Sinai and Sabbath, for what Purpose? – A Response to Charles
I apologize for my delay in responding to you and I hope that your relative is doing well.
You seem to be under the impression that your comments are not welcome here. Please be assured that this is not the case. I would appreciate if you would do more to understand what I am actually driving at – but either way, your comments are welcome – if they weren’t I would simply block them.
Your comments are welcome but your warnings – I wouldn’t say that they are not welcome but I will say that they are useless. Anyone could issue “warnings” and call them “sober”. The purpose of this blog is to hammer things out through open discussion and those who participate in this discussion generally don’t care much for unsubstantiated warnings.
About Isaac Lichtenstein – Your entitling him with the honorific “Chief Rabbi of Hungary” simply fit into a pattern of missionary dishonesty concerning converts to their belief – I can accept that it was an honest mistake – but you should look to the honesty of missionary descriptions – both of their friends and of their opponents – starting from the Christian Scriptures.
Now let us get to the core of our difference. You argue that your “seeking to identify” the One who issues the commandments is not a violation of Deuteronomy 4:15. Charles, you are not “seeking to identify.” Why would you need to “seek to identify”? Didn’t David give us more than enough identifying information in his Psalms? If you seek to worship the God of Israel you can look into David’s heart and you will know Him. And David’s heart is an open book with 150 chapters.
Your “seeking to identify” is also not an abstract exercise to determine if God could theoretically incarnate Himself in a human body or if He has done so at some point in history. Your “seeking to identify” is an attempt to justify a specific worship. And it is this very worship that God is commanding us to avoid in this passage in Deuteronomy.
You say that you do not claim that Israel has no voice, merely that rabbinic Judaism is not that voice. You go on to quote various passages which speak of the law as testimony.
Just as Scripture points to the Law as God’s witness so does Scripture explicitly identify Israel as God’s witness. In other words God is pointing to a specific group of people that go by a specific name and calling them His witnesses. You are shutting out the testimony of the only people who go by that name.
You claim that man is capable of perfection. This is contradicted by Scripture. Even angels are not capable of perfection in God’s holy eyes (Job 4:18).
You go on to say that the best of men are lighter than vanity. Here you conform to Scripture. Indeed all flesh is but grass that withers away (Isaiah 40:6). There is no reason to believe that Jesus is an exception to this Scriptural rule.
I accused you of making Sinai out to be a “pathetic joke.” You tell me that I profoundly misunderstand your position. You go on to write that the purpose of Sinai is twofold; to demonstrate God’s character and to demonstrate our woeful shortcomings.
This is Charles’ explanation of the purpose of Sinai and it is not the Scriptural explanation for the purpose of Sinai. It seems that you refer here to the general covenant of Sinai. I was referring to the specific revelation that was granted to the people as whole and the purpose of that revelation was to put the fear of God into them, to show Israel that there is no other power aside from God and who it is that they are to worship (Exodus 20:17,19; Deuteronomy 4:15,35). The Sinai revelation set the Jewish people apart from other national entities in that through this revelation did God show His closeness to them like to no other. The understanding that Israel received at Sinai stands apart from the understanding that any other nation received of God. (Deuteronomy 4:32-35).
By encouraging a worship that violates the testimony of Sinai and by giving a purpose to Sinai other than the purpose that the Author of Sinai ascribed to it – you have indeed made Sinai into a pathetic joke.
You say that the “essence of Sabbath for the heart lies only in real atonement” and you quote Leviticus 16:30-31 in support of your theory. As if the Hebrew words “Shabbat shabbaton” were only written in the context of the Day of Atonement. You seem not to have noticed that this expression is used in the context of the weekly Sabbath as well as the sabbatical year (Exodus 31:15; 35:2; Leviticus 23:3; 25:4) – and the Torah does not associate these with atonement at all.
I will take this opportunity to point out to you how it is that you manipulate the word of God. I pointed out to you how God emphasized the Sabbath. You deflected this point by attaching to the Sabbath a concept that Scripture does not connect to the Sabbath in any explicit way in order to deflect the point of the Sabbath – which is that it testifies to the great truth that all of existence is God’s creation, that Israel is sanctified by God and that the Jewish people were slaves in Egypt and that they were redeemed from there by God’s own hand (Genesis 2:3; Exodus 20:11; 31:13,17; Deuteronomy 5:15).
