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Posted February 9, 2018 - 6:04am

An Eye For An Eye. Literally?

Upon a cursory reading of the Torah some of the laws contained within it seem not only a bit harsh, but even barbaric at times. This week’s Torah portion contains laws that seem to fall into that category and tend to make the modern reader uncomfortable. One of the passages is related to personal damages caused by physical violence:

You shall pay life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. (Exodus 21:25)

It would seem that from this passage that the Torah condones an extreme and retaliatory brand of justice. If two people get in a fight and one gouges out the other’s eye, then the offender is to have his eye also gouged out as repayment for the offense. This passage is often used to contrast the harsh justice of the Torah to Yeshua’s message of grace and mercy:

You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. (Matthew 5:38-39)

From this passage, it appears that Yeshua is telling his disciples that the Torah prescribed a one method of dealing with offenses, but he is now prescribing a different one. Where the Torah endorsed strict, retaliatory justice, Yeshua endorses mercy and grace. But is this really what Yeshua is teaching his disciples? Was the Torah’s instruction of “an eye for an eye” taken literally in Yeshua’s day? 

Posted February 5, 2018 - 7:06am

What images come to mind when you think of the future? Many people think of science fiction images of space travel, advanced technology, and dystopian societies. When I think of the future, I think of something quite different. Let me explain…

You may have heard of the movie, The Greatest Showman. It’s a modern musical, a re-telling of the story of P. T. Barnum, the creator of the famous Barnum & Bailey Circus. According to the movie, Barnum had an amazing vision for the future. And no matter what cards were stacked against him or obstacles that were placed in his way, he rose above them to build that dream. All men were equal in his eyes and he saw how handicaps and hindrances in life could be turned to their advantage. The chorus to the opening song, A Million Dreams, is a loud message of what the script-writer saw as Barnum's hope for the future:

They can say, they can say it all sounds crazy
They can say, they can say I've lost my mind
I don't care, I don't care, so call me crazy
We can live in a world that we design

‘Cause every night I lie in bed
The brightest colors fill my head
A million dreams are keeping me awake
I think of what the world could be
A vision of the one I see
A million dreams is all it's gonna take
A million dreams for the world we're gonna make

What does this have to do with Emet HaTorah and Messianic Judaism? Like P. T. Barnam, I have a vision of the future. I see a time when Yeshua is sitting on his throne in Jerusalem and the Torah is going forth from Zion. I see Messianic Judaism being the religion that will supersede both Christianity and Judaism, bringing faith in Yeshua together with the faith of Yeshua. I see the Torah being the baseline of life for all who call on the name of the LORD.

Posted February 2, 2018 - 12:40pm

Should We Fear God?

Our current Torah portion contains one of the most famous sections of the entire Bible: the Ten Commandments. These “ten words,” as they are literally translated (see Exodus 34:28), are the pillars of both Judaism and Christianity. They form the basis of our Judaeo-Christian value system. Moses climbed to the top of Mount Sinai to receive God’s covenant. It was this moment that the Children of Israel had been waiting for since their exodus from Egypt. They weren’t waiting for just ten commandments, but for all six-hundred and thirteen commandments contained in the Torah, the full revelation of the God who redeemed them from the house of bondage. However, when the Children of Israel saw the awesome display of God’s glory at Mount Sinai they were immediately filled with fear:

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:15[18]–16[19])

This is the first (and last) time in history that an entire people would see what is normally only heard. They were seeing unbelievable things and it scared them stiff. How did they respond? They told Moses, “We need you to be the buffer between us and God, because if we hear Him anymore we will die!” They had an extreme fear of the very One who had delivered them from Egypt.

Posted January 26, 2018 - 11:42am

The Mouth of Freedom

At the end of last week’s Torah portion we experienced the incredible deliverance of the Children of Israel from Egypt. Our reading concluded with the inauguration of the various ceremonies surrounding Passover and how these ceremonies are to assist in commemorating the exodus from Egypt. According to the beginning of chapter 13, the focal point for remembering the events of the exodus does not seem to be as much about eating a lamb year-by-year as eating matzah, unleavened bread, for an entire week of the year. Moses instructs the Children of Israel:

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, and on the seventh day there shall be a feast to the LORD. Unleavened bread shall be eaten for seven days; no leavened bread shall be seen with you, and no leaven shall be seen with you in all your territory. You shall tell your son on that day, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’ And it shall be to you as a sign on your hand and as a memorial between your eyes, that the law of the LORD may be in your mouth. For with a strong hand the LORD has brought you out of Egypt. (Exodus 13:6–9)

Besides the removal of leaven, there are two main components in this passage: 1) eating matzah for seven days and 2) telling the story of the exodus. Both of these tasks are accomplished by means of the mouth. These instructions are almost immediately followed by an interesting statement in our current portion:

Then the LORD said to Moses, “Tell the people of Israel to turn back and encamp in front of Pi‑hahiroth (Exodus 14:1–2)

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Latest Book Review

The Magerman Edition

Author: Daniel Rose & Jay Goldmintz
Publisher: Koren Publishers
Year: 2014

The Koren Ani Tefilla Siddur is one of the latest in Koren’s growing collection of siddurim (prayer books) geared towards a specific demographic. Koren describes Ani Tefilla as “an engaging and thought-provoking siddur for the inquiring high school student and thoughtful adult.” Koren says that Ani Tefillah has been developed in order “to help the user create their own meaning and connection during the Tefilla [prayer] experience.” The name of the siddur is connected with its objective. Ani Tefilla means “I pray.” 

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