Covenant and Embrace

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Covenant and Embrace

The point of a covenant is the preservation of a relationship. The two parties recognize that they share a bond with each other. The two parties also recognize that the awareness and the appreciation of the bond between them may grow dim with the passage of time, so they seal a covenant. They promise to each other that they will remain faithful to their shared bond and they bind themselves to each other in a union that cannot be broken.

There are different types of relationships that covenants can possibly attempt to preserve. Some of these run deeper than others. An alliance between two nations can be called a “covenant”, but in no way can such a covenant compare to a covenant of friendship between two people who would die for each other. The deepest covenant that exists between people is the covenant of marriage. Not only…

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Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery

The act of adultery is a violation of a commitment. But this aspect of adultery should technically be covered in the range of the prohibition against stealing. If one member of a partnership committed themselves to the agreement under the belief that the other member would maintain their part of the agreement, then when one partner violates the deal, the other partner’s commitment was falsely obtained.

But adultery goes further than the violation of a commitment between two partners. Adultery is the violation of humanity. When a person puts his desire for physical pleasure above his desire to keep a solemn commitment he has identified himself more as an animal and less as a human. One who commits adultery tramples upon honesty, honor, human dignity, kindness and integrity all for the sake of a crass physical pleasure.

With this understanding of the prohibition against adultery in mind we can see how the spirit of the seventh commandment extends far beyond the actual act of violating a marriage vow. Any activity that redefines a human according to the qualities that we share with animals and tramples on the qualities which separates us from animals is a violation of the spirit of this commandment. It makes no difference if the human we are redefining is ourselves or if it someone else.

This would obviously include a situation where a person allows lustful thoughts to consume their minds and hearts. One who does so diminishes the noble side of man, the side which appreciates justice and honesty, the side that is impressed by kindness, selflessness and integrity and cultivates the animal side of man, the side that has no problem with selfishness and greed. But this also extends much further.

Defining people according to attributes that we share with animals, be they physical beauty, brute strength, cunning, agility and athletic prowess diminishes humanity. This is not to say that we should ignore these gifts, but they should not be the defining factor. The human is a being that appreciates truth, loves kindness and despises greed and pettiness. That is who we are. Identifying ourselves or others according to animal-like qualities is a diminution of the human being.

The spirit of the commandment that prohibits adultery is a guide to life. It calls us to be noble and to see our fellow humans as noble beings. And it would have us draw away from anything that would lessen the dignity and nobility of the human being.

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Thou Shalt Not Steal

Thou Shalt Not Steal
The narrowest definition of the word “steal” refers to an action of taking possession of someone else’s property through dishonest means. The spirit of the law goes on to include any deception or dishonesty which causes loss to another or brings us benefit. But the spirit of the law encompasses so much more. The spirit of the law encourages us to desire honesty and despise greediness. Let us consider some of the applications of this commandment.

Public property belongs to everyone. And the individual’s right to use it is limited to the usage that the public designated this property for. Using public property for a use that was unintended by the agents of the public is a form of stealing.

Keeping money that was not justly earned is also stealing this includes charging for a service or a product and not delivering exactly what the customer was lead to believe that he or she would be getting. This would also apply to an employee wasting time that they are getting paid for. An employer who demands work or time from his or her employees that goes beyond the original agreement without just compensation is also stealing.

There are many types of deception that fall under the broad category of this commandment. Convincing an investor to put time and money into a business by painting a picture that is different from reality is dishonest. Encouraging an employee to join the workforce of a given company by insinuating that he or she will benefit in ways that do not match up with the facts on the ground is also stealing.

Then there is stealing time. Causing people to waste their time would also fall under the scope of this commandment. And there are so many ways that this injustice can be done.

Deceiving people into giving you recognition or honor that you do not deserve by projecting qualities that you do not possess is unjust. And withholding respect from people that do deserve respect is also dishonest.

Wasting someone’s emotional energy isn’t much different than needlessly wasting a material resource of your fellow man. And again, there are so many ways that this sin could be committed.

The commandment which prohibits us from benefiting from dishonesty is endless. The illustrations listed here barely scratch the surface of this broad directive. One rule of thumb that could guide us as we seek to become more just and more fair, is to remember the simple and obvious fact that we are biased when it comes to ourselves. In a situation of dispute between ourselves and another we cannot expect the disputants to be objective because we are all human. The rule of thumb would tell us to acknowledge the possibility that out perspective may be rooted in our own self-interest and be willing to consider another angle.

