The Second Commandment – a letter by Concerned Reader

The exile could not possibly be caused by Israel refusing to pray to or pay homage to a son of man, Period! Do you know how I know this clearly and unambiguously?

“You saw no form of any kind the day the LORD spoke to you at Horeb out of the fire. Therefore watch yourselves very carefully, so that you do not become corrupt and make for yourselves an idol, an image of any shape, whether formed like a man or a woman, or like any animal on earth or any bird that flies in the air, or like any creature that moves along the ground or any fish in the waters below. And when you look up to the sky and see the sun, the moon and the stars–all the heavenly array–do not be enticed into bowing down to them and worshiping things the LORD your God has apportioned to all the nations under heaven.” (Deuteronomy 4:15-19)

Your gospel texts confirm that I have the right reading of Deuteronomy 4 because when the beast of revelation comes seeking worship as a man claiming to be a god sitting in the temple, your book tells you to ignore such a one at the cost of your very life.

Ergo, you have a double standard, special pleading, and cognitive dissonance that you are applying unconsciously only in the case of the Nazarene.

I say the Bible teaches unilaterally not to pray to or pay homage to anything that looks like a human being.

You would say the same, but you make an exception for Jesus.

However, I do not even see a physical Nazarene anywhere on planet earth at the moment do you?
You say he is in heaven!

Meanwhile, I see images, sects, and pop culture images everywhere!

So, in the here and now, what is it in terms of actual divine service that you are advocating?

Christian services.

You would love people to go to a Church on Sunday, or Saturday and look at a wooden image of a man on a cross, and hear the stories, hoping that they be reminded and associate this image and various prophetic texts with Yeshua who died 2,000 years ago.

The verses I gave you just above would completely contradict this kind of religious service in form if not functionally as foreign to the covenant.

You never met Jesus, neither did I, we only heard the stories from pastors and family. Based on these stories, we went to Church, where we saw crosses or Crucifixes, and they said “Jesus died for you” pointing to that image!

Imagine if instead of a golden calf, Israel had made a golden Moses.

Based off of their memories of him, they teach the people.

Imagine that while Moses is on the mountain, the people of Israel are telling stories of his mighty works and setting up communities. People go to large temples and gaze at the Golden Moses behind the pulpit and they are healed from all matter of diseases. They sing songs about Moses, they celebrate his birth, his miraculous escape from Egyot, and they await the day he will return.

Now, imagine that he is on the mountain for 1,000 years. Everyone who knew him while he was on earth has died. Are you telling me that he would recognize a damn thing when he comes down with the tablets of the law?

I submit to you, that this is the only kind of service you could ever be advocating for concerning Jesus, because that kind of service is all the gospels have to offer.

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12 Responses to The Second Commandment – a letter by Concerned Reader

  1. Dina says:

    Crystal clarity, Con!

  2. Sharon S says:

    Hi Concerned Reader/Rabbi Blumenthal,

    Appreciate if you can explain further about Daniel 9:24 . From plain reading , it seems that Israel/remnant of Israel that survived the first temple destruction and exile have to achieve six tasks/milestones in the 490 period as follows:
    1.To finish transgression
    2.To put an end to sin
    3.To atone for wickedness
    4.To bring in everlasting righteousness
    5.To seal up vision and prophecy
    6.To anoint the Most Holy Place

    I noticed that there is not much literature explaining on this specific verse. Furthermore Jewish countermissionaries like Rabbi Blumenthal and Skobac have different interpretations of this verse. I have enquired on this topic earlier here https://judaismresources.net/2015/05/07/circumcise-your-heart/#comment-61615 but there was no reply.

    In my opinion , the failure of the Jewish nation to abide by the stipulations of Daniel 9:24 is the reason behind their exile.

    Could it be that it is not possible for the Jewish nation to achieve this on their own efforts? That something , or rather someone is able to achieve what they could not achieve and that His achievement brings blessing to the world?

    That is the thought process in my mind as I pondered over this particular verse.

    What about Isaiah 42:6-7? Who meets the description of being ” light for the Gentiles, open eyes that are blind or free captives from prison”? Are these verses to be taken literally or metaphorically?

    Do you think that Christians believe in Jesus just from hearing stories about him? What about the impact of his stories on their lives? How these stories change societies from being pagan to believing the God Israel? How these stories cause the Jewish Bible to be made available in many languages , circulated to the remotest parts of the earth , including my own native language?

