(by Christopher from Brutal Planet and the PaRDeS Radio Torah Portions on PaRDeS Radio and KKVV 1060AM)
One thing I often see in terms of those new to Torah observance is an unhealthy paranoia in terms of the times and dates of the feasts. Often times the closer we get to the observance of the feasts in Leviticus 23 there are many congregational splits that happen over calendar. I attended once a congregation that split because of a lack of spiritual maturity that ensued on both sides of the argument in terms of the dates of the Torah readings and the feasts. This is one of the most divisive things in our faith as Netzari I am sad to say and I see much destruction happen to the body at this time. There are spiritually mature ways to handle these things.
First of all, if there are disagreements on calendar these are issues that should be discussed during the summer when there is a time for adjustment if adjustment is seen to be needed within a congregation or a household. The times approaching the feasts is the wrong time to discuss such things cause a person's focus needs to be on preparation of what the feast is about not on timing.
Look at it like a child who's birthday is coming up, the parents celebrate the child's birthday on the day of his birthday, he gets his cake his presents and he has a good time. Then the child's grandparents come into town and bring him yet another cake and more presents, is the child going to say to the grandparents; “I cannot accept this cause my birthday, take the gifts and the cake back”? Of course he isn't.
I have been hit with many questions surrounding this situation, many have disagreed with their congregations on calendar and have contemplated not attending their congregation's functions for the days they believe the feasts start. I would say whether the congregation has the right or wrong day(s) if the person in disagreeance doesn't attend then it is not the congregation that is at fault nor the rabbi. Instead it is the person who chooses not to attend because of the disagreement who is sinning. The reason for this is especially during Succos this festival is a gathering of brethren and a time to reflect together as brethren, as brothers and sisters. In many cases, despite whether the congregation has the right day(s) or not a person is choosing to put themselves outside the camp. We see the same thing in the Torah in terms of Miryiam and Korach.
The thing we often do not realize is the most essential part of the feasts, festivals and fasts, and that is it is not about us. When we start to argue with other brethren over the days of celebration then the focus is no longer on Hashem, rather it is put upon one's own ego. This is why the rabbis in the Talmud say in the tractate Shabbat that the “new moons and feasts are consecrated”, when we focus not on the representation of the feast of festival we are not consecrated to Hashem. Rather we are seeking validation to put the spotlight on one's self. Many young in their walk act this way often.
So therefore how do we handle such issues of calendar and feasts in terms of one's congregation having a different view than yourself? Follow your personal conviction, if Pesach falls on a different day in the way that your congregation does, I would say hold a private consecrated celebration at your home or with friends who believe the same AND as well attend your congregation's observed days as well, because if one is wanting to be close to Hashem then it is like the child having two days of cake and presents on their birthday, we should have the same amount of joy to celebrate on anther day than we do on the day we feel convicted to keep. A discussion of correction on calendar should NEVER take place during these times and again the reason is “it is not about us”.
I have also gotten several emails from individuals who have roommates who celebrate different feast days. This is often a more sticky situation yet it can still be resolved by again establishing the most important thing mentioned before several times, “it is not about me”. Discuss these issues around the summer when there is a major spread between feasts and work out a compromise if it is important to you and your roommate to celebrate the feasts together. One solution is rotating calendars, the fall feasts being celebrated on one person's calendar and the spring feasts on the other's calendar. Purim and Chanukah should also be discussed during that time and a compromise on those days as well. Another compromise could simply be, “do both”.
When I am personally asked about the timing of the feasts and festivals, the thing I always ask is if the person has a rabbi. If so I always reply, “I am not your personal rabbi so I cannot discuss that halaka with you, it is something you must discuss with him.” The fact is despite the arguments many try to make to make their case Hashem realizes we have been dispersed, He realizes we get contradicting messages from many teachers and views and opinions etc. The thing He wants more than anything is for us to have the relationship with Him and not worry so much on who is right who is wrong etc. Cause then the focus is off of Hashem and it is put upon self and put upon the elevation of another. And this is never a good thing. These petty arguments are what cause people to not be able to grow in Hashem, which causes them to be stationary and their hearts hardened towards those who may simply have a different view. It is a stone in the joint of the body which causes it to be immobile, causes it not to be able to move.
(by Christopher from Brutal Planet and the PaRDeS Radio Torah Portions on PaRDeS Radio and KKVV 1060AM)
The pursuit of knowledge and wisdom is not necessarily the same thing in terms of applied faith. One of the major issues we often acquire in the Netzari Faith is by thinking the two are indeed synonymous. We should realize this when reading the words of Paul in the book of Romans when he implies that one will only be held responsible for what they know.