The eighth commandment is a general directive in life. It is an arrow pointing away from greed and pettiness and pointing toward the beauty of honesty and the light of justice. The journey demands attention, alertness and the ability to admit to mistakes. But it is the only path of life.

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Thou Shalt Not Murder

Thou Shalt Not Murder
Is this injunction limited to the actual act of terminating a human life? or is this commandment a heading for a general concept?

The nation to whom this commandment was addressed understands that both are true. There is one specific action that is directly addressed in this commandment, and there is also an additional layer of meaning that lies beneath the surface. And we do not need to wander far to find this additional meaning.

The commandments are a reflection of the conscience that we as human beings are blessed with and by using this understanding we can easily see a much broader application to this commandment, an application that goes far beyond restraining ourselves from murder.
If murder is terrible, then wouldn’t it follow that saving a life is wonderful? And why stop at “saving” a life which is threatened with death? Supporting life, cultivating life, helping life flourish, develop and grow are all actions that stand in opposition to murder. And cultivating life includes education, emotional support, financial help and so much more.

Violating this commandment most directly would involve a brutal act of murder. But shouldn’t carelessness that might lead to other people’s death, not be an extension of this commandment? Murder would mean snuffing out the complete continuation of someone’s life, but limiting someone’s life is also a branch of this commandment. There are so many ways of harming people that fall short of actual murder but point in the same direction of destroying other people.

There is physical harm which would involve wounding the other person. There is the example of limiting a person’s freedom by locking them up. There is harming other people by affecting their livelihood or by ruining their social standing. And then there is emotional harm. There are so many things we can do, or words we can say that hurt other people.

But let me go back to the act of murder itself. This act is not limited to the person that actually pulled the trigger or the one that swung the knife. What kind of respect for human life was this murderer exposed to? What kind of respect for law and order did this murderer see in the hearts of his fellow citizens?

Distancing ourselves from murder means cultivating and developing a respect for the nobility of man and sharing that respect with the way we speak, the way we act and the way we live our lives. Distancing ourselves from murder involves building a respect toward the concept of justice and toward those who try to maintain law and order in our society.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There is so much to learn and there is so much that we can yet grow.

The commandment: “Thou Shalt Not Murder” is not just an arrow pointing to one particular action. It is an arrow that should guide us throughout our journey of life; an arrow that points away from cruelty and evil and towards goodness and love.

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An Open Letter to a Potential “Ger” – by Jim

Dear Philip,

At the end of our lunch the other day, you excitedly informed me that you had discovered a new group of non-Jews that believe in the God of Israel and in the authority of the Torah, a group that calls themselves Gerim. I must have appeared stunned, for you asked immediately what was wrong, but, as we were about to part, I did not have time to explain. I had time only to issue a brief warning not to become too quickly involved with the Ger movement. I send this missive in order to explain that warning.

It is prudent before adopting any philosophy to investigate it to the limits of one’s ability. This is no less true with the claims made by Katz and Clorfene, the founders of the Ger movement. They claim to be teaching Torah, and since you already know the Torah to be true, it might seem reasonable to accept their teaching. But I would urge the greatest caution. Philip, you know how many claim to represent Torah but do not. The Church from which you extricated yourself misrepresented itself as the authentic interpretation of Torah. Nor is the Church the only group to attempt to cloak itself in the authority of the Torah. That Katz and Clorfene are rabbis does not mean that they represent Torah properly: one can leave the true path.

I must admit that there is a difficulty in analyzing their claims. Katz and Clorfene often rely on oral tradition to establish their doctrine, and neither you nor I are well-versed in the oral tradition. Though they will tell us that they have fairly represented the sources, we have little ability to verify their claims. Even when Katz tells us that we should look up what he has said, we do not have the context. The oral tradition was not meant to be transmitted through writing, and though it is now available in writing, you and I lack the requisite learning to understand the discussions. Admitting this weakness, I would nevertheless urge you to treat their work with the greatest suspicion. Their work is contradicted by the great majority of rabbis. Their redefinition of the term “ger” is out of sync with the accepted halachic understanding, and knowledgeable rabbis have said that, contrary to the assurances of Katz and Clorfene, they have indeed misrepresented the sources. Katz, as the originator of the work, appears to be an innovator in the negative sense of that term.

