“Open for Me, My sister My beloved…” (Song of Songs 5:2)
“Said the Holy One, Blessed be He to Israel; My children, open for Me an opening of repentance like the eye of a needle, and I will open for you enormous doorways…” (Midrash)
“The eye of a needle is indeed small – but it penetrates through and through” (Kotzker Rebbe)
The Crown Prince was misbehaving. Actually, misbehaving is too mild a word. He was hanging out with the worst characters, he was spending time in the worst places and he was doing things that a Crown Prince shouldn’t even be thinking about. In short, things were terrible. His father, the King, had no choice but to banish his son from the palace.
The exiled prince continued in his rebellious ways. He wandered from one tavern to the next, he roamed from one province to the next until he found himself at the far reaches of the kingdom. Eventually, he settled down in a remote village, as far from the palace as possible. This village was located near a coal-mine, and the people of this village made a livelihood out of mining and selling coal. The Crown Prince, whose funds had long run out, found himself in the coal-mines together with the villagers. He had to eat, and in this village, this was the only source of income.
The days and the years passed. The Crown Prince remembered his father’s house and thoughts of regret began filling his heart. He thought of his lowly situation and he thought of the shame that he had brought upon the kingdom, but most of all, he thought of the anguish that he had caused his father. But he didn’t know what he could do, how could he approach his father from this remote village?
Meanwhile, in the palace, the King was thinking of his son. Perhaps he learned his lesson? Perhaps he changed his ways? But where is he? How can I find him?
The king decided to take a comprehensive tour of his kingdom. Every city, every town and every last village will be honored with a visit from the King.
The news came to the coal-mining village – the King is coming! The Crown Prince was overjoyed! My father is coming! But as the Crown Prince stood amongst the small crowd of villagers that lined the village road, he came to a horrible realization. All of the villager’s faces were blackened with soot. He understood that his own face was no different than the faces of any of the villagers. All of them were covered with the dust from the coal-mine, and there was no way that his father would begin to recognize him. These were his thoughts as the King’s chariot came into sight, and while the villagers were cheering, the Crown Prince was crying. In his anguish he was hardly able to speak, but he managed one word: “Father!” The King turned to see where the cry came from, and he saw his son.
The tears streaking down his face had washed away just a bit of the dirt so that his true nature could shine through.
We are the sons of the Living God. But we are covered with dirt. All that our Father in Heaven wants from us is a bit of sincerity – that goes through and through – so that He could recognize in us the true colors of the Crown Prince.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal
Yisroel, I always look forward to your posts.
How does your view of sin resonate with what Rabbi Hirsch writes below?
“Open almost any “Introduction to Judaism” book, or consult almost any commentary to the High Holiday mahzor, and one inevitably finds the explanation that the Hebrew word het (sin) means something like “missing the mark” — as if life were no more than a game of darts. Our moral and relational failures receive a soothing bromide of reassurance: We need only try harder next time, with hope that we’ll hit the target more often. The operative concept is that we need to be reassured, rather than reassessed.”
To “hit the mark”, you need reassessment and hopefully future success (as determined by God “our target” in your “game of life”).
Some believe in an alternative game, were someone else threw the “darts” and if you believe that man “did not miss the mark” and you admired his skill and “would have cheered him on” and you “win the game” also. Or else you are unmercifully thrown in a raging fire like so much worthless garbage, despite your having being created (given Life) by a loving, forgiving father.
Your quote is not from Rabbi Hirsch (at least not the Rabbi Hirsch that is respected by Orthodox Judaism). Sin is the most terrible thing in the world according to the Torah. In fact – one of Judaism’s problems with Christianity is that it seems that Christians are more interested in avoiding the result of sin (punishment) than they are interested in avoiding sin itself. The fact that repentance works does not mitigate the horror of sin in teh slightest – its just that God’s ways are higher than ours – its not for us to understand – but to trust.
It seems Christians aren’t interested in avoiding sin, only punishment? You can’t be serious rabbi. Christians are very concerned about repentance (within the context of the ethics that the NT teaches them to know and learn, which it is true lack a halachic flavor, but in no sense lack fear of G-d.) Christians go around the world teaching various non Jews about a biblical life, worship and love of G-d, and about the importance of charity for the less fortunate, as well as helping them in being self sufficient in productive living. I know that there is love of G-d, and awe in services in synagogues, but I can’t say that I see different among G-d fearing Christians in a church.
The statements in responses on this post that imply something like “blind faith in Jesus or burn in hell” are just a pitiful caricature of the views of some evangelical Protestant Christians. This level of rhetoric is just as inflammatory and Ill founded as pitiful statements demeaning Judaism. This blog is capable of better.