    What about the fact that Jesus expanded Torah application beyond the traditional understanding of the Jewish nation, then and now? A good example will be the command to love one’s neighbour. Who is my “neighbour”? Most Jewish Rabbis from my observation limits this to fellow Jews. Rabbi Jesus expanded this word to include the Samaritan , who are not considered Jews.

    So how should I ,who have been taught that “neighbour” could be anyone that I come across and to whom I should assist , regard this verse? Should I follow the Jewish people and just narrow it to my community? That to me will be going back to stone age! I asked this question in this blog here https://judaismresources.net/2019/03/28/the-oral-law-in-judaism-and-christianity-by-jim/#comment-64000. There was no reply, but rather I detect an attempt to evade this question by the person to whom this question was addressed to.

    What can I conclude from all this? The belief of Christians which seems simplistic or cultic has in fact changed the lives of many and expanded the applicability of Torah truths to all people.

    God is one ,but what is the point when the applicability of His truths are restricted to a few? Could it be that Deuteronomy 4 is only meant for the Jewish nation and not to all ?

    • Jim says:

      Sharon,

      It is not safe to make assumptions about why someone has not answered you. It most usually leads one to faulty conclusions.

      Your questions are unsound and biased. Because Jesus is a false prophet, it really does not matter whether or not he taught something that you believe expands the traditional understanding of the Torah. It is unsound methodologically to judge the teachings of the Torah or even the teachings of the sages by the measure of the false prophet. Moreover, in order for you to assert that Jesus filled the world with light, you must ignore the great darkness that he brought as well, pogroms and inquisitions. The “Prince of Peace” is a title to which he is most uniquely unsuited.

      And indeed, the light that he is supposed to have brought to the nations, he most assuredly did not bring. He, coming only to the lost sheep of Israel, undertook no mission to preach to the non-Jewish world. And it is quite clear that he did not teach his disciples that they should do it in his name.

      Moreover, in your attempts to find a means to give credence to the teaching of Jesus, you have found it useful to misrepresent the teachings of the Jewish people. You study them insufficiently, jump to conclusions, and declare them bigoted without ever understanding them. A constant accusation of Jewish insularity underlies your comments and questions. It is ugly. Moreover, it is inconceivable that you would minimize Christian crimes, against even their own, while attempting to convict the Jewish people of having a “Stone Age” mentality. The Iron Age of Christianity has not proved to be so enlightened.

      Finally, on a semi-related note: Sharon, you have taken it upon yourself to judge the motives of your interlocutors on several occasions, attributing to them motives that you cannot know to be true. While this is unkind, the greatest unkindness to it is done to yourself. In attributing maliciousness to others, you fail to digest what they have written. In taking things in the least charitable light, you fail to see clearly their arguments. I doubt that I am the only one here that cares deeply for your well-being. When you attribute bad motives to such people, you turn away their aid.

      Consider the case of Rabbi Shulman. You were outraged by a response that he gave you. Instead of asking him for clarification, you told him off. From what you wrote of your exchange, I certainly did not see anything offensive in his response to you. Obviously, I understood it differently than you did. In reacting the way that you did, it is quite possible that you denied yourself a valuable teacher.

      But, that is your business.

      With respect,

      Jim

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi Jim,

        Hope you are well.

        Let me put to you again the questions posed to you before:

        You wrote that Christian needs to ask the Jewish people for the meaning of the Torah. I have done that , however , the following questions come to mind.

        •Should I ignore or abandon the universal interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 (like the divinity of Jesus or the Trinity) just because this Torah interpretation comes from the Church ?

        •If the answer to the above is yes , should I then follow the insular interpretation by the Jewish people because the Torah is entrusted to them and hence ,stop seeing those who are not from my community or ethnicity(s) as neighbors ?

        •If the answer to the above is yes , then what lessons can you and me , both non Jews learn from Leviticus 19:18 ? This command is addressed to the Jewish nation alone to preserve the love and unity within the nation. How does this command apply to the non Jew?

        Appreciate if you can answer the question directly rather than using the usual rhetoric.

        If these questions come from a non Christian , would you respond in the same manner?

        You identify yourself as a Noahide right? From your writings , it seems that you have learnt about Leviticus 19:18 before . You must have had a different understanding as compared to now. Please explain why should I accept the Jewish interpretation of this verse.

        If indeed the interpretation of Leviticus 19:18 is restricted to the Jewish nation, then what about Deuteronomy 4? Is this command restricted to the Jewish nation as well?

      • Sharon S says:

        Hi Jim ,

        I would like to respond to your comment on Rabbi Shulman and how my reaction may cause me a valuable teacher.

