Pervasive Wisdom – excerpt from Kosher Reality

The Wisdom that is Present Wherever You Look

The word “Jew” is a derivative of the Hebrew “Yehuda.” The name “Yehuda” means thanks and acknowledgment (Genesis 29:25), and the calling of the Jew is to praise and acknowledge the goodness of God (Isaiah 43:21). The activity of thanking God may seem to be something that is not very relevant in our fast-paced modern lives. But in fact, thanking God is something that has the power to turn over every moment of your life. And the Scriptural prophets promised that the calling of the Jewish people will one day light up the world.

Most of mankind’s activities are devoted to acquiring happiness or to avoid the threat of pain. We work to acquire food to eat to escape the threat of starvation and to enjoy the pleasure of eating. We amass wealth in order to avoid the threat of poverty and want. We exert ourselves to protect ourselves and our families from all types of disasters. We seek love, security and stability and we attempt to avoid loneliness, vulnerability and confusion. We want guarantees for our future in this world and the next and we want to see those guarantees in writing and in our own possession.

The underlying assumption that stands behind all of these activities is that we have the ability to escape our state of dependency and establish ourselves to be independent. We think that when the money is in our bank account then we are no longer dependent on outside factors for our material well-being. When we have that medicine in our pharmacies then we will have our health in our hand. When our houses are built and our borders are guarded then we will possess our security. When we find that relationship then we will possess the solution to loneliness and emotional want. When we find the right spiritual connection then we will possess the assurances that will assuage our fears.

In other words, most of mankind’s activities are devoted to combatting the fact that we are dependent beings. We assume that by acquiring various possessions we can establish our own independence.

But this battle of life is a battle of futility. We will never become independent. We will never possess our happiness, our health, our security or a guarantee for our future. How can we possess anything if our very existence does not belong to us? All of our happiness, our security and our physical, emotional and spiritual well-being rest with God. Every minute that we experience existence is a gift from the One who created us all and it is a gift that we did nothing to deserve.

The calling of the Jewish people is to declare to the world that there is no point in fighting God. There is no point in trying to acquire what you can never possess. Instead of fearing the state of dependence, rejoice in the fact that your existence is in the hands of God. Recognize that every breath that you ever took and ever thought that passed through your mind stood on nothing but on God’s love for you. You will come to enjoy the love of God not only in your own life, but you will also delight in God’s goodness that is evident in the breath of every living being.

The mission of the Jewish people is to testify to the simple truth that every iota of existence belongs to God and to no one else. Everything always belonged to Him and everything will forevermore belong to Him.

The greatest opposition that the Jewish people encounter in their mission to bring this truth to their own hearts and to the world is the philosophy of idolatry in its various manifestations. Not only does the philosophy of idolatry oppose the foundational truth of the absolute sovereignty of God but it does so in the name of spirituality and religious virtue.

The philosophy of idolatry opposes the foundational truth of the absolute sovereignty of God on two fronts. On the one hand the call to worship an idol is an exaltation of a quality (or set of qualities) that is contained in the context of a finite existence. Be it the majesty of a mountain, the beauty of river, the serenity and solidity of a statue, the power of thunder or the miraculous powers of Jesus, these are all qualities that are perceived in the context of a finite existence. By exalting these qualities and claiming that these qualities justify devotion toward the entity in which they are found the idolater is denying that these properties can never truly belong to a finite existence. The idolater denies that any quality that is found in the context of a finite existence can only be an undeserved gift from the One Creator of all. Worship of an idol is a denial of the idol’s debt toward the Creator for its very existence.

There is another way that the philosophy of idolatry opposes Israel’s message of God’s sovereignty. The idolater is not only denying the idol’s debt to God but the idolater also denies the worshiper’s debt to God. If we truly recognize that every iota of our existence belongs to God then we would also recognize that the only question that is pertinent in the context of worship is: to whom does my heart belong? The idolater encourages the worshiper to turn away from that question and instead ask: where can I direct my heart and profit the most?

The primary message of Israel’s prophets is that God is the absolute Master of all. Instead of allowing ourselves to be overawed by the qualities that we perceive in various finite entities, we should recognize that these entities are beneficiaries of God’s benevolence. Instead of seeing our hearts as free to bend to the object of our choosing we should recognize that our hearts belong to the One whose love is sustaining our heart this very moment.

The prophets looked forward to the day when idolatry is eradicated from the minds of men. They looked forward to the day when all mankind recognizes and acknowledges that they are indebted to God for their very existence. Mankind will then beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks and they shall learn war no more. They will recognize that wealth and security can never be acquired. They will understand that happiness is feeling the love of God in every breath of life.