“There is therefore no excuse for you, O man, who judges your neighbor; for by judging your
neighbor, you condemn yourself; for you that judge do practice the same things. And we know that the judgment of Elohim is in accordance with truth, in regard to those who practice these things. And what thinks you, O man, who judges those who practice these things, while practicing them yourself, that you will escape the judgment of Elohim? Or will you abuse the riches of his benevolence, and his long suffering, and the opportunity which he gives you? And do you not know that the benevolence of Elohim should bring you to repentance?”
(Romans 2:1-4) (AENT)
This very much parallels R. Bachya in his writings in the 11th Century in Duties of the Heart where he said that the intellect of a man parallels his observance, with more intellect comes more of an obligation of observance where the man with less intellect, less is required of him. This appears in his gate of introspection on reflection. This sentiment is also spoken of by the Baal Shem Tov as well as the Ramchal.
The seeking of knowledge is not a negative attribute but it is limited in it's capabilities. A college student is learning to be a lawyer, he gets A+s on all his exams, turns his homework in on time and gets amazing marks on the things he has learned from his professor, yet can he call himself a lawyer honestly until he passes his bar exam and has his first case? Until he does that his knowledge is not applied, thus it is essentially useless until applied. Think of knowledge and wisdom being like a cell phone and a charger for your cell phone. Without the charger you can only speak for a few hours on the cell phone, unless you have electricity and a charger the cell phone is nothing more than an overpriced paper weight and is not really of any use to you if the battery is dead. However, if a person has a home and car charger the cell phone will work as it is intended and not be useless. Our faith in Yeshua and Torah is essentially the same thing.
Often times we try and be smart, we read a lot of books, we listen to tons of commentaries, buy all the DVDs we can find, read tons of articles by authors and commentators you trust to teach you yet, it is doing you no good. The thing I often see in the Netzari faith is something that is a huge stumbling block, which is confusing wisdom with knowledge and thinking they have equal weight, treating the Scripture as a text book to fill the mind with facts for an exam. Though a life without the applied knowledge is nothing more than a waste if one does not find failure and wisdom after they have gained knowledge of a certain thing.
Our wisdom often times comes from failure, for the wisest people I know are the ones who apply many different ways, they try different ways of applying the mitzvos till they find how to connect deeply to Hashem. For instance Sabbath observance, one week a person may turn off the lights in their home and all electronics, the next they may go to the schul,the next they may stay at home and study by watching or listening to commentary. Wisdom comes from personal reflection and personal application to seek after Hashem, or at sometimes accidentally stumble upon Him without meaning to do so. By reading from the Scriptures and noticing something personal, a personal story that you have experienced that parallels what you have read. The verse or chapter or book may then take on a whole new life to you like it never has and that is wisdom. Wisdom is application and it is something that lasts, though with knowledge you do not use it....you may loose it in a short period of time. But a man who works on an engine of a car, and does it and refines the way he does it will become the expert on how to fix the motor when the one who studies the motors at MIT and has never touched a single motor, and has never cut his hands or gotten his clothes greasy will be lost a few months later and will have to re-study the chapter on assembling motors for his final exam. Yet the one who has worked on them will be able to ace the exam without even touching the book in over 30 years because he has applied it. Rabbi Shalom Arush goes into great detail on this in his book The Garden of Peace where he parallels the same premise with marriage:
“In his earliest days, the Holy Celibate Shlit'a decided that his soul years for Torah. He concluded that his best move would be to remain single and find a secluded house of study where he could devote the days of his life to Torah and to Divine service. Soon the Holy Celibate Shlit'a discovered a tiny clapboard synagogue in a rural village, far off the beaten track. He asked permission from the local beadle to eat, drink and sleep within the confines of the synagogue, which also served as the village house of study. He solemnly promised not to disturb a soul. The beadle agreed.
The Holy Celibate Shlit'a would quietly sit in the corner, learning day and night without disturbance or interruption. He barely left the house of study. He limited his food intake to only a few pieces of dried crusts of bread a day. Denying himself of anything he found enjoyable, he drank water from the tap, and slept on a hard wooden bench. Days months and years then transpired in this matter, until the fateful day when the beadle found the Holy Celibate Shlit'a lying lifelessly on the floor of the synagogue.