        I did reach out to Rabbi Shulman after that conversation. To be honest , he did not teach me anything valuable at all. He kept on reminding me of my place as a non Jew. Refer an excerpt from our conversation below:

        Rabbi: Being more or less holy has nothing to do with ‘cleanliness’. Actually the opposite is the case something more ‘holy’ Is more susceptible to becoming unclean in the Biblical sense of the word.  

        Sharon (me) : I hope you don’t mind if I ask you another question. I have been thinking of returning to the Catholic church for quite a while.  After all , I learnt that Christianity is classified as Shituf, not outright idolatry .

        It is not forbidden for non Jews to engage in Shituf , though it’s less than ideal.  Am I , a non Jew considered to have sinned against God if I worship Jesus despite  being aware God forbids  idolatry, including shituf to the Jew in the Torah and Tanakh?

        Rabbi : Yes it is a sin. You should avoid it.

        Me   :  You wrote the more”holy”‘ should be more careful about impurities. If I go by your statement then it is fine for the  “unholy” person to be less than careful with  impurities. 

        Why then do you write that shituf is a sin for a less than holy person like me? 

        Rabbi : As far as how God looks at people, I think it and be compared to children. A parent loves all his children, but will feel especially close to the ones who treat him better.

         Shituf is essentially not believing in the true God. And if you worship Shituf it is idol worship and God does punish a non-Jew for that.

        Me :Is it fair for God to love more those who treat him better when those who love Him less does not have the same abilities /opportunities as those whom He love more?

        How can anyone relate to such God , if that is how you describe Him? 

        Why is the belief in the Trinity is placed at the same level as idol worship? If the less holy should not be too concerned about impure things then it should not be a sin for a Gentile to engage in this worship, right?

         In Deuteronomy 4:19 , God has apportioned intermediaries for all nations, except for Israel  to worship.

        Rabbi : No reply

        What do you think of this conversation? Is there anything valuable that I can learn from this Rabbi?

        I do not intend to impute bad motives on other people , especially to a respected Rabbi like Rabbi Shulman . I am aware that he he did a series in Tenak Talk. The reason I write of this to make you and everyone reading to be more aware and to question claims made by both missionaries and countermissionaries. What you see in their blogs may not be what you get when you converse in person. To consider also,in the words of another Rabbi I know, ” there is one Truth, but all of us stands in different positions when it comes to this truth”.

        • Jim says:

          Sharon,

          Yes, I think you have lost a valuable teacher in Rabbi Shulman. However, I do find certain elements of your discussion with him troubling.

          The first is that you have given up any search for the truth. Some time ago, you wrote to me that this was all you wanted, to find the truth. If that is your goal, your questions do not reflect it. You know that Jesus is not divine. You know that he is a false prophet. And yet, you look for permission to worship a false god. If one is concerned with truth, he does not seek justification to worship what is false.

          It is a highly dubious proposition that worshiping a being in conjunction with God is allowed to one who knows better. If it is forgiven the non-Jew, this is most likely due to the fact that for the non-Jew this is an improvement. He has begun to recognize and acknowledge his Creator, when he previously did not. But this is based on his ignorance. If one knows better, it is doubtful he is extended the same forgiveness. It has become an intentional denial of the Creator.

          Your comment to Rabbi Shulman regarding a greater reward to those that have a greater ability to love has no bearing on the conversation; it is a distraction. One who follows after false gods, knowing that they are false gods, has not devoted himself to worshiping God. He has not loved God to the ability he has, whether or not that ability is less than that of others. Will such a person complain that someone else can be closer to God, when he does not even exert himself to become as close as he can? When he does not even take the first step of eliminating competing objects of devotion? The question is not whether or not someone else has a greater potential to be close to God, because that was not even the topic. The question is whether or not one becomes close to God while devoting his energies to false gods, gods he knows to be false. In shifting the conversation, you muddied the waters.

          Moreover, your abuse of scripture is distressing. Deuteronomy 4 does not condone the worshiping of created objects on behalf of the non-Jewish world. And this has been discussed in the past. So I will just focus on the inconsistency of your methodology. You deny that the Oral Torah is relevant to you. You deny that sufficient grounds are presented that would prohibit the non-Jew from worshiping created objects and beings. Yet, you attempt to use the Oral Torah to justify the worship of a human being. On the one hand, you deny it and on the other you attempt to make use of its authority.

          Similarly, you attempt to demonstrate that Christianity is more enlightened than Judaism regarding loving one’s neighbor. But, when it comes to loving God, you want the Stone Age permission of the Torah to worship false gods. (Not that the Torah permits this. That is your own distorted interpretation.)

