what "part" of God exists on earth, among humankind, and his motivations or to say it more correctly, his perfect will in this regard.
This will provide valuable background to understanding the commentary I am still in the process of writing on this blog, which is to examine the Qur'an's perspective toward Jacob and the other patriarchs. I've been a little tired and worn out recently, so I'm adding to it as I can, as you can see in the posting that is two before this one. But sometimes slow is useful because just as I was about to add to it, I see this valuable context material. My Muslim readers should definitely read this link, as there is nothing in it contradictory to what is gifted by God in the Qur'an to Islam. Rather, it gives insight as to what God would have intended as he revealed to the Muslims the holy places of Abraham and Isaac that were located in their land, but unknown as they had been lost in the years that had elapsed until revealed to the Prophet (PBUH). So the Rebbe gives some valuable perspective, even better than I could have explained, ha, about why God has these hidden places on earth, that then become revealed to humans who believe.
And of course, Christians need to better understand this too, especially those who are not Catholics and who have swung a bit too far in the direction of "where two gather in my name" and away from remembering that there is a need for special, sanctified places of God's presence on earth too. That is a commonality of essential and correct understanding that orthodox Jews, Muslims and Catholics most definitely share, though in different historical and current manifestations. So do invest the time in reading and pondering that commentary by the Rebbe.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Because I am surprised at the number of people who do not see his obvious quality of character and qualifications for the Presidency, while at the same time they magnify Senator Obama's qualifications, which he lacks, I am making this statement, a public expression of support and voting recommendation, for the first time.
John McCain is a whole and vibrant man, who has not only a commendable character, but also a coherent and integrated view of his country, his faith and his policies. Many who have grown up in the chaotic past few decades do not recognize what has become so rare, which is a man (or a woman) who we would call "being made of whole cloth."
The expression "to be made of whole cloth" means a mature and reliable individual of completeness in his view of himself and his responsibilities. A man of "whole cloth" is not patched together from scraps of different fabrics. John McCain is a man of whole cloth.
Someone who is not of "whole cloth," is, by contrast, a man or woman who like a crazy quilt made up of pieces of many different scraps of cloth, has as a result a hodge podge of factors that are, to use another expression, "weak at the seams." Many people, both politicians and citizens, of the past few decades, are scattered in their education, their policy, their attitude and their own self perception, just like a crazy quilt made up of scraps of cloth stitched together "however the chips fall."
A man of whole cloth, like John McCain, has formed his own character and view of the world through building on a firm foundation of self identity, of love of faith and country, and who then, secure in his own identity, can make his own well informed decisions, even ones that may be surprising.
A man like Barrack Obama, by contrast, picks up whatever scraps of self identity float his way, and then force them together, like a crazy quilt, to look like a whole, but is filled with error and weakness. A lot is not his fault, since that is the tragedy of many who have grown up in chaotic personal and societal times. But to promote the pieces of the crazy quilt and claim that it is sufficient for the Presidency is startling and the height of irresponsibility. What astonishes me is how many people seem to be unable to see that problem with him, right from the start.
Senator Obama puts together his identity and policy like thus: he grabs a scrap of one worldview (socialism) and tries to stitch it to a scrap of capitalism (from which he has benefited); he grabs a scrap of having "great faith" in Christ, and then stitches it to a scrap that is very exclusionary and hostile to mainstream faith; he grabs a scrap that says he has compassionate concern for children, and then sews it to a scrap that will not intervene when even the most extreme abortion abuse scenario, where a living baby is born instead of being aborted; he grabs a scrap of being the great diplomat, and then sews it to making rash ("I am not a wimp") jingoistic statements about Georgia, Iran and so forth. He grabs a piece of cloth of being "inclusive," yet sics the dogs on "Joe the plumber," a man who he approached in his neighborhood, when Joe the plumber gets election wide attention.
I am terribly sympathetic to those who are so tempted by the sway of "finally" "getting an Afro American" President. But gosh, not only is that not a reason to vote for someone who is otherwise so immature and unstable in his policy and view of America, but it is actually a problem because he is not so very fair after all, as we see in the "Joe the Plumber" incident. Young people, especially young Afro-Americans, I am going to teach you two code words that you probably do know about, but may not. One is what I used above, which is "sicing the dogs." You know that is a code expression for how police dogs were set upon Civil Rights protesters during the struggle for civil rights. Yes, political campaigns are rough. But why have Obama supporters been allowed to "sic the dogs" on a layman, a civilian, an average citizen, an average potential voter, just because he expressed his opinion when asked? Should not a Civil Rights "veteran" be particularly sensitive about doing that to anyone? And so I introduce another code word to that situation to ask you about, which is being "uppity." "Uppity" is what used to be applied to Afro-Americans who spoke up and seemed "not to know their place." Well, it looks like Joe the plumber sure got "uppity," didn't he? By the way, we are now seeing the same treatment of "sicing the dogs" on the "uppity" female journalist in Florida who dared question Senator Joe Biden (gosh, if he can't handle it, how could he have ever handled Krushiev??)