I wrote that they are MORE interested – I did not write that they aren’t interested. Pray tell – in what way are you a concerned reader? or is your concern unrelated to your reading?
I’m concerned because of the fact that two well meaning G-d fearing communities are always at each other’s throats, and it makes G-d look bad. It’s also just a name that stands out. 😉
Not true, Con! One community is at the other’s throat; there is no moral equivalence here. If Christian missionaries would leave Jews alone, this blog would not exist. If you were really concerned, you would beg your Christian brothers to cease their mission to the Jews.
First there was the missionary. THEN there was the countermissionary. Jewish criticism of Christianity has only ever been in response to Christian missionary attempts upon Jews. Why do you think this type of criticism is directed only at Christianity? Other religions don’t make these attempts.
Why do you find this so hard to understand? This is not the first time this has been pointed out to you.
If you were really concerned, you would beg your Christian brothers to cease their mission to the Jews.
Dina, I do beg my Christian brethren to leave Jews alone, and not to seek their conversion. G-d has given Jews the Torah (Which Jesus and his students also observed,) so if a Christian tries to take you away from observance, he or she is a religious hypocrite.
If the path that Christians say pointed to and prefigured Jesus (the Torah and the mitzvot) is no longer a valid path to Hahsem with the coming of Jesus, then it could never consistently be said to have pointed to Jesus at al in the first place.
You have asked why I have a different standard for Jews and Christians. I do not. Gentile Christians were introduced to G-d and covenant via Jesus’ students who based their ethical teachings for them on a second temple equivalent to the seven laws.
Galatians 3:17 What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, DOES NOT set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
With this line of Paul’s reasoning, the Gospel cannot annul the 613 of the Torah of Moses from Sinai, as this would annul the promises, just as it would annul the promises to require gentiles to convert to Judaism! Redemption is supposed to be Jews worshipping G-d on their level, together with Gentiles worshiping G-d on their level. G-d loves us both equally, even if we have different roles to play. 🙂
You wrote, “I do beg my Christian brethren to leave Jews alone, and not to seek their conversion.”
I am happy to hear it, and that raises you in my estimation, for sure. But I have to ask you why you are on this blog arguing against Jews whose raison d’être for this blog is fending off Christian missionaries.
Dina, it is not meant maliciously for your average gentile Christians (who never received the 613 commands of the Torah from Sinai as binding Acts 15,) to come to you with the truth as they received it to be, that is as a halachically minimalistic approach.
They are wrong to tell Jews themselves to leave observance, even from the NT context, but if they are judging biblical faith solely from the context of the teaching that they themselves received to observe,(all of the particular Sinai mitzvot were never intended for them to observe by the apostles.) So, is it surprising or inconsistent that those gentiles (who came to faith in G-d through Jesus) to come to you and ask or say, are the particular mitzvot still really relevant? -Just a thought, not meant to offend.
Con, Christian gentiles aren’t just approaching Jews and asking them if the mitzvos are really relevant, then listening to their answer with keen interest. Take your head out of the sand! The missionaries who target Jews for conversion do so aggressively, they use deceptive tactics, and they know not to approach Jews who have a thorough grounding in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., Orthodox Jews).
If they would stop and think for half a second they would realize why this is unethical as well as demeaning.
Dina, the reason I’m on this blog responding to so many points raised is not to strengthen missionaries, it is to defend the faith of the well meaning Christians who happen upon the site and get caught in the middle of the missionary counter missionary fray. There are a great many Christians out there who have never even met Jewish people, much less tried to convert them maliciously or at all. Everyone who believes they posses a truth wishes to share that truth, that’s just human. I understand completely the harm of millions of dollars going into missions work to convert Jews. It’s terrible. Faith should never be a matter of strong arming or barrage, but of free choice and personal conviction.
I’ve actually found that the greatest tools against Christian missionary zeal and efforts are to show them the halachic content (noachide ethics) debates, and second temple context (though it is scanty) in the New Testament literature. If Christians can see Jesus’ discussions in the historical context of the Judaism in which he originally gave them, Judaism will cease to be an issue for Christians, because it’s in our book too. Ignorance of the relevance of the whole law in Jesus’ teachings leads Christians to understand only what they were initially taught, namely a variant of noachide law, and they preach solely based on that minimal requirement. It’s not a fault that Christians don’t know what they were never taught. I love to point out parallels and connections to Christians.