You further manipulate God’s word by dismissing the significance of the sequence of events described in Deuteronomy 30 verses 1 thru 10. By dismissing the sequence you eviscerate the passage. The entire thrust of the passage is that we are capable of repentance and the evidence to this is that the succeeding passage begins with the word “ki” – “because”. And the Scripture goes on to explain that the Law is not too difficult for us. If the sequence is to be ignored as you say then verses 11 thru 14 disconnect from verses 1 thru 10 while the Scriptures explicitly connect them.
In our discussion about Hosea 12:5 you try your hand at reading Rashi and the Talmud. You fare no better with these than you do with Scripture. Rashi does not put the second verb (“pleaded”) as something that Jacob did. Rashi simply provides the context for the angel’s pleading – it was when Jacob declared that he will not let the angel go unless it blessed him. Rashi goes on to describe how the angel pleaded with Jacob to relent and allow him to go without giving the blessing. Your read on the Talmud has it that there is some type of argument as to who wept before who when no such argument exists. What the Talmud is saying is that if we were to look at the verse in Hosea we could interpret things either way – we could say that the angel wept before Jacob or that Jacob wept before the angel but the Talmud concludes that when we look at the passage in Genesis we can decisively determine that it was the angel who wept before Jacob. There is no argument in the Talmud about this matter.
The Christian read on this passage in Hosea reflects the Christian resentment of one of the men who was loved by God (Deuteronomy 10:15) – as if by dismissing the father they can dismiss the testimony of his children. The entire point of the episode described in Genesis is that Jacob was victorious over the angel. What is the point of victory if the victor needs to cry and plead before the vanquished?
You asked me to cite your manipulations of Scripture. You did my work for me but to recap – the fact that you attribute a purpose to Sinai other than the purpose attributed to it by God, the fact that you attribute a purpose to Sabbath other than the ones attributed to it by God and the fact that you dismiss the sequence of the passage in Deuteronomy 30:1-10 are three prime examples.
You write that if we reject God’s only remedy we will surely perish. You cite the brass serpent as an example of a remedy that God provided. Perhaps you are aware that the brass serpent eventually became an object that enabled rebellion against God (2Kings 18:4). Applying a remedy for one situation to a situation where God never applied it is not “following God.” God provided the only remedy from our troubles and that is repentance, returning to the Law of Moses (Deuteronomy 4:30; 30:2). Indeed, if we reject God’s only remedy we shall perish.
You ask if it is proper to call those rejected permanently by the title – “God’s children.” I agree with you here as well. Those who were cut off from the body of the nation such as the followers of Jesus and other false prophets that preceded them (Ezekiel 13:9) cannot lay claim to being God’s children. But those who were allowed to continue to carry the name “Israel” through fire and water can be confident that they are indeed God’s children. – Yes, if they will stray after the idols of the nations and do not repent they can be cut off as well, but it is to those who carry the name Israel that God’s promises are valid.
You ask about the situation when the majority of the congregation and the accredited priests and prophets were apostate what criteria could I apply to judge and determine if God had spoken or not. I answered this question many times but I will do so again now for your benefit. God always had a remnant that was loyal to Him and to His Law. This remnant is identified not by the titles that they hold or by their social connections but by their loyalty to the inheritance of Jacob (Deuteronomy 33:4).
You ask “what better means than apparently hallowed traditions to ensnare the unwary.” You quote several irrelevant Scriptural citations to support your argument. You seem to have forgotten the relevant Scripture – Daniel 11:14. Setting up a false vision is the means that God told us that will be used to cause stumbling.
The comparison of one kingdom to gold, another to silver, then copper Iron and pottery is explained very clearly by the Scripture itself – Daniel 1:37-43. No need for further speculation unless you don’t take the word of God seriously.
You encourage all “objective” students to study the series of singular pronouns in Daniel 7 verses 13 and 14 and decide carefully whether the reference is to an exalted individual or a nation. Charles, here we have Scripture itself giving us an explanation of the vision. You want to ignore Scriptures explanation and focus on the “series of singular pronouns.” That is your prerogative but do not think that your calling such an exercise “objective” will actually make it “objective.”
As for Psalm 2:12 – If the correct translation is “son” then there is no question that it refers to the son of verse 7 and I never disputed that. What I did say is that the kissing does not necessarily signify worship. Even the word “prayer” is used for submission to humans (Isaiah 45:14). It is indeed a foundation of quicksand to build your theology on this reference while ignoring God’s explicit and clear commandments.
You encourage private reverent introspection and this is indeed an important aspect of our walk before God. But to turn to private introspection while closing our ears to the direct words of God will not bring us any closer to His truth.
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Yisroel C. Blumenthal