          Your arguments and questions all go to seeking a desired answer, not the truth, but justification for worshiping Jesus. They are biased. They are unsound.

          You cannot give idolatry a veneer of legitimacy by appealing to the Torah.

          Jim

          P.S. I will be away from home for the next three weeks.

          • Sharon S says:

            Hi Jim,

            Thank you for your patience with me. My apologies if these queries take up your time.

            Please look at last week’s Torah portion (Parsha Noach). Did God wipe out humanity during the flood just because of idolatry? No. God did not wipe out humanity when they decided to “wage war” against Him by building a tower which will reach the heavens.God disperse that generation instead due to their unity of purpose. This is what I learnt through reading commentaries by Rabbis and learned Jews , which is from the Oral Torah.I can only conclude , from the Oral Torah that idolatry in itself is not a grievous sin for the non Jew.

            Yes, you are right, I have given up my search for truth. I wanted to return to the faith I was born into and where I learnt important values like loving my neighbour. However please bear in mind that the Torah does not view idolatry as a grievous sin for the non Jew. The Jewish nation, who were given Revelation will be held more accountable , as can be seen from their history.

            My apologies for using the term “stone age” on the interpretation of the word “neighbour” in Jewish tradition. I do not intend to undermine Torah, but rather to highlight that it is a revelation which is only applicable to the Jewish nation. If the command of loving one’s neighbour is meant to be confined to within the Jewish nation, then is it wrong for me to conclude that Deuteronomy 4 is a command for the Jewish nation as well? Why must I , a non Jew abide by Deuteronomy 4 and ignore Leviticus 19:18 ? Why pick and choose?

            As citizens of our respective nations , we should abide by every law of the land. As a Malaysian , I am not bound by US laws . I am bound by these laws when I visit your country. Similarly, a US citizen like yourself are not bound to the laws of my country unless you visit my country. Likewise , the Torah is a body of laws and teaching for the Jewish nation. Are we , non Jews bound by it just because we come across these laws? Perhaps you might see this as another excuse to worship a false prophet, but I see these questions as important and need to be addressed.

            I understand from your “PS” that you might be busy. There is no need to reply .Thank you

  3. charles says:

    I think my posts are now being blocked (have tried a few times w/o success), but here goes.
    ‘Bible teaches unilaterally not to pray to or pay homage to anything that looks like a human being.’
    Again and again this ‘command’ is violated, by Moses, by Abraham, by Manoah and his wife, by Jacob, by Joshua, then the violation commended! If idolatry is acknowledging HaShem’s Similitude, the Tenach you read is inconsistent and flawed. Perhaps the idolatry He hates is rejecting the Similitude for an idol of your own conception, namely a formless fiction of a neo-Platonic Hellene? This is rejecting the Angel of the Covenant and His Sender.

    • charles Your comments are not blocked. So you are satisfied with millions of people throughout the ages facing a statue in worship – and that is not idolatry, but people to whom the songs of David still fill their hearts – that is idolatry?

      1000 Verses – a project of Judaism Resources wrote: >

  4. Concerned Reader says:

    Charles, while I see what you are talking about with regards to the angel of the lord and how it related to the patriarchs being problematic, one thing must be made explicitly clear. That angel is never identified with a person of flesh and blood from history in the Tanakh.

    Furthermore, as I explained to Bible819, the Christian Bible in its own way warns Christians (just as Tanakh does in Deuteronomy 4) not to accept a man of flesh and blood as divine.

    If Jews had pointed at any other messianic claimant, and made the statements like Christians make about Jesus, about any such person, the Christian world would say such a person was an antichrist.

    Even among themselves traditional Christians call other equally religious Christians idolaters depending on their christology.

    There are numerous examples of “idolatrous” Christologies in the canons of the Church, so it is not just Jews who would associate Jesus veneration, with idolatry.

    IE Mormons are considered idolaters for saying that the members of the trinity are 3 bodies, the Jehovah’s witness is called an idolater for saying Jesus is a created angel, and not eternal. Others are called idolaters for saying that Jesus is God the father.

    So, in truth, you are judging the understandable caution of the Jewish people to accept Christian claims too harshly, and inadvertently are allowing your own beliefs to be judged with a different less strict standard.

    I agree with you that those verses about the Malach of Hashem are problematic, (as you can see based on any conversation I have had with Rabbi B on the subject on the blog.) However, to make the immense leap from the unidentified angel to Jesus who lived in history (or any other person) is a leap you only make with ease because you already believe in it.