My point is that you, as voters, should question someone who you view as a role model and hero for your gender, race, faith or "cause" who seems to not defend other people's rights to not be treated as unfairly as "your people" (whatever the historic situation) were themselves? So not only does Mr. Obama have a crazy quilt hodge podge of self identity, stance toward his own country and policies, but he is not in practice the great "equalizer," but lets himself appear to be a "chip on the shoulder" "turner of the tables."
Mr. Obama, like so many of this past generation, has had a personal and intellectual identity that came from pieces of biased and skewed material being fed to him by those who he admired, rather than starting on a firm foundation of self understanding and properly rooted civics, and then allowing himself to determine bold new policies, as has Senator McCain.
For example, any Latino American who does not vote for Senator McCain must be out of his or her mind. Senator McCain went against his very own party, and many of his advisers, to try to legislate a very generous and fair step forward in the problem of immigration and work rights in this country for all, and most especially Latinos. He was beaten to a political pulp for standing up for all of you, and if Latinos do not turn out to vote for Senator McCain I will be very disappointed and view it as a lack of loyalty, character and misidentification of your own self interest. Senator McCain derived a generous and wise proposal that addressed many problems of the Latinos from his firm and consistent "whole cloth" stance regarding human rights, the golden prize of citizenship, and the reality of the need to support immigrant families in their quest for honest work and stable homes. Senator McCain is able to take his ethical personal and civic character and then extend it to others, rather than have a "chip on the shoulder" approach toward expanding prosperity, opportunity, rights and yes, "hope," as Senator Obama seems to spew, yet demonstrate otherwise, in both his own actions and the company that he keeps.
Senator McCain has the complete package, a whole cloth foundational approach to his own genuine character, his stance toward his country and civics, and the formulation of his policies, both those that are conventionally traditional, and those that are then seen to be surprising and thus called "maverick." His opponent is stitched together from many books of quotations, rather than being a fully integral whole that results from the maturation of his youthful view and upbringing. Senator McCain had great responsibility as a youth, even when he went through his wild young phases, and that is normal and we have seen a great maturity yet peppy kind of vigor that comes from someone who was by no means a wallflower. We see that a lot with military guys and gals, who had great responsibility while at the same time could be a bit crazy and zany when young. But that is how a great man, or woman, is made.
While I am not blaming Senator Obama for not having military experience, he did not have the youthful origins that were the self made man or woman American story, but are rather of a stitching together of the political radical views of those who surrounded him and his family from the beginning. One cannot develop a character such as Senator McCain has done if one borrows a page of one's being from socialism, another from an excluding church, another from hostility toward every pro life endeavor, regardless how modest, and yet another page from the jet setting celebrity seeking "protege." I can blame a man of his age for not being self aware enough to recognize that he has just stuffed ideologue quotations and tactics together in a sack and called that an ethics, a policy, a worldview.
So I urge all of you who want to see genuine change and progress to vote for Senator McCain, the exciting and intellectually honest McCain-Palin ticket.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
First citations from Surah 2:132-3.
And the same did Ibrahim [Abraham] enjoin on his sons and (so did) Yaqoub. O my sons! surely Allah has chosen for you (this) faith, therefore die not unless you are Muslims.
Nay! were you witnesses when death visited Yaqoub, when he said to his sons: What will you serve after me? They said: We will serve your God and the God of your fathers, Ibrahim [Abraham], Ismail [Ishmael] and Ishaq [Isaac], one God only, and to Him do we submit.
These passages mention four great Biblical patriarchs, including Abraham, who is viewed as the father of the Jewish, Christian and Muslim faiths. Abraham, Jacob, Ismail and Isaac, and the other patriarchs, prophets, judges and kings of the ancient Israelites are referenced repeatedly and with reverence throughout the Qur'an, as you will see in further passages that mention Jacob, which I will provide in this commentary. Before we do, we have to clear the air about the role of the Qur'an in faith history. We will do this by examining this passage and using faith and reasoning in a logical way.
Notice that the format of the Qur'an is obviously different from both the Old and New Testament as it is clearly "conversational" in tone, and also with great poetic grace, such as is found in Psalms in the Bible. So it is clearly not a set of written exerpts from the Jewish books of the bible. In other words, it's not like the Prophet (PBUH) read the Jewish books and memorized certain sections. These were rough and paganistic times, and just because Jews and some Christians lived in proximity with the people who would become Muslims, there would be no motivation at all to study Jewish scrolls, if one even had access to them, and then to memorize passages, and then likewise to read from the Gospels about Jesus, and then to memorize an accurate but highly summarized recitation of faith history, and then combine it with new laws and call it the Qur'an. People who accuse the Qur'an of being "non revelatory" in nature must think this through. If it is not revelatory, then where did it come from, and why is the composition so strong in its emphasis and revererance for the ancient Israeli patriarchs and prophets? Who among those very rough and tumultuous times would have read the Jewish scribes and the Christian Gospels to extract detailed information about the prophets, and then construct a new faith, this branch from Abraham, out of thin air? It just is not even a technically feasible theory.
