Monday, November 30, 2009

Being "Godly" 2

Continuing our thread on being "Godly":
"Follow the Lord your God" (Deuteronomy 13:5). What does this mean? Is it possible for a mortal to follow God's Presence? The verse means to teach us that we should follow the attributes of the Holy One, praised be He. As He clothes the naked, you should clothe the naked. The Bible teaches that the Holy One visited the sick; you should visit the sick. The Holy One comforted those who mourned; you should comfort those who mourn. The Holy One buried the dead; you should bury the dead.

Rabbi Simlai taught: The Torah begins with deeds of lovingkindness and ends with deeds of lovingkindness. It begins with deeds of lovingkindness, as it is written, "And the Lord God made for Adam and for his wife garments of skins and clothed them" (Genesis 3:21). It ends with deeds of lovingkindness, as it is written, "And He buried him in the valley in the land of Moab" (Deuteronomy 34:6).
~Talmud, Sotah 14a
Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 19

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Second Soul of Shabbat

When G-d drove Adam from Paradise, he retained part of his soul to remain there. On Shabbos, G-d releases that part and gives it back to man. This is our extra soul of Shabbos. On this day we are given the opportunity to return to Paradise.

Now, I must be satisfied with Paradise on Shabbos; in the future we hope to be brought to Jerusalem of High.
There is a tradition within Judaism that on Shabbat we all receive an extra soul with which to enjoy the Sabbath. As I said in a previous post, in the past I had found this idea intriguing and even beautiful, but I didn't see any way to integrate it into the rest of my beliefs. However, recently an idea occurred to me which I want to share with you.

The Talmud says that Shabbat is "a taste of the world to come." (Berachot 57b) The author of the letter to the Hebrews made a similar point when he or she wrote "So then, there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God." (Hebrews 4:9a) The point is the same: the Sabbath is a sign pointing not just to the past, but also to the future.

So what about this second soul? Well, if in order to experience the joy of Shabbat, God gives us each week a neshama yiterah, a second soul, how much more does this imply that we should receive a neshama yiterah gedolah in order to experience the joys of the world to come, where we will enjoy an even greater rest and know an even greater delight?

In fact, since the sages say in that same passage of Talmud that "Shabbat is one sixtieth of the world to come," then that implies that the neshama yiterah we receive on Shabbat must be one sixtieth of the neshama yiterah we receive from God in order to enter into the World to Come!

I believe this is in fact a teaching of Yeshua, when he said in a discourse to one of the teachers of Israel:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God. (John 3:3)
Yeshua taught that in order to see the kingdom of God, a person had to receive from God a second soul. This is no less than the fulfillment of the promise God made to Israel through the prophet Ezekiel
I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you. (Ezekiel 36:26a)
So, when we sanctify the Shabbat, let's thank God for the little neshama yiterah with which we can enjoy the beauty of the day. And let it also remind us each week to thank God for the greater neshama yiterah by which we will one day enter into the great Shabbat which is the World to Come.

Shabbat shalom, friends.

Have you heard of the Jewish Audio Bible?

If you go to the iTunes store and search "Jewish," then click "All podcasts," one of the results that will come up is David Rudolph's Jewish Audio Bible podcast, where you can listen to the entire Bible in daily selections. Dr. Rudolph is proceeding through the Torah in one year, the Nach (Prophets and Writings) in two years, and the Shlichim (Apostolic Writings) in one year.

For the next few days, I'll be filling in for David Rudolph while he attends SBL New Orleans. Check it out and let me know what you think!

Click here to subscribe to the podcast...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Being "Godly" 1

During my Days of Awe postings, I wrote about the 13 midot and what it means to be truly "Godly." There are several great passages from the rabbis on this in the daily prayers of the Siddur, and I want to share them with you.*
"To walk in all His ways" (Deuteronomy 11:22). These are the ways of the Holy One: "gracious and compassionate, patient, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, assuring love for a thousand generations, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin, and granting pardon. . . ." (Exodus 34:6). This means that just as God is gracious and compassionate, you too must be gracious and compassionate. "The Lord is faithful in all His ways and loving in all His deeds" (Psalm 145:17). As the Holy One is faithful, you too must be faithful. As the Holy One is loving, you too must be loving.
Sifre Deuteronomy, Ekev
Siddur Sim Shalom, p. 19
In a previous post we discussed the positive mitzvot. Interestingly, this verse in Deuteronomy is not correlated to any of the 248 positive commandments.** And yet the sages see in this verse an injunction to imitate God in His qualities.

To me this teaching is both inspiring and very challenging. Not only that, but I believe that for Messianic Jews, this teaching should be particularly emphasized as a fundamental feature of our community. In the coming weeks, I hope to continue posting on this topic and to present some reasons for why I think it's important.

What say you?

* Don't worry, I haven't forgotten about my follow-up post on the second soul of Shabbat--I decided to save it for tomorrow as it will be a good post leading into Shabbat for this week.

** At least, so far as I could find. If I'm wrong, help me out here!

Friday, November 6, 2009

Shabbat and Jerusalem on High

Another great Shabbos quote from Reb Shlomo (z''l):

When G-d drove Adam from Paradise, he retained part of his soul to remain there. On Shabbos, G-d releases that part and gives it back to man. This is our extra soul of Shabbos. On this day we are given the opportunity to return to Paradise. The question is asked, where would Adam have gone on Shabbos if he had not been driven out of Paradise? G-d would have taken him to Jerusalem, the Jerusalem of High, which has not yet been revealed to us. Paradise is a place I know from before; Jerusalem above, I have never experienced. Now, I must be satisfied with Paradise on Shabbos; in the future we hope to be brought to Jerusalem of High.
from The Soul of Shabbos.

I have always thought that the idea of an 'extra soul' received by all Jews on Shabbat is a beautiful idea. At the same time, I wasn't really sure what to do with it--that is, until recently. After Shabbat I will post some more thoughts on this subject. Until then, perhaps thinking over this idea will lead you to insights of your own! If so, please share them!

Shabbat shalom.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Shabbos Test

From Reb. Shlomo Carlebach z''l, whose 15th yahrzeit passed this week:
If you want to know how much you like a person, see if you can sit with the person without doing anything. Shabbos is therefore given to you. Do nothing and show your love for Hashem.
from The Soul of Shabbos.

This Shabbos I'm thankful to have recovered from my bout with illness. Good Shabbos everybody!