The entire village escorted the Holy Celibate Shlit'a on the way to his final resting place. They couldn't find adequate words to express his holiness. All the villagers were certain that such an individual, totally withdrawn and aloof from anything mundane, was surely a great tzaddik.
In fact, the Holy Celibate Shlit'a agreed with the villagers; he was sure that he was a tzaddik of lofty merits. And his soul ascended to the Heavenly Court, he was certain that he'd be greeted by an honor guard of history's greatest tzaddikim playing lyres and cymbals, accompanied by a choir of archangels singing in a six part harmony. He was positive that they would be escorting him to his rightful station below the Heavenly Throne to bask in the sublime light of The Divine Presence.
The Holy Celibate Shlit'a suffered a horrifying shock of disappointment. No souls of the greak tzaddikim arrived to greet him. He didn't have any angels playing music in his honor. All he saw were the images of his parents and ancestors standing in front of him with dejected contention. Without any further delay he was rushed off into the Heavenly Courtroom, where he stood before a tribunal of very stern looking tzaddikim.
The Chief Justice opened up a large volume, the life story of the Holy Celibate Shlit'a. He reviewed all of the Holy Celibate Shlit'a's mitzvot, and then addressed him by his first name, ignoring the dignified title “the Holy Celibate Shlit'a”. The chief Justice said 'Yosske , you learned quite a bit of Torah, you prayed, you made the necessary blessings, you put on tifillin daily and you wore tzitzit. You observed Shabbat and the holy days and you fasted even more than required. In fact you have done a good job of observing the mitzvot. There's a problem though with all your good deeds – you didn't complete the mission that you were supposed to complete in the physical world. You learned Torah but you failed to implement what you learned. Had you married you would have seen how far away you are from true Torah observance, for then, you would have had to invest much more effort to fulfill each mitzvah”
Casting a chastising glance at the shocked soul of the Holy Celibate Shlit'a, the chief Justice added: “Don't you know the entire purpose of learning Torah was to acquire emuna? The level of emuna you attained is extremely inadequate. Had you married you, you'd been required to face a long list of trials and tribulations with your wife. When she would have hindered your Torah learning with her various demands, you would have failed the tests. Whenever she would have belittled or scolded you, you'd have tarnished your soul with anger and complaining; only then would you have seen how weak your emuna really is. You thought you trusted in Hashem, but you'd been faced with the challenge of providing for a wife and children, you'd have seen just how frail your trust in Hashem.”
As a people, if Torah learning were for only a historical exam to be studied for then I think a majority of us in the Netzari Faith would get high marks. However, in the reality, when it comes to application and wisdom at times we are very much lacking because we tend to rely on the intellect, yet we don't believe that the intellect requires a paralleled observance for Yeshua himself warned of this very thing.
“And the Pharisees and scribes who came from Urishlim gathered around him. And they saw some of his disciples who were eating bread while their hands were not washed, and they complained. For all the Yehudeans and the Pharisees, if they do not carefully wash their hands, they do not eat, because they hold to the traditions of the elders. And goods from the marketplace, unless they are washed, they would not eat. And there are many other traditions that they have received to keep washings of cups and of pots and of brass vessels and of beds. The scribes and the Pharisees asked him. “Why don’t your disciples walk according to the traditions of the elders? But while they eat bread their hands are not washed!” And he said to them, “Yesha’yahu the prophet did well prophesy about you hypocrites! As it is written that, ‘This people honor me with their lips. But their hearts are very distant from me. And vainly they fear me while they are teaching the doctrines of the commandments of the sons of men.’For you have left the Commandment of Elohim, and you have embraced the tradition of the sons of men: the washing of cups and of pots and many others that are like these.” He said to them, “You well rejected the Commandment of Elohim that you might establish your tradition. For Moshe said to honor your father and your mother, and anyone who reviles his father and his mother, ‘Let them be put to death!’ But you say, ‘If a man says to his father or to his mother, “My offering is what you have gained from me,’ Then you do not allow him to do anything for his father or for his mother. And you despise the Word of Elohim, because of the tradition that you have handed down and that resemble these many things that you do.” And Y’shua called all the crowd and said to them, “Hear me all of you and understand, There isn’t anything that is on the outside of a man that enters into him that is able to defile him. But the thing that goes out from him, that is the thing that defiles a man. He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” And when Y’shua entered into the house away from the crowd, his disciples asked him about that saying. He said to them, “You are likewise slow to understand. You do not know that everything which enters into a man from the outside is not able to defile him. Because it does not enter into his heart, rather into his belly and is cast out by excretion, which purifies all the food. But anything that goes out from a man is that which defiles a man.”