The problem is that historians and critics on both "sides" insist on focusing on claims regarding the "sequential" order of the revelatory books of God. In other words, Christians worry that if they say that the Qur'an is revelatory, that it "succeeds" or "supercedes" the Old and New Testaments. They worry that the Qur'an is "new, final, edited" word from God. On the other side, that is the logic that Muslims utilize too. They figure, why would we have received this book, if it is not to supercede the others that come from before? Thus the dialogue locks into whether sequence in delivery by God determines subordination and domination of one belief over the other. That is a great shortcoming on both sides of understanding how God comprehends outside of time the needs of all of his children and servants. I have alluded to this before but let me repeat. God was reaching out to the Arabic people who would become Muslims and restoring, as in reconnecting, their broken linkage to that of Abraham and his descendants. When one seeks a tribe, for instance, from the family tree that one has lost touch with, one does not say that just because they were the third ones found and those that are the most recent, that they "replace" the ones who came before, the Jews and Christians. Likewise, the known tribes in this analogy, the Jews and the Christians, cannot say that the Muslims were not properly invited by God, just because they do not understand God's ways. Those who cannot see that God is perfectly capable of revelation that does not negate or supercede what has gone before, despite the strong words, at least to modern ears, that are in the Qur'an, need to have more faith in God and his ability to always do what is correct. I will take you step by step how to think of it in this light, using the passages cited in this commentary.
(To be continued...)
That phrase is usually the first part of some a*** compulsive "analysis" of Biblical texts to discern who the "real" authors are, and the one that infuriates me the most is the theory that the works of John the Apostle are by three different Johns, due to differences in "writing style" etc. That is so sophomoric an analysis that it really beggars even a reply.
All of the Biblical works attributed to John were written by the one and only John the Apostle, who did indeed live to a very long age, just as Jesus prophesied. Thus anyone with any knowledge of people realizes that one's style and word usage varies over the decades, according to the purpose of the document, and also to the degree that the author is actively inspired by the Holy Spirit while in the writing. Also, successors will often edit sections to make them more readable.
Revelation reads so differently than the Gospel and the Letters of John because obviously it is the result of complete guidance by the Holy Spirit. I've mentioned this before but will repeat that the scroll that St. John swallowed is the "means" by which he then recalled and wrote the complete telling of the Book of Revelation. That is obviously a different set of circumstances than when he wrote the Gospel of St. John, which serves a separate purpose, and the Letters of St. John, again, different purposes. You cannot mistake, however, the style in all of them, not the "grammar" but the level of spirituality. The Gospel of St. John has the same tone as the Book of Revelation. There are no mysterious "other" "Johns."
*special place in hell for certain 'modern scholars'*
No one should claim to be a Biblical scholar if they are approaching the material with a stance of "agnostic faith," as in, "prove it to me using modern criteria." That is so annoying and is just another attempt to erode the faith.
*rant over (for now!)*
How Kurdish Mr. Fix-It resolves blood feuds
In Turkey, where disputes last decades and can lead to loss of life, the 'Peace Father' works his magic with words, tears
DIYARBAKIR, TURKEY — Murat and Farida didn't know about the feud between their families when they first met at the university in this stone-walled town, a place where residents cling to long memories and ancient traditions. They found out only when Murat went home to tell his family, the Kamcis, that he wanted to marry a girl he had met at school whose last name happened to be Tarhan.
The news appalled the Kamcis and they forbade the nuptials. For 36 years, ever since a young Tarhan boy innocently let his goats graze on a Kamci pasture, the families had been at war. A member of the Kamci family slapped the Tarhan boy that day in the field and the blood feud was on. Four people were killed as a result of that slap, and dozens of others had been driven from their homes to preserve the dignity of the two names.
Distraught by their families' reaction, Murat and Farida went to see the local imam for advice. He told them that if they wanted to get married there was only one way - they must seek out the man known as the Peace Father.
Sait Sanli, the Peace Father's real name, is the 64-year-old wise man of Turkey's Kurdish southeast. Diminutive of stature, exceedingly polite and admittedly prone to tears, the former butcher is the man local residents turn to for advice when their blood starts to boil. By his own count, Mr. Sanli has resolved 449 blood feuds in the eight years since he agreed to mediate his first dispute, and he says none of the pacts he negotiated have since been broken. But his favourite story is the tale of Murat and Farida, the real-life Romeo and Juliet.
"They were crying. They told me they loved each other, but they couldn't get married because their grandfathers had a problem 36 years ago," Mr. Sanli said. "I cried with them."
The next day, Mr. Sanli went to work, travelling to see the elders of both families, as well as the widows and orphans on each side. He took an accounting of how much wrong had been done by each side over the decades. How many had been killed by each family (three Kamcis had died versus one Tarhan) and how much farming income had been lost (the Kamcis had seized 15 hectares of Tarhan land). Then he proposed a solution: Hadn't the blood debt owed by the Tarhans to the Kamcis been repaid by 36 years of free rent and farming income?
It was a simple suggestion, but one the two clans had never considered before. Mr. Sanli offered that the Tarhans should be allowed to return to their homes and that Murat and Farida get married. The two sides accepted and held a festive dinner in the Peace Father's honour.
Read the rest of the article, and you cannot help but be so totally charmed, as I am, by his humility and dedication to this great personal calling. More people should imitate him, for sure.