    Remember when God explicitly commanded Israel to fashion a serpent of Brass and look at it?

    That same brass serpent had to be destroyed because it was idolized.

    As for the charge of a platonic or Aristotilean monad replacing the God of the Bible, your own tradition has the likes of Aquinas, Tertullian, Augustine, and Jerome, who all did the same.

  5. Concerned Reader says:

    Sharon S, as I wrote to Charles, Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy in the Canons of the Church both already recognize certain christologies as being idolatrous, and consider it idolatry and antichrist if any other person were described the way that Jesus is described by Christians. So, really, Jews and Christians conceptually, should not need not argue.

    knowing that, why would you want to believe something if you cant have your heart in it?

    You know, it is possible for a persom to respect the ethics of Jesus, and to feel bad about him dying the way he did without wrapping him up in any theological pretzels (that you appear to recognize are silly.)

    I myself am not really religious anymore, religiously unaffiliated, but it doesn’t mean as literature that scripture is worthless or has no lessons.

    No less a person than Thomas Jefferson, as a deist, was able to seperate Jesus’ ethics from Christian theology.

    In fact, I think Jesus’ ethics can only actually work in a society when they are not paired with all the dogmas that seperate people into cliques and sects. People need freedom of conscience.

    In fact, having a freedom of conscience, a desire to question, and the love of exploring the narrative is the natural human approach to reading any piece of literature ever written.

    Its only with sacred texts that humans force themselves to treat these books differently.

    You mentioned dialogue with Moshe Shulman, and how you felt like you were being demoted in essence because of his notion of souls.

    Just remember, that notion is found nowhere in the Hebrew Bible.

    Moses’ wife was a non Jew, Joseph’s sons had an Egyptian mama.

    Today, those boys Ephraim and Menashe might have to go through a formal conversion because dad is Jewish, but not mom. 😉

    Now, I joke off course, but the point is, theological formulations that represent a person’s opinion do not hold weight.

    The Bible seems crystal clear that humans are meant to be equal.

    It also seems clear that one like a son of man is not meant to be an object of worship or divine service. Its clear even from a Christian viewpoint that this is the case.

    But, remember here to, that even when people know clearly, and are taught from birth the distinction between man and God, they still fall short.

    Look at the viceral, sometimes violent reactions that some Muslims have if you question or criticize Muhammad!

    Even when Muslims acknowledge freely as a point of doctrinal pride that their prophet was only a mortal man and not divine, (and some big name rabbis also recognize their commitment to pure monotheism,) they still venerate him way too much.

    Catholics do the same with Mary (even while admitting she was just a righteous human woman.)

    At some point, you just have to live as best you can, and dont beat yourself up.

    • Sharon S says:

      Hi Concerned Reader,

      Thank you for responding to my comments. I do appreciate it.

      Let me share a story. I once attended a funeral of my colleague’s father. It was the first time I attended a Chinese funeral. I noticed at the funeral that there were replicas of houses , cars, cash etc. These were made of paper,with intricate designs which can fetch up to a few thousand in local currency. These replicas will be burned as part of the funeral rituals , supposedly to assure that the deceased have the same amount of property in the afterlife. It seems, from the way my colleague talks about it that this ritual is costly and he doesn’t really believe in it. However it is the tradition of his people and he is fulfilling what is necessary to ensure his father is buried properly.

      There are many people out there who may not believe that the beliefs they are raised in are true. That does not mean they feel that necessary to leave those beliefs behind and embark on a quest for the truth.

      I know that the Catholic faith is idolatrous , way before my encounter with Jews and Judaism. However I was able to attend weekly Mass. There used to be a catholic altar in my house. I am able to balance this with the convictions I have without much difficulty.

      This arrangement went through a drastic change when I watched a video of a Rabbi preaching hellfire and damnation to Christians who persist in their idolatrous beliefs. I drastically changed my lifestyle out of fear, without studying his claims in detail.

      Looking back, I regretted doing what I did. This action did not bring me any closer to God, but rather brought me further away from Him and His word.

      I don’t deny the truth. I have come to a point , unconsciously a long time ago to manage how I respond to the truth, based on the abilities that I had at the time. I should have stick to that arrangement. Perhaps it would have turned out for the better.

      There is one truth, but we stand in different positions when it comes to this truth.

      I have no regrets of my interaction with Moshe Shulman. I have no regrets of losing a “valuable” teacher as how Jim describes him since he keeps on putting me down.

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