(Mark 7:1-20) (AENT)
Seek wisdom brethren and do not be afraid to fail cause with great failure comes great wisdom that is only gained through application. Everything can look great on paper until it is applied then we gain more intellect through wisdom and the table is then turned on our former perception of which is more valuable even during times of discourse.
(by Christopher from Brutal Planet and the PaRDeS Radio Torah Portions on PaRDeS Radio and KKVV 1060AM in Las Vegas)
Our sages, of blessed memory, tell us that Hashem put a part of himself into all of Creation. Therefore given the fact that hundreds billions of individuals have existed throughout our nearly 6,000 year history on earth, 7 billion alive today and each a unique individual. There are over 3 million species of animals in existence today and almost 1 million species of plants, shrubbery, and trees. We can also take into account the billions of kinds of microscopic organisms many of which that have not been discovered. Is it possible that God is trying to show us something given that His Creation is a reflection of Him?
When I read the writings of Jeremiah and Ezekiel speaking of the same events, I see how they did not necessarily agree with one another from certain vantage points yet they had mutual respect for one another. Paul and Peter did not agree with one another on several small points and neither did Paul and Barnabas. Then there is the writings handed down from the oral of our Rabbis of old, same thing yet also a mutual respect. Why did they handle themselves in reverence to one another yet they did not always agree on several issues? The answer is very simple, and very divine. The fact is the mutual respect came from the fact that they realized how big Hashem is and they realized that each was given a unique divine spark within them that caused them to see things differently that was not in contradiction with one another yet however complimented one another by in essence making the Scripture 3 dimensional. One prime example of this are the three accounts of the throne of Hashem as recorded in Daniel, Ezekiel and in Revelation. Each saw the throne from a different vantage point. This in terms gave us a greater understanding as to what it actually looks like.
One of the main issues in the body of Messiah that has caused us to basically be our own worst enemy is the need for validation of our own personal interpretation and for the Scripture to only be seen through the eyes of one individual's interpretation within the Netzari faith or the Messianic faith or the Hebrew Roots. We tend to reject the individual, our own egos which is watered and fed by the yetzer hara, and we in turn reject God's diversity and we place Him in a box within our own minds. This ideal causes more division in the body and breads more ego and self righteousness than anything else. So what happens? To hold onto a little bit of unity we then decide to attack a common enemy we have been trained to hate, that being our former religious institution. This may seem to cause unity by preaching to the crowd cause written history can only be taken one way as opposed to the Scripture. Psychologically we then treat the Scripture the same way because of all the history we have read and we read the Scripture as only a literal novel. We say subconsciously, "well the history in terms of the who what where when and why is very straight forward and the case is closed so Scripture must be read the same way." This is dangerous and it is the essential reason so many cannot grow in their walk because they focus on looking back. Notice that Lot's wife looked back and she turned into a pillar of salt, notice that Yeshua said, "put your hand to the plow and do not look back." Yet it is simpler to look back then it is to move forward.
The thing that is amazing to be is how perfect the Tanakh is in it's Hebrew form and the New Covenant Scriptures in it's original Aramaic form, so much so even the rabbis and sages see the Scripture as being something as divine. In fact they believe every single line encompasses 72 interpretations that are indeed correct. That is rather amazing if you ask me. Notice we never hear of the Maharal bashing R. Bachya or the Baal Shem Tov bashing the Ramchal or Rambam bashing Rashi. Mutual respect all around and a humility of saying that their contemporaries had something to contribute in various areas and it is centered around the very simple concept of humility and a love for Hashem and realizing because of Hashem's amazing intellect there is so much we can learn from others and the divine spark he put within them that is different than any other individual. This is also why fellowship is so very important so that we may converse and reason together and realize, "hey I have my own sacred cows I need to get rid of and realize Paul spoke of a body in Ephesians 5-6 and 1 Corinthians 12, not just one attribute of it that made up the entire body".
Our inability to come together in true shalom is because of our inability to see how big Hashem is, He has given us many proofs of this in the formation birds fly, in the fact that no two sea shells are the same, or that each person's fingerprints are different, and to realize Hashem created not only the fingerprints, the birds or the sea shells but he also created the divine order. When we realize this, then we can come together as an effective body for our Messiah Yeshua but until then we will continue down a path of destruction we bring upon ourselves. At times we are not victims but rather we are volunteers.
Theological Insights from Rabbi Eved Banah at Beit Geulah in Morganton, NC (www.BeitGeulah.com)