Matthew 12:1-8. At that time Jesus went through the standing grain on the Sabbath; and his disciples being hungry began to pluck ears of grain and to eat. But the Pharisees, when they saw it, said to him, “Thy disciples are doing what is not lawful for them to do on the Sabbath.” But he said to them, “Have you not read what David did when he and those who with him were hungry? How he entered the house of God, and ate the loaves of proposition which neither he nor those with him could lawfully eat, but only the priests? Or have you not read in the Law, that on the Sabbath days the priests in the temple break the Sabbath and are guiltless? But I tell you that one greater than the temple is here. But if you knew what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice,’ you would never have condemned the innocent; for the Son of Man Is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
Jesus and the disciples were collecting and eating grain from the “pantry” that God mandates which is that part of the ongoing harvest of the fields must be kept available for those who were poor or were traveling. And notice that the Pharisees do not criticize Jesus and the disciples for that. However, the Pharisees and many of the devout Jews of that time had come to warp God’s instructions. In this example, the Pharisees had decided that the poor could not collect their food on the Sabbath since the act of picking up food was considered “work” and that is forbidden on the Sabbath. So the rich could eat food they had already harvested but the poor were expected not to “violate the Sabbath” by bending hand to stalk of grain and picking the food up. This is one of the many abuses that Jesus had come to chastise and correct. And so he rebukes the Pharisees pointing out the many scriptural examples where obviously something that would be considered “work” must be done in dire need and those who are sanctified. So this scripture is cited mostly because of Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees, but if you know your Bible you also know what I’m pointing out to you, that this is how Jesus and the disciples traveled and gleaned their food. They weren’t like Buddhist monks shuffling along with bowls begging under vows of poverty, though many modern liberals try to paint Jesus that way. Far from it, Jesus and the disciples availed themselves of these continuing food sources that God had mandated be available in every town, in every field, to be available to the poor, the widow, the orphan, travelers and foreigners passing through. (Another example is when Jesus curses the fig tree that is not available with fruit when he is in need of it. People think of that as ‘bad temper’ if they do not realize that it is instead a statement that all is subject to the Son of Man, and that Jesus’ action is to underscore that there is to be an expectation of food available as prescribed by God).
Mark 2: 23-28. And it came to pass again as he was going through the standing grin on the Sabbath, that his disciples began, as they went along, to plunk the ears of grain. But the Pharisees said to him, “Behold, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did when he and those who were with him were in need and hungry? How he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the loaves of proposition, which he could not lawfully eat, but only the priests? And how he gave them to those who were with him? And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, and not man for the Sabbath. Therefore the Son of Man Is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
While Matthew and Mark recall the words slightly differently, Jesus makes the same important point. God created rules for the benefit of humans, in his mercy, and not to enslave humans to rules. Thus it is obviously that God created the rule that poor humans could glean food they need from the fields for their benefit since the poor are high in the priority of God. Likewise the Sabbath is created so that all can rest, for their benefit, from their labors, not so that they have “another rule to follow.” Therefore it is doubly insulting to the great mercy of God that the Pharisees of the time had viewed both signs of mercy by God as a way to beat the poor down and call them in violation of the Sabbath because they fed their hungry stomachs on that day. That is quite an example of those who are supposed to know better to be preaching the opposite of what God intended. This is why Jesus said that the Sabbath was made for man (so he can rest) and not man for the Sabbath, just to be having a rule to follow. And likewise Jesus is saying the same thing in Matthew when he cites God in scripture to the Pharisees “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.” Providing food in the field for the poor is another mercy, not imposing another special ‘sacrifice’ on them because Pharisees try to keep them from “working” to gather their food.
Luke 6: 1-5. Now it came to pass on the second first Sabbath, that he was going through standing grain, and his disciples were plucking and eating the ears of grain, rubbing them with their hands. But some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” And Jesus answered and said to them, “Have you not, then, read what David did when he and those with him were hungry? How he entered the house of God, and took, ate, and gave to those who were with him, the loaves of proposition, which no one may lawfully eat except the priests?” And he said to them, “The Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”
I repeated all three of the scriptural references to this event of the plucking grain on the Sabbath in order to point out some additional information. It’s the same event but obviously described in separate writings from Apostles and disciples working separately so slightly different things are emphasized, which adds to understanding, not detracts. Luke, a Greek, mentions exactly how the disciples were gathering the grain, “rubbing them with their hands.” See, Luke is writing for those who are not necessarily Jewish and would not understand what “work” Jesus and the disciples are accused of doing on the Sabbath. A Jewish reader would understand, but a Gentile would not. So Luke adds the explanatory description that when one plucks a stalk or ear of corn (grain), one has to rub the stalk in the palms of one’s hands in order to loosen the grains from the stalk and make them free to eat. It is this rubbing of the hands together that the Pharisees accused of being “work.” I’ve done this, by the way, walking along some wheat fields in Germany back in the 1960’s, and the grains are kind of sticky and you do have to rub in order to get them loose from the stalk to eat.
So it simply is outrageous and not true when liberals try to portray Biblical charity and almsgiving as anything other than that described in the Bible per God’s direct word, and also the example that Jesus himself set of utilizing that very system that God had mandated.