The calling of the Jewish people is to remain true to this message. If the word “kosher” (which simply means correct and proper) is going to mean that which is correct and proper in light of Israel’s calling before God then recognizing our debt to our Creator is kosher. A philosophy that exalts an individual without acknowledging that individual’s debt towards God is decidedly not kosher.

The beginning of wisdom is a reverence toward God (Psalm 111:10). This wisdom is not far off. The benevolence of God is evident in every blade of grass, every ray of light and every breath of air. What prevents us from seeing God’s sovereignty is our futile desire to be independent, to establish our own sovereignty. The songs of David draw us away from this illusion of self-sufficiency. David’s music gave expression to the joy that Israel experienced in accepting the fact of God’s mastery over every facet of existence. And Israel’s prophets gave the world hope for a future in which all of mankind experiences that same joy.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

 

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Hope

Hope

Being a Jew is all about hope. A hope that the day will come when the world will be what it was meant to be. A world where nation does not lift sword against nation, a world that declares the sovereignty of God with every molecule of existence. Every good deed of a Jew, every word of Torah, and every tear of prayer, is an expression of this hope.

When a Jew leaves this world the world loses a person who hoped. We try to fill that void with the Kaddish, the prayer of hope – “May His name be exalted and sanctified” – because it is this hope that summarizes the life of a Jew.

The hope of a Jew is not the passive hope of a bystander. God is orchestrating the events of history in a way that our hope itself contributes to His master plan in an active way. The ultimate purpose of God’s creation is the revelation of God’s truth. The entire world will learn that there is no Master but God and that there is no power but God. But they will learn more than this. They will come to know that the only true place for the human heart is the in realm of hope to God.

“And you will know that I am the Lord, that those who hope to Me are not shamed.” (Isaiah 49:23)

Mankind will look at the hope that Israel carried in their hearts through the darkest times and through every distraction. And all of humanity will see that this hope is the only hope that bears fruit. Our unwavering yearning for the redemption will stand as the paradigm for all of mankind to emulate.

May the Lord guard us and enable us so that our every action, word and thought be a true reflection of hope for the goodness and truth of God.

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Did Dr. Brown Answer? Let’s Evaluate!

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How NOT to Respond to a Christian Missionary – part 2

 

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When He Smote Egypt and Our Houses He Saved

When He Smote Egypt and Our Houses He Saved

The Holiday of Passover is so called because God passed over (pasach)
our houses when He smote the Egyptians with the plague of the firstborn
and He saved our houses (Exodus 12:27).

We all know why God was hitting the Egyptians. The Egyptians used their
strength to take advantage of a nation that did them no harm. They
displayed a stunning lack of appreciation for what Joseph had done for
them and they went and enslaved Joseph’s children and his people. They
became paranoid about Israel and created false and evil accusations
about them and in their self-centered cruelty, they killed innocent
children. All this is there in the Torah in the beginning of the Book of
Exodus.

In short, Egypt displayed every negative character trait quality and we
felt the brunt of it. We witnessed what happens when humans allow
themselves to be ruled by their negative side.

When God came to give the Egyptians the fruit of their wickedness, He
saved our houses. And this is an awesome responsibility because this
means God wants us to be the opposite of what the Egyptians had
become. He saved us to be different.

As we sit around our Passover table we need to remember; when He Hit
Egypt, He saved us and expected us to be His people. People who do not
take advantage of others because they find themselves in a stronger
position, be it physically, socially, emotionally, financially or
spiritually. But rather we need to be people who hear the argument, the
pain and the fear of those who are weaker than us. Instead of a focus on
our own wants and needs we should be attuned to the wants and needs of
others. Instead of attributing the worst intentions to the people around
us, we should judge them favorably. Instead of seeing people that are
different from us as opponents and as a potential threat, we should see
them as brothers and equals and see their needs and wants. Passover
demands that instead of remembering every real and imagined negative
thought or deed that was done against us and living with the bearing of
grudges, we remember and magnify the good that others have done for us
and live with the quality of appreciation. Instead of seeing others as
objects that we can use for our advantage, be it emotional or financial;
we should seek to benefit them in any way that we can.

The responsibility of Passover is to be different than Egypt. This may
sound like an impossible task. Can we truly rid ourselves of every
negative character trait? Don’t the ethical masters teach that it is a
lifetime of work to break one negative character quality, how then can
we avoid being like Egypt?

The answer is that serving God is not a destination, it is a journey. It
is not our business to perfect ourselves overnight. It is our
responsibility to travel in the right direction. We need to grow and
move forward with happiness and joy that God brought us close to His
service, to be His people. And we can know and trust that God is with us
every step of the way.