I would urge you to treat them with suspicion for another reason, as well. Katz and Clorfene flatter their students. The Ger is, according to Katz, superior to the Noahide. The Ger is the non-Jew that has totally stripped himself of idolatry, clinging to God, while the Noahide (of the modern Noahide movements) still retains shituf, acknowledging a power beside God. The Ger is essential for the redemption of the world and shares in the mission of Israel. He is a “fourth house” of Israel, though a non-holy one, and the Ger is attached to Israel. The Ger is not restricted in his observance of mitzvot, able to keep Shabbat—a Ger Shabbat or Krisos 9a Shabbat, as opposed to a Jewish Shabbat—and study the entirety of the Torah. He is allowed, too, to delve into the mystical secrets of the Torah. Moreover, the Ger is to consider God to be his teacher; he does not rely upon rabbis. All of this is flattery and will eventually undermine the development of the non-Jew that wishes to be close to God.

Perhaps the most obvious error is that the Ger is entitled to learn the secrets of the Torah. It is no wonder that people will be intrigued by such secrets. Nevertheless, the desire to know these secrets poses a danger to those that have not mastered the fundaments of Torah. Keep in mind, Philip, that you were raised in a Christian home, not a Jewish one, and that the formative years in your life were spent in doctrines that undermine and pervert the foundations of Torah rather than establishing them. Now that you have rid yourself of Christianity, you must not assume yourself to be an expert in Torah; you are still laying the foundations. Delving deeply into Torah is not for amateurs. This leads to confusion and jumping too quickly to unwarranted and incorrect conclusions. In any field of learning, one works his way up to expertise. Those that do not frequently create bizarre, error-riddled theories due to their ignorance.

The Torah was given to the Jewish people, and they accepted it. The history of the Tanach is their history. The Jewish people passed along their Torah, not just the written words, from generation to generation. The meaning of the written words is part of what has been passed down, and though certain basic things can be understood from the text, you and I do not have the background necessary to understand the Torah on our own. Let us not, then, be presumptuous and pry into the secrets before we understand the foundations of Torah.

Philip, do not be unnerved and discomfited by this notion. Do not take it into your head that you are second class. You will notice that the language of the Ger community will prey upon that— the way they call the Seven Laws a “Bronze Age slave law” being but one example. The temptation is to compare yourself to the Jew. “Why may I not study the Torah fully, as may the Jew? Why may I not keep Shabbos, as may the Jew?”

Shabbos has become a major issue for the Ger community. It is quite understandable that people who have been attending Church all their lives should seek replacement religious observances for those that they have given up. However, the Sabbath is reserved for the Jewish people, a covenant between them and God. To usurp what was given to another is theft. If you wish to keep Sabbath, a path is open to you: you may join the Jewish nation through conversion.

At least be suspicious of Katz’s Ger Sabbath for this reason: he is the only one that found it in the Torah, by which I mean the entire Torah tradition and not merely the Five Books of Moses. For decades, people have been asking if they could keep Shabbos and if not, why not? For much longer than those decades, the answer has been “no.” But now one man, through his own singular interpretation, has contradicted the wisdom of the Jewish people and convinced a second to support him. Katz and Clorfene hardly qualify as even a minority position. Yet, for some, the temptation to follow them will be great, because they present the answer that so many have wished to hear.

But you, if you wish to follow the truth, you must not yield to mere desire. You must not assume the rectitude of their position, because it contains the answer you wish to hear. The truth is not learned in this way. Inquire with other rabbis. Does Krisos 9a teach a Ger Shabbos? Do not accept too readily the answer that tickles your fancy.

Nor should you accept the notion that you can trust Katz and Clorfene, because you sense, pseudo-prophetically, that they have given you the truth. They teach that God is the Ger’s teacher. This is a grave danger, as you must know. Once one begins to follow his inclinations and attribute those feelings to God, he opens himself to deception. The truth is pushed away from the seeker, and he does not know it because he believes himself to already have it in his possession. Self-assuredness blinds.

Was it not just such assuredness that you were being led by God that made it so difficult for you to leave Christianity? You believed that you were being led by the Holy Spirit, so that, even when Tanach said something other than Christian doctrine, you were able to ignore it. You had your own private understanding, given to you by God. So, you could believe that, though Torah openly says that God is one, He was three. And, though it said He is alone, you could believe that He was accompanied by His partners. When you first experienced the cognitive dissonance in recognizing that your beliefs contradicted Torah, you were quite troubled. Two voices competed for your assent, one which you believed to be the Holy Spirit and the other the words that you believed the same spirit inspired. You have experienced the fallibility that comes from believing that one’s feelings are the leading of God.