Another problem is that in the New Testament the word “charity” does not mean specifically alms giving and giving or lending to the poor. Charity means “kindness,” including affectionate and benevolent thoughts. This is another thing that drives me crazy. So rather than reading what I have pointed out about what God has said about genuine charity, as in alms giving and lending, and how exactly to do it, those who try to pop culture Jesus erroneously use scripture about “charity” to justify whatever “good cause” and economic or donation structure they are trying to advocate. It’s totally infuriating. When Jesus preaches about charity, whether he uses that word or not, Jesus is referring to benevolence and kindness, not rewriting the rules of almsgiving and lending that God has laid out in the Law.
Further, one cannot argue that those rules were part of the “Old Covenant” and “only apply to the Jews.” No, you cannot. Why? Because as I cited God said in Deuteronomy 6:15 this line “If you but heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and carefully observe all these commandments which I enjoin on you today, you will lend to many nations, and borrow from none.” If God is referring only to the Jews, as a law they keep only among themselves, who are the “many nations?” God is “laying down the law” for all who are believers in him, and so that obviously applies to the Jews, Christians and Muslims. That’s another peeve of mine. Those who cherry pick Bible readings by their agenda like to arbitrarily assign what they don’t want to do as being “Jewish and part of the Old Covenant, and don’t need to do none of that, no sirree” while the stuff they want to do or that they want to apply to someone else (as in their crazy “interpretations” of revelatory material), don’t hesitate to decide what countries or people they wish to slap it onto. So one minute they will say part of the Bible applies only to the Old Covenant Jews, while the next line they claim is a prophecy about “Russia” or whatever. You must believe exactly what God said, and that did not “go away,” anymore than the Ten Commandments “went away” when Jesus arrived, which they clearly did not. In fact, nothing really “went away” from the Old Testament, there were simply the appropriate updates, to use a secular word, as per Jesus and the Apostles. For example, yes, circumcision was no longer required but something took its place, and that is baptism. So that is a primary example of where the spirit of all that was stated by God in the Old Covenant is retained, while the specifics of the New Covenant brought by the Savior fulfills not only the promise of the Messiah but also the behavior that is incumbent upon all true believers.
Think about it. It’s not like that when St. Paul and St. Peter and the other disciples started moving around and preaching in both synagogues and to the Gentiles that they stopped gleaning grain from the fields to sustain them “because the Old Covenant law is no longer valid.” I mean, duh. Their families would have maintained that form of charity and they also would have benefited from it; that would not have changed after Jesus. But because they were going into Gentile areas to preach, this is why they developed different communal and alms asking practices, since they were traveling outside of areas where these Old Testament “pantries” existed. It was not a new chapter in self abasing poverty, as certain ignorant nut jobs like to push. It was the reality of not only a spiritual mindset of “poverty” so that the Lord God can fill that space, but also a literal reality of traveling in areas that never received the original word of God and thus did not have the system of the fields, of the alms, of the lending admonishments, of the Jewish schedule for the forgiveness of debts and provision of free use of the fields, etc. When the disciples encountered such areas of Jewish settlement, obviously they partook of the system that God had established in the Old Covenant.
Pretty much the last mention of almsgiving (not the more generic charity of kindness of thought and deed) is Luke 14: 13-14 where Jesus said “But when thou givest a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind; and blessed shalt thou be, because they have nothing to repay thee with; for thou shalt be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” Again, this is Jesus being specific and connecting via parable exactly what God has already put forth. Jesus is reinforcing how God mandates sharing of the actual goods at the actual time they are being had by the prosperous, not later and not in token “donations.” Genuine charity as in the sense of almsgiving and tending to the poor is continually taught and mandated by God as being enfranchising the poor in normal life, day by day, on special occasions, and when they experience set backs, just as the scripture mandates that I cited from Exodus, Deuteronomy, Leviticus, and Esdras. In fact, remember how Esdras taught the Law that during festival the poor should have the same fat meat and sweet wine as those who have? This is exactly what Jesus says here, with one exception. Jesus explains that now the “crippled, lame and blind” are to be also invited. It’s not like God “left them out” back in Exodus, but in the times of Jesus the erroneous teaching had arisen among the Pharisees and others that the sick and maimed were that way because of sin. So rather than erasing and replacing what is taught in the Old Testament, such as almsgiving and lending, Jesus explains over and over that this is to continue and to refute those who try to exclude in the name of God. Remember that the Pharisees tried to exclude Jesus and the disciples from eating what they gleaned on the Sabbath. Well, the Pharisees and others like them tried to exclude the sick and maimed also from pretty much everything, writing them off as “sinners.” This is of course never what God said or meant (God, in facts, warns in the Law that no one should put stumbling blocks before the blind, which means that people should not allow those who are blind to be hindered in their well being and survival because of their blindness).
Jesus repeated, rather than replaced, what God has mandated and taught, over and over and over again.
Luke 20: 45-47. And in the hearing of all the people he said to his disciples, “Beware of the Scribes, who like to walk about in long robes, and love greetings in the market place, and front seats in the synagogues and first places at suppers; who devour the houses of the widows, making pretense of long prayers. These shall receive a heavier sentence.”
Interesting, the mention of the “market place,” isn’t it? It all comes back to how far astray both the economic structure and its moral unpinning has become, by both the right (“the lords of the market place”) and the left (“first places at the celebrity fund raisers”). Think about it.
I hope that you find this helpful. You better, my friends, you better.