May God accept those step we take towards Him and clean us all the
impurity that Egypt represents. And may it be His will to shine the
light of the redemption upon us and through us to light up the world
with His light.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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The Inner Jew and the Real You

The Inner Jew and the Real You

We find ourselves in unusual circumstances. The most obvious expressions
of our Judaism are out of reach. It is not an outside enemy that is
preventing us from praying with a congregation, from learning Torah in a
sanctuary that roars with the sound of God’s children enjoying His word,
and from so many activities that require a gathering of Jews. The Holy
One sent a virus that forces us to stay home; “And you shall not go out
from the doors of your houses until the morning” (Exodus 12:22). We may
be home alone, we may be blessed with a spouse, we may be blessed with
children, we may be blessed with parents and siblings, but we are home.

And at home we come face to face with ourselves. This is the time to
find the inner Jew, build that inner Jew and infuse that Jew with
strength and light.

The inner Jew is secure with the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The
inner Jew is a pillar of tranquility that is the outer expression of our
trust in God. The inner Jew exudes compassion and sensitivity to the
people he/she is confined with and to the people he/she can reach by phone.
Because inside that Jew you will find a well-spring that is sourced in
Abraham, our common father. The inner Jew doesn’t take up space, not
physical space and not emotional space that other members of his/her
family can use. He/she is far from self-centerdness, not wanting to
touch that which others can benefit from. The heart of Isaac, our
ancestor is sensitive to the justice that is needed to keep a family or
an individual on an even keel. This same heart prays, not because it is
the “thing to do” but because his/heart yearns for the submission to God
that is inherent in praying. The inner Jew needs truth to live, honesty
with him/herself, a connection to God’s truth and a striving toward
holiness and Godliness as is appropriate for one who carries the name
“Israel,” our ancestor who prevailed over the Angel of Falsehood.

And the inner Jew finds leadership in the heart of David, the sweet
singer of Israel. The inner Jew praises God, cries out to God, and
yearns to God from the heart, from the inside of the heart.

The Sabbath of the inner Jew is a time of light and connection with the reality of our own souls.

If you are a Gentile reading this article and you are not a descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you are called by your Creator to be Abraham, Isaac and Jacob for yourself and your family. You are created in the image of God and His breath was breathed into your nostrils. You too can participate in this blessing and this light. Use this time to find the read you, that Godly soul inside of you that reflects His goodness and His truth. You will yet illuminate your world as did Abraham before you.

May we all merit to find our inner selves and make that Godly soul
shine until the dawn of the true redemption.

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

 

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Christianity vs. The Sabbath – excerpt from Supplement

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

Throughout Brown’s attack on the Rabbinic understanding of the Sabbath the recurring refrain is: “is this what the Lord intended?” Brown expects his readers to come to the conclusion that the Rabbinic observance of the Sabbath is not the observance that God intended when He presented this commandment to His people.

If one’s understanding of spirituality in general and of the Sabbath in particular has been acquired from the literature and the general milieu of the modern Western world, then Brown’s argument will find a listening ear. But if one’s understanding of spirituality and of Sabbath is rooted in the Jewish Bible and in the environment of ancient Israel, then Brown’s argument is meaningless.

The Western world does not consider a procedure, in which people follow a detailed set of physical instructions, to be a rich spiritual experience. But the Jewish Scriptures teach us otherwise. Some of the pivotal narratives…

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He Makes His Ways Known to Moses – Psalm 103:7

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

He Makes His Ways Known to Moses – Psalm 103:7

Moses had asked God to be shown the ways of God. God told Moses that He will pass by with all of His goodness before Moses and He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy (Exodus 33:19).

What does this mean? Some Christians argue that this passage teaches that there is no rhyme or reason to God’s grace. God chooses to favor whosoever He chooses to favor. The fact that Scripture teaches that God favors those who do His bidding and frowns upon those who do not does not faze these Christians. These theologians reinterpret all of Scripture according to their misunderstanding of this one verse in Exodus. These religious doctors argue that man has no free will and that when God arbitrarily chooses to favor someone God blesses them with good deeds and then blesses them with…

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Intercession for the Wicked

 

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Yisroel C. Blumenthal

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My Redeemer Liveth – Job 19:25

1000 Verses - a project of Judaism Resources

My Redeemer Liveth – Job 19:25

The book of Job describes how Job, a just man was afflicted by tremendous suffering. The book tells us how his friends discussed his suffering with him. In the course of the conversation Job declares; “For I know that my redeemer lives and that he will be the final one remaining on earth” (Job 19:25). Many Christians believe that Job was referring to Jesus and to Jesus’ eternal nature when he spoke these words. These Christians cannot imagine anyone else being called “redeemer” aside from the Christian Jesus.

The Christian conviction in the rightness of this interpretation is so deeply entrenched in the Christian psyche that many Christians see this verse as the highlight of the book of Job. I once spoke to a Christian scholar and when I mentioned the book of Job, he quoted this verse as if this was the centerpiece…

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