For instance, did you know that the only mention of Hannukah outside of Maccabees and rabbinic literature is the gospel of John? I’ve always said to my Christian friends, “who brought the notion of Jesus to us?” “Jewish people,” they say inevitably. I say, ok. Jews got the memo because Jews themselves gave the memo to us!
Con, what is wrong, in your view, with a well-meaning Christian being persuaded by the Jewish position?
The first time sin appears in Torah is after Cain killed Abel — God said to Cain, “Sin crouches at your door – it desires you – but you must master it”. We need to choose what is right – but we read in Torah over and over again of an offering – a sacrifice. That was Abraham’s heart when God called him to take his son, his only son, and sacrifice him on the alter. But God – He provided the sacrifice – a ram who it’s horn caught in the thicket.
Along with our mastering sin that crouches at the door of our heart – there is a Sacrifice – an Offering – which Atones for our sin.
O Israel – may your eyes be opened to see beyond the veil!!! May your Beloved open your eyes to see Him for Whom you have to do! He knows you – do you know Him – O Israel – the One Who Is your Offering?
What was Adam & Eve’s “offering” that atoned for their sins and allowed for them to live? What was Cain’s offering that allowed him to live on and to build a great city? Was Abel a sacrifice for previous sins & for whose? His initial offering was pleasing to God, so his life should have been spared. And Abel was not “offered” by Adsm, Eve, or Cain, but his innocent blood and his life should have been, according to you and your belief in a blood-thirsty god, enough to atone for ALL previous (and possibly even future) human sins? If Cain had originally chosen another path (& he knew what God wanted & knew what was right), there would have been no sin for him to master over. He would not have taken a path anywhere near where “sin crouched”.
And for what great & grievious sins of Abraham (or of all of mankind?) was Isaac’s life demanded? And did Abraham know he was sacrificing for his sins (sins of his heart, as you put it, or for sins of all mankind)? And why aren’t we told about that? And is God only concerned about quantity & not quality, since according to you a ram and Isaac are of equal value? And according to Torah, an offering of flour is “enough” of a sacrifice for many people; no blood is required. And according to God’s Word in Tanach, God does not demand (does not even want) any physical sacrifice, since prayer and acts of mercy & kindness is what God really wants. And offerings only have meaning if it comes us. from our heart, our repentance, since by the very definition of the words, a sacrifice or an offering, God really can’t give “an offering” to himself. Do you know that the meanings of words are important? And Do you even know God?
This was quickly written while I was in a rush; please forgive me
Yisroel click on the link in my comment and see which rabbi Hirsch it is, and also the context of the above quote I gave.
Bography, may I gently inquire as to the relevance of your question? What is the point in asking an orthodox rabbi for remarks on reconstructionist theology? What exactly is your question?
Let me quote an excerpt that follows on from the pararaph I quoted above, which may shed more light. I include the paragraph I quoted earlier:
Since Reconstructionist Judaism affirms a conception of God as a force, power or process — but not as a supernatural Being who can be addressed and can respond — is it a necessary corollary to convert the concept of sin to something either minimal or meaningless? Can a Reconstructionist sin?
The founder of Reconstructionism, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, addressed this issue in 1937 (in The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion): “The term sin is a word that for most people has been emptied of meaning . . . If sin has no meaning, there is no need for repentance, and the whole observance of the Day of Atonement becomes much ado about nothing . . . The fact, however, that a word loses favor does not necessarily signify that it is without meaning.”
Kaplan tried to redefine the meaning of sin so that it retained its power: “Sin can no longer mean the provocation of God’s wrath through disobedience to His [sic] revealed law, nor can atonement mean the restoration to His grace by a pledge of future obedience, however sincere.” Identifying God with “that aspect of reality which confers meaning and value on life and elicits from us those ideals that determine the course of human progress,” Kaplan asserted that “the failure to live up to the best that is in us means that our souls are not attuned to the divine, that we have betrayed God.”
If we substitute “we have sinned” for “we have betrayed God,” we get a rather gentle reinterpretation — something like “sin lite,” which, for all of its intellectual compatibility with Reconstructionist theology, seems rather weak and not particularly challenging.
Kaplan is hardly alone in reducing the severity of sin. Open almost any “Introduction to Judaism” book, or consult almost any commentary to the High Holiday mahzor, and one inevitably finds the explanation that the Hebrew word het (sin) means something like “missing the mark” — as if life were no more than a game of darts. Our moral and relational failures receive a soothing bromide of reassurance: We need only try harder next time, with hope that we’ll hit the target more often. The operative concept is that we need to be reassured, rather than reassessed.