Exodus 22:24. “If you lend money to one of your poor neighbors among my people, you shall not act like an extortioner demanding interest from him. If you take your neighbor’s cloak as a pledge, you shall return it to him before sunset; for this cloak of his is the only covering he has for his body. What else has he to sleep in? If he cries out to me, I will hear him; for I am compassionate.”
In those primitive times when everyone survived by working the land, either farming, gathering or herding, charity consisted of lending to a neighbor to carry him through a difficult day or short period of time. It was not a gift that God is describing here, but a loan. But it is a loan that should not be charged interest. How far has modern society come from that? When Jesus came with the New Covenant, he did not say, oh, by the way, it is now OK to charge interest on loans. God forbid the charging of interest in the Bible and that has not changed one iota. This is why modern Islamic banks need to structure themselves in a way that does not charge interest, and they tend to use other concepts that are acceptable to God, such as leasing in order to own what is being lent to you. God says it is alright to “hold collateral” for the loan, such as in this case, during a day long loan the loaner can hold onto the cloak (that serves as both the bedding and blanket) of the lendee. However, since the cloak is necessary for survival, being the only means that primitive people had bedding and warmth over night, the loaner is forbidden from keeping the collateral for longer than the sun is up for that day. You must pay attention to God’s first instructions regarding charity, or you will go very far astray from God’s will, as most of society has today, to God’s certain outrage. God states that the person in need will be heard by him if he cries out at being unjustly treated in his need. God clearly describes exactly what is “just treatment,” to lend without interest what is needed, and to only kindly and quickly hold collateral.
Further, kindly note that God is describing how “my people” should be treated. In other words, this is a religious law for the believers to use among the believers. Notice God is not saying that banks or governmental officials should do the lending. God is mandating how believers must have their almsgiving moral code as a mandate by God to the people individually, not “institutions,” “governments,” “banks,” or “agencies.” God does not give any right to secular entities to determine what is appropriate charity. Further, God is mandating that the essentials of life are not to be denied in this lending, including the collateral.
Let’s apply that to home foreclosures and car seizures. If one wants to be in obedience to what God has mandated, if a lender seizes a home or car due to lack of payment, the lender should give to the one being repossessed a bare minimum life saving replacement. Thus, if a banker throws a family out of their home and seizes the home, if they do not settle the family in an alternative “bare bones” housing accommodation, they are violating God’s law (as they certainly did in the first place, because of the common use of interest as usury). Likewise, if a person’s car is repossessed because they could not make the payments, but they need the car to get to their job, or to take the children to school, the lender should give a working car, even one that is considered a “clunker” and out of date, so that the person is not deprived of that tool that they need for life.
There, can you see what God has been “thinking” about how the economy and the “kind souls” have been conducting themselves over the past few decades? It is not good.
Another point about the “my people” comment. Throughout history Christians and Jews continued to follow this instruction by God, including into medieval and renaissance times. “Wiggle room” was discovered because Jews were able to consider Christians as being “not their people,” and thus they could lend and charge interest to Christians. This is how interest charging banking began. Muslims said, “Whoa, we are not having any part of this hair splitting with God.” This is why Muslims have maintained a mostly interest free, very cash based, highly individualized form of banking and charity. That’s why when people sought to trace money going to terrorists that they encountered what westerners think is a confusing maze of primitive banking among Muslims. It is because they alone continue to adhere in both spirit and the letter to what God has instructed in this matter. So the problem with Jews and Christians using each other when interest was first developed as a commercial entity is that each side thought they were maintaining sanctity, since Christians left it to the Jews to charge (and thus blamed them while using them) and Jews charged Christians interest (figuring God said it was “OK” to make money off of non-Jews). Both worked that “technicality” into grave spiritual error and now, as we can see, ultimately into grave economic health error. This, by the way, is one reason I wanted to work for a Saudi bank and tried to explore such a possibility in London in the early 1990’s.
By the way, before we go further, I have to explain that “charity” was not thought of or called “charity” until pretty much the Christian era, though there is occasional mention of charity in the Old Testament, as you will see in a bit. Charity was mandated by God in two forms: almsgiving and interest free lending.
Exodus 23: 10-11. “For six years you may sow your land and gather its produce. But the seventh year you shall let the land lie untilled and unharvested, that the poor among you may eat of it and the beasts of the field may eat what the poor leave. So also shall you do in regard to your vineyard and your olive grove.”
Yes, that is what God mandated, and no where did Jesus come along and say, “Oh, and it’s OK to ignore what God said about how to allow the poor to feed themselves and accumulate wealth themselves.” God mandated that those who owned land may conduct their regular farming business (which is what everyone did in those days, since there were not “occupations” and “paychecks”) for six years. Then on the seventh year they are to leave all of their fields and the recurring crops upon them for the poor, in total, completely. Thus the poor are entitled to harvest the olive grove for that year, and to harvest any recurring crops, or to grow their own, on all of that land. Not some of it, all of it. God does not forget the animals and mandates that what the poor do not need, then the wild animals must be allowed to forage among those lands. This is how poor people were able to enjoy the early “surplus” of capitalism that I described in my tutorials on the subject. Obviously God was not expecting the poor to eat only once every seven years, duh! But the early “capitalists” who owned land or, to be more precise, to include those who occupied that land (when they were migrants, as I described in my tutorial about Jacob’s children) were expected to “take the year off” from their very possessions and allow the poor to farm, herd and harvest on their lands for that seventh year.