It would be reasonable to demand of anyone that claims that God is his teacher a sign or a wonder. If God is the teacher of Katz or Clorfene, let him prove it. If he cannot, let him withdraw the claim. Let the Ger test himself similarly. If God is teaching him, let him ask for a communication that can be verified, a prediction. Or let him ask to be able to turn a staff to a snake. If he cannot hear God telling him something he could not know or guess, then let him not accept so readily that he hears God’s teaching on halacha.

But, Philip, even if Katz produces the sign or wonder, this will not give him authority to interpret halacha unilaterally. Halacha is not decided through prophecy: “It is not in heaven.” Rather, it is submitted to the priests, Levites, and judges.

Curiously, Clorfene teaches his own brand of Judaism that excludes the judges, i.e. the rabbis. He writes that the rabbis really have no authority, only the Levites, of which he is one. (One wonders if Katz is a Levite, and if not, why Clorfene then respects his teaching.) Clorfene’s words against Jewish tradition and against the Jewish people are strong. He writes that the rabbis seek to control the lives of others. He writes that they stand in the way of the redemption and in the way of the return of prophecy. Moreover, he writes that the way of the rabbis and the Noahide laws is the way of strict justice, lacking all mercy, while Ger is the way of mercy. And, he writes that Judaism is shituf, while, of course, the Ger has totally rejected shituf.

Also, he literally demonizes his opponents. On his blog, he refers to a “Rabbi Z,” whom he equates to a demon. This Rabbi Z apparently protested this invective as the two fought over the Ger movement. Clorfene goes on to justify his comment, referencing Pesachim 112a, stating that it is the nature of the demon to cause damage.

I do not bring this up to point out that Clorfene is “not nice.” This is not an expression of outrage: “How dare he?!” I bring this up, because the Ger is told that he has an attachment to the Jewish people that is exceedingly strong and sincere. Philip, when their teachers says such things against the Jewish people, how long do you think the Ger movement will cling to them? If the Ger is learning that the Jewish people have kept the presence of God at bay, how long will they love the Jewish people? If the Ger is learning that the rabbis are usurpers, will they not learn to resent those rabbis that object to the newly invented definition of Ger, who teach that the non-Jew may not keep Shabbos, who are supposedly devoid of mercy and are all judgment? And what damage will be wrought by calling oppositional rabbis “demons”? This claim, that the Ger is especially attached to the Jewish people, is nothing but flattery, and whatever love the Ger has for the Jewish people now is likely to erode under the words of Clorfene.

Katz and Clorfene have begun to drive a wedge between their followers and the Jewish people, not bring them together. I would urge you to study this issue most carefully before you adopt the Ger philosophy. The teachers of the Ger movement have appealed to the ego, promising secret Torah, telling the Ger that he is entitled to things that are not his, and that he clings to God more strongly than those that call themselves Noahides. These men have attempted to make a unilateral ruling on halachic matters. They are not to be readily trusted. Take great care in your consideration to become involved with the Ger movement.