But without first engaging seriously in a deep moral inventory, how can we honestly move forward in life? Without the courage to descend into the depths of our failures, how can we presume to ascend in pursuit of our better self? As the Reconstructionist mahzor states, “reducing sin to the status of an almost inadvertent error hardly seems tenable in the light of our awareness of the horrors of which humans, individually as well as collectively, have proved capable.” The concept of sin, in fact, seems more, rather than less, important as we move into the 21st century — not for what it tells us about God, but for what it suggests to us about ourselves.
Thomas, I see that I did not include the paragraph I quoted earlier.But that’s ok.
Bography, I did read the article on the link you provided earlier, but when I asked for clarification, copying and pasting paragraphs doesn’t quite answer the question. I’m just not sure what you are asking of the rabbi here- and why reconstructionist theology is a topic you are asking him about. Are you asking the rabbi for the orthodox position on the concept of ‘sin?’ If so, he did provide something above. I am still rather mystified as to what question you’re asking.
What I believe he is trying to say is that Rabbi Hirsh does not want Jews to minimize sin as tauught in the Christian doctrine of grace.
For example, on http://www.newcovenantgrace.com/christians-repent/, we read that “If you read Heb 10:1-23 you will see God does not want us to be conscious of our sins anymore (like the people were under the old covenant),… Repent also means something entirely different under the new covenant…. This means when we make a mistake, all we simply have to do is change our thoughts….. The new covenant does not tell us to repent of our sins. Yes Jesus & John (and also Paul & Peter) told people to repent and be baptized, but Jesus and John we preaching under the old covenant to people that were still under the law…. Nowhere in the new covenant does it tell BELIEVERS to repent of their sins.”
So, sin is just a “mistake” and all you have to do is “change your thoughts” because you (i.e., all mankind) were forgiven of all yours sins by a man over 2000 years.
I’m getting antsy for a new article!
Reblogged this on 1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources.
Con, what is wrong, in your view, with a well-meaning Christian being persuaded by the Jewish position?
Dina, not a thing is wrong with sharing your position, or with people being persuaded by it. The issue comes in for me when Christians tell people what they actually believe, how they define themselves, and how they too guard their definitions carefully to guard monotheism, but in spite of all that, their doctrines are judged by appeals to incorrect perceptions of Christian beliefs, or charges that they are merely justifying falsehood. Nothing about their historical self definition is given any merit.
If Judaism defines itself as believing in belief x, even if it looks to me personally like belief Y, I have to take that self understanding that’s present into account in order not to misjudge the position.
Christians do this to Judaism all the time and it drives me crazy. I’m sure you have noticed that I’ve never asked anyone here to believe in Jesus. I have only shown, that there is a history to this belief system, ties and resonances to many ideas from Judaism’s past, a visibly strong impact the movement has had against polytheism, and plenty of diversity within this movement, that should prevent it from being painted with a broad brush. If I hear people bad mouthing Judaism, I step in, I do the same for Christianity.
Con, let’s say that I accept your argument that this blog regularly misrepresents Christianity and then attacks that misrepresentation. I don’t, but let’s just say for argument’s sake.
Let’s say your well-meaning, average Christian buys into that. What consequences do you fear in that case that you feel the need to defend Christianity on this blog? In other words, so what if Christians are persuaded by our wrong arguments?
Con, it’s true that you have not exhorted any Jews here to accept belief in Jesus, and I commend you for that. I have asked you repeatedly, however, how you can accept that belief in Jesus is appropriate for Christians and not for Jews. He either is or is not the Messiah; we can’t both be right. You have still failed to satisfactorily respond to this question. You simply point to the fact that the gospels command Jews to continue in their Torah observance.
But that’s not the whole story. In the gospels, Jesus addresses a Jewish-only audience. He demands belief in himself. The best you could say is that the gospels demand Torah observance *along with* a belief in Jesus. So why are you okay with Jewish rejection of Jesus, in light of the dire warnings Jesus gave to the Jews who would not accept him (Luke 19:27; Mark 16:16; John 3:36; John 14:6)?
Take your head out of the sand! The missionaries who target Jews for conversion do so aggressively, they use deceptive tactics, and they know not to approach Jews who have a thorough grounding in the Hebrew Scriptures (i.e., Orthodox Jews).
Note Dina that what I wrote to you in my comment was not written as regarding the missionaries, I believe my comment stated that, but regarding everyday average Christians who happen on the blog. Your average non preacher is not using deception, they are reading and sharing what they know and believe, which is sadly often just a king James English reading of their Bible. I agree that it’s very bad that they don’t know more, but to believe that all of them are out to get you is just not accurate.
Con, fair enough.