How far have people come from this? It’s almost unrecognizable. No one has retained these instructions by God, in either the letter or the spirit of the law. Neither “income distributers” nor “socialists” nor “commune dwellers” nor “capitalists” have obeyed this admonition and instruction from God. By the way, humans had to learn the hard way about over tilling and the environmental dangers of not leaving some land fallow (for the poor and for the animals) during the Dust Storms in the USA in the 1920’s-30’s. If people had been following what God said that economic and environmental disaster would have been avoided too, as land would have been left fallow and ground cover, hedgerows and brush would have been a regular presence rather than being totally stripped away as it was then. But back to my main point. Successful “capitalists” were mandated by God to hand over their properties and the fruits of their labor to the poor to work once every seven years. Thus there was no “government spreading of wealth” (the leftie liberal socialist dream) nor the grasping greed of the right who sneer that the poor should just buck up and climb the ladder “like they did.” Both sides have been horrendous and wrong and in opposition to what God has mandated and most scandalously, actually try to cite the Bible, including Jesus, as their justification. Actually, as you will see, Jesus is the one who had to avail himself of this form of charity as described next here, as you’ll see in the third post of this tutorial.
Leviticus 19:9-10. “When you reap the harvest of your land, you shall not be so thorough that you reap the field to its very edge, nor shall you glean the stray ears of grain. Likewise, you shall not pick your vineyard bare, nor gather up the grapes that have fallen. These things you shall leave for the poor and the alien [foreigners and migrants]. I, the Lord, am your God.”
Here God mandates that in the course of every day food production in the fields, everyone is expected to leave some for the poor to gather as they need. Thus, these were the original “food pantries.” But they were always there, not just at the largess of donors who donate the leftovers and cast offs on some basis and then call that charity. God mandated that the same food that those who farmed produced for themselves should be left in the field and on the vine so that the poor or the travelers passing through can eat and harvest for themselves, and this is to be done all of the time for all fields and goods. This is what Jesus and the Apostles and disciples availed themselves of as they traveled. I am totally steamed whenever people portray Jesus as some poor guy going around begging for food to be “humble.” You fools! God had mandated that every believer would leave food in their fields at all time for both the poor and the traveler. Thus, this is how people were able to travel in those days, and have food security. All they had to do is walk to whatever was in season to be gleaned from the fields or trees.
Another purpose of this is not to marginalize the poor or the traveler and yet this is exactly what modern people have done. God mandated that the poor should be part of other people’s success as it happens, not later through “redistribution” or “restitution” or “regular charitable giving.” The poor and the travelers were not viewed as being “others” to be either ignored or to be “tended to” as some isolated population needing “remediation” and “redistribution.” The poor and the travelers were on God’s mandate given the right to avail themselves of what is left for them on a daily basis in the regular course of subsistence, commerce, surplus and capitalism.
This is repeated word for word in Leviticus 23:22.
Also, shared resources were not to be sold out from under the feet of those who could not control them.
Leviticus 25: 34-43. “Moreover, the pasture land belonging to their cities shall not be sold at all; it must always remain their hereditary property.
When one of your fellow countrymen is reduced to poverty and is unable to hold out beside you, extend to him the privileges of an alien [foreigner] or a tenant, so that he may continue to live with you. Do not extract interest from your countryman either in money or in kind, but out of fear of God let him live with you. You are to lend him neither money at interest nor food at a profit. I, the Lord, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt to give you the land of Chanaan and to be your God.
When, then, your countryman becomes so impoverished beside you that he sells you his services, do not make him work as a slave. Rather, let him be like a hired servant or like your tenant, working with you until the jubilee year, when he, together with his children, shall be released from your service and return to his kindred and to the property of his ancestors. Since those whom I brought out of the land of Egypt are servants of mine, they shall not be sold as slaves to any man. Do not lord it over them harshly, but stand in fear of your God.”
God describes two stages of a specific relationship that believers are to have with those in their community of believers (in other words, neighbors) that are designed to raise back on the feet those who fall on economic hardship. Again, this is not done by “income redistribution” or “expecting them to get up by their own bootstraps.” God details the exact relationship that is fully integrated and with dignity that the “haves” are to have with those of their neighbors who fall on hard times. So neither “layoffs” nor “handouts” are exactly the answer, to put it mildly. God always mandates that the poor and those who fall into misfortune are not to be isolated and marginalized, but they are to be brought into the household and workplace of those who continue to prosper. I can certainly testify in my life that this has not happened and that people are behaving both left and right, in direct defiance and the opposite of what God has instructed. The nerve of many of them “quoting” the Bible or Jesus is just icing on the scandalous cake.