Shem

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Tower of Truth

Tower of Truth
Man’s need for self-validation is very deep. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention. The deeper the need – the more powerful the desire to invent and to fabricate.
Not that there is a true need to fabricate. The Creator who so lovingly designed us also provided for all of our needs. We have air to breath, water to drink and food to eat. Surely God also provided for our basic emotional needs as well.
There seems to be a pattern in the way God provides for our needs. The availability of the item that satisfies our need seems to be directly correlated to the level of requirement that we have for the particular item. Air is the most essential material need that we have and it is all over the place. Water follows as our second most basic need and while it is not as easy to obtain as air but it is still quite readily available. Food is not as easily obtained as water but the basic food staples are easier to acquire than are other, less pressing, needs that we have. It would then follow, that our essential emotional needs were also met by the Creator of all.
Indeed, self-validation is as readily available as air. Our very existence is a most powerful message of validation. Your existence is a deliberate act of love wrought by the Creator of the universe; He knew what He was doing when He called you into existence – that is a deep message of affirmation. When you see how your body was designed with wisdom, how your needs are met by the world He created and each of these with grace and beauty – you are validated by His care for you. When you realize how it is not only your essential needs that are met but also how He put so much more into this world simply to make life more pleasurable, you will then be affirmed by His love.
As a human being you will appreciate that God endowed you with the ability to take advantage of every aspect of nature, including various forces of nature that are completely useless to animals. Furthermore; as a human, God granted you dominion and control over the animal kingdom (Psalm 8:7). These basic truths should serve to confirm and to validate your central role in God’s plan. You have been blessed with the ability to act with a range of emotions that is not matched by any other being except for God Himself. As a human you possess a conscience that informs you what is just, what is good, holy and blessed, and conversely; what is evil, impure and wrong. A proper recognition of these blessings will provide you with all of the confirmation and validation that you need.
But we have a tendency to look away from these blessings (Ecclesiastes 7:29). Now, when we look away from these blessings, we find that the need for self-validation is not met. So we invent, we fabricate and we have manufactured a complex web of values that have no basis in reality; and we then seek validation in the tower of falsehood erected by man.
We attach importance to concepts that have no intrinsic importance and we then validate ourselves by associating ourselves with these concepts. We give value to articles and forces that are not intrinsically valuable and we then affirm our self-worth by possession and control of these articles and forces.
Money, sports achievements, the honor of men, fame and positions of power are but a few of the examples of empty ideas that have been exalted by man. We measure ourselves by the connection that we have to these concepts that stand high in the minds and hearts of men. We find self-validation when we can associate ourselves with these concepts that men look up to and this is how we measure our own self-worth and the worth of our fellow humans.
The tragic ramifications of this mistake are manifold. The first, most obvious, ramification is the mere fact that it many of these “items of value” are out of reach for most of mankind. There are a limited of number of people that can be famous, powerful, rich and honored. These qualities are always measured in the relative context of the general population. You are only rich if you have more money than the average person, you are only famous if you are more famous than the average person and your sports achievement can only be significant if you outdid your fellow man. Most people spend their life striving for these and never attaining them and this never-ending striving leads to violent conflict between men and nations.
Another painful ramification of this false path that man-kind has chosen is the disappointment that is encountered when one has exerted him or herself for one of these “achievements” only to realize that they have spent a life chasing a mirage. As we mature, the dazzle of the world and its glories tends to fade from our hearts and we realize how empty some of these “goals” have been.
Perhaps the most tragic ramification of this pervasive human mistake is when one never realizes the emptiness of these concepts. Can there be something more tragic than a man going to the grave never having learned that there is more to life than money, fame and honor?
The issue of validation is not simply a question of self-help; a proper way to meet our emotional needs. God created us with this emotional need so that we can appreciate our purpose in His world. Our search for validation and self-worth ought to lead us towards deepening a relationship with God, living in the light of His love, and radiating that love to those around us. The distractions of the man-made value system are not  only damaging on a personal level; but they also pull mankind away from the true purpose of life.
The true contest of life is then the question: will we entangle ourselves in this web of lies spun by ingratitude? Or will we learn to focus on the blessings, the love that God constantly showers upon us?
It is not a coincidence that the name: “Jew” means gratitude (Genesis 29:35). It is also not a coincidence that the king of the Jews; David, wrote a book that expresses this heart of gratitude towards the Creator of all and encourages man to disentangle from the web of falsehood manufactured by man’s refusal to appreciate. It is for this purpose that we were chosen and it is for this purpose that God chose David as our king. We, the Jewish people, are called to stand as a beacon of light, as an example of focus on the goodness of God and disdain for the false value system created by man.
It is up to us. We can choose where we will find our validation, confirmation and sense of self-worth. Will it be in the tower of emptiness erected by man? Or will it be in the tower of truth whose bricks are the love and the goodness of our Creator. This choice is where it is all happening.
Choose life!
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All the Nations

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

All the Nations

“For then I will change the nations [to speak] a pure language so that they will all proclaim in the Name of the Lord to worship Him with a united resolve.” (Zephaniah 3:9)

The prophets looked forward to a time when all the nations of the world serve the Creator of the universe shoulder to shoulder with the people of Israel. This does not mean that the nations will convert to Judaism. The prophets made it clear that the various nations will maintain their own identity and they will be serving God as gentiles; not as Jews (as an example see Zachariah 14:16).

The picture that emerges from various historical texts is that during the Second Temple Era there were many gentiles who joined the Jewish people in their worship of God but did not join the covenant community through a complete conversion. The Ibn Ezra explains…

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