Deuteronomy 15: 1-6. “At the end of every seven-year period you shall have a relaxation of debts, which shall be observed as follows. Every creditor shall relax his claim on what he has loaned his neighbor; he must not press his neighbor, his kinsman, because a relaxation in honor of the Lord has been proclaimed. You may press a foreigner, but you shall relax the claim on your kinsman for what is yours. Nay, more! Since the Lord, your God, will bless you abundantly in the land he will give you to occupy as your heritage, there should be no one of you in need. If you but heed the voice of the Lord, your God, and carefully observe all these commandments which I enjoin on you today, you will lend to many nations, and borrow from none; you will rule over many nations, and none will rule over you, since the Lord, your God, will bless you as he promised.”
Well, what country fits that description now? China is the only one I can think of, as they lend to many and while everyone else owes, and all because people who call themselves believers have totally abandoned what God instructed regarding all of these matters.
Deuteronomy 15:7-11. “ If one of your kinsmen in any community is in need in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not harden your heart nor close your hand to him in his need. Instead, you shall open your hand to him and freely lend him enough to meet his need. Be on your guard lest, entertaining the mean thought that the seventh year, the year of relaxation, is near, you grudge help to your needy kinsman and give him nothing; else he will cry to the Lord against you and you will be held guilty. When you give to him, give freely and not with ill will; for the Lord, your God, will bless you for this in all your works and undertakings. The needy will never be lacking in the land; that is why I command you to open your hand to your poor and needy kinsman in your country.”
This is also a subtle warning for those in modern times who are miserly because they anticipate lowering profits. God is explaining it like this. As the six year cycle goes along, and a lender knows that in the seventh year he has to relax all debts, he should not be a greedy chiseler and scrooge and not want to lend if someone in need should come along in like the fifth or sixth year, right before all debts, including the new one, would have to be relaxed in the seventh year. You must apply that likewise to modern times. God does not approve of denying resources to those in need just because you think you will not get them paid back or because you anticipate losses in the near future. Again, this is the opposite of what everyone is doing today. God assures people that following his rules “makes good business sense” to put it in modern terms because God will “bless you for this in all your works and undertakings” and “the needy will never be lacking in the land,” since these rules ensure, rather than cut into, prosperity, though to both the greedy on the right and the socialists on the left this does not make obvious sense.
God repeats the admonitions to leave in the fields for the poor and beasts in Deuteronomy 24:19-22. Notice that God is spelling it out in colorful examples of how not to be greedy, by going back to pick up every bit of harvest that you missed. He is continually emphasizing that scouring one’s holdings for all the harvest is stinginess and greed. Further, God now mentions the widow and orphan specifically as those he expects to benefit from all harvests. This means that women and children should not be left without means. The reason they always use the term “widows and orphans” in the Bible is that in those days, they were the only ones who lacked a man to care for them. In modern times you must understand this to mean women and children in general, many of whom have been abandoned by fathers, spouses and sons.
“When you reap the harvest in your field and overlook a sheaf there, you shall not go back to get it; let it be for the alien [foreigner], the orphan or the widow, that the Lord, your God, may bless you in all your undertakings. When you knock down the fruit of your olive trees, you shall not go over the branches a second time; let what remains be for the alien [foreigner], the orphan and the widow. When you pick your grapes, you shall not go over the vineyard a second time; let what remains be for the alien, the orphan and the widow. For remember that you were once slaves in Egypt; that is why I command you to observe this rule.”
In 3 Kings 17 you can read about how the great prophet Elias appeared as a poor traveler to a very poor widow woman with a son, and he asked for water, which she gave him, and for some bread, which she had none of, but only a small amount of meal (ground grain). Elias assured her to give him what she had and the Lord would reward her. God promised to keep that amount of meal and her oil replenished and he did. Then, when later the son passed away, Elias returned and through God brought the son back to life. This is why this is considered part of the almsgiving scripture of the Bible, to demonstrate that even the poorest of the poor are to help the traveler and each other as much as they can, and that all who obey God in the form of almsgiving as he commanded will be rewarded in their own lives and those of their loved ones.
Here Esdras, the scribe, who was the cupbearer to the King of Persia, explains the Law to the people of God after their return from exile, including the need to remember the poor during festive and holy days.
2 Esdras 8:10. And he said to them: Go, eat fat meats, and drink sweet wine, and send portions to them that have not prepared for themselves, because it is a holy day of the Lord, and be not sad, for the joy of the Lord is our strength.
In the next blog post I will cite from the time of Jesus and the Apostles. You will see that Jesus exercised and taught a continuation of what God mandated in charity, not a release from God’s instructions nor some capitalistic or touchy-feely substitute.
I must drive home a point. The reason God instructs about alms is that alms are for humans who are in need. Modern humans have started calling “charity” crap like donating to public television, museums, and other “good causes.” They may be “good causes” but SHAME on all who donate to those “good causes” and consider them charitable alms and testimony to their “goodness,” because they most certainly are not. I don’t exactly see food pantries or jobs for those who have lost theirs in the museums or public television studios. Instead I see temples of the false gods, but that is another subject for another day. Reading the above you must understand how far everyone has strayed from what God has ordered of his believers in regard to true charity and almsgiving, and the practice of lending. It is an outrage, especially because I can understand those who don’t know better, but how dare they cite the Bible in their ignorance as justification of their “generosity.” Don’t think God does not know every detail of the hypocrisy, and the tears of those who genuinely suffer, and how society has now been structured to force just about everyone to partake in this sin of neglect and of usury.