Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Passover: A Shared Holiday, With Different Interpreted Messages for Jews and Christians

Some people crave chocolate. It's their "guilty pleasure." 

Political Similarities between conservative Jews and Christians

Metaphorically speaking, for me that's reading conservative blog satire. The news is depressing enough as it is, so getting the big picture, without having to try to guess what the television is telling you that's true and what's false, together with a healthy dose of humor to mock the outrageousness of the situation, is something I recommend for all conservatives, and all Christians.

And some of the best conservative satire I've found on the Internet is the product of one man: Daniel Greenfield, a NYC-dwelling Orthodox Jewish guy who writes more in a day than many people talk. Far from only producing satire, however, Greenfield's blog turns out amazingly profound commentaries on just about every aspect of national and global politics. Prodigious, that is the word to describe him.

Why'd I emphasize that he was Orthodox Jewish? Because the nature of our worldviews is such that for a true-believing Christian and a true-believing Jew, that aspect is the "only" aspect of our beliefs which diverges. In nearly everything else that can be imagined, our political beliefs are almost perfectly aligned. Consequently, it's enjoyable to read what he writes because I very rarely find things to disagree with him on, and am able to learn a lot from his insights about history and politics, without having to question his interpretation, as much as with other sources.

Incidentally, I put "only" in quotes, because to minimize the theological differences between modern Judaism and Biblical Christianity would be a monumental oversight, since these beliefs are in no way casual preferences of those that choose them, and their implications are massively profound with eternal consequences. From a theological point of view, I look at Orthodox Judaism and think "so close, yet so far away." In a purely political perspective, however, we're nearly identical. 

Today, I want to try my best to make a few theological points using Mr. Greenfield's recent blog post about Passover.


Analysis of From Slavery to Freedom, by Daniel Greenfield

Greenfield's main points from the article:

It's possible to be enslaved without being physically bound. Slavery of the mind leaves a man physically free to act but limited by his mental enslavement to only do the things which please his taskmasters. He thinks he is free but he isn't.
Passover does not simply remind the Jews that they escaped slavery at one time in the past, but it embodies the realization that freedom from slavery was and is a continual journey. I would add that this hearkens to the theme of the book of Judges, that after being delivered, a new generation would rise up, forget God, and be turned over to judgment. The famous Reagan quote, that 'freedom must be fought for and defended by each generation,' also applies.
Pharaoh did not have to be simply defeated, but discredited. That is what the 10 Plagues accomplished. They showed that Pharaoh was not God, but only God was God. 
"Ritual is the gateway to a state of mind. A ritual of freedom only succeeds when it invokes a state of mental freedom. Otherwise it is a rite, a practice, a habit whose codes may help some future generation unlock its meaning, but which means little today." 
 As a Jew, Daniel Greenfield says that Passover is a journey; it's a beginning and an end but the Jews are always in the middle.  In him saying this, I perceive a nascent understanding that there is 'unfinished business' in the celebration of the Hebrew holidays. I suspect that Daniel may have a future united Jerusalem led by free Jews in mind. I acknowledge that that day is coming, but Passover is pointing to something even greater than that.

Amazing Continuity

Let me elaborate on that ending note. I've had the privilege to speak with some Orthodox Jewish guys at my university, and I've gotten the impression that it is a common belief among Jews that they are awaiting a political salvation. They, like their forefathers, the Pharisees (often seen as the bad guys in the Gospel, though Jesus' criticism of them was not for their theology--in Matthew 23 He says "the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. Therefore do what they tell you," (Matthew 23:2-3) rather, His criticism of them was for their hypocrisy and their addition of man-made interpretations on top of the Law (Matthew 15:8-9)(Isaiah 29:13)), do not accept the Suffering Servant as their savior because they aren't looking for Him. They're looking for a political leader who will rebuild the Temple and restore Jerusalem. (incidentally, the passage about the 'suffering servant' is interpreted by Orthodox Jews to refer to Israel)

As Solomon said, "there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9) Judaism has not evolved. Not only are the Jews remarkable for their preservation of ancient manuscripts, and the preservation of their lineages and culture, but also in their commitment to the faith of their fathers. We Christians today are by and large met with Jews who are essentially the same as the Jews which Peter and the other Apostles encountered in the book of Acts, and which Jesus walked with and spoke to in the Gospels.

It's truly fascinating.

At the same time, as a Christian I am grieved somewhat by the thought that my Jewish friends are setting their sights too low. What is offered to them is more than just a kingdom, but eternal life and God Himself. How I wish that they would see this.

The Missing Pieces

It's such an eerie thing to listen to someone talk about something and come so close to figuring everything out, when you know what the finished puzzle looks like. I yearn for these Orthodox Jewish guys to put all the pieces together and see the whole picture.

No one who understands the nature of beliefs that are exclusive and contain promises of reward and judgment would be offended by the expressed desire by someone with such a belief that they (the first person) would come to know 'the truth.' Of course it can strike you as insulting because it supposes that what you believe is wrong, but it's genuine, whether their belief is true or not. 

I’ve always said, you know, that I don’t respect people who don’t proselytize.  I don’t respect that at all.  If you believe that there’s a heaven and hell, and people could be going to hell, or not getting eternal life or whatever, and you think that, well, it’s not really worth telling them because it would make it socially awkward . . . How much do you have to hate somebody to not proselytize?  How much do you have to hate somebody to believe that everlasting life is possible and not tell them that?  I mean, if I believed beyond a shadow of a doubt that a truck was coming at you, and you didn’t believe it, and that truck was bearing down on you, there is a certain point where I tackle you.  And this is more important than that . ~ Penn Jilette, outspoken atheist
Of course I believe your theology is wrong. Otherwise we wouldn't call ourselves different names. But I won't be afraid to speak on this issue, even if you'll dislike me for it, Daniel -- and it's 'cause I love ya. :)

The Passover clearly points to Christ. It symbolizes the necessary covering of the blood of a sacrifice that is necessary for us to escape God's judgment (Hebrews 9:22) (Leviticus 17:11). It foreshadowed the later institution of formal sacrifices which temporarily covered the sins of the faithful and prefigured a coming perfect sacrifice.

Jews would disagree with that latter part, about the perfect sacrifice. But I'd like to offer these passages for consideration:

"Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to listen than the fat of rams." (1 Samuel 15:22)
"What to me is the multitude of your sacrifices? says the LORD; I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of well-fed beasts; I do not delight in the blood of bulls, or of lambs, or of goats." (Isaiah 1:11)
"For I desire steadfast love and not sacrifice, the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings" (Hosea 6:6)
"To do righteousness and justice is more acceptable to the LORD than sacrifice." (Proverbs 21:3)

I decided not to include the passages which warn of judgment when the Israelites had gone astray, lest the rebuttal be offered that the verses above do not refer to sacrifices at all times. To my knowledge, the ones I've selected do.

God doesn't want sacrifices. I suppose that the Jewish explanation for why sacrifices are not now offered is because there is no Temple. I want to tell you that the real reason that sacrifices are not needed any longer is because Jesus Christ has been offered up, "once for all," (Hebrews 7:27) for all people who will take Him as their substitute--their scape-goat, if you will.

Daniel speaks an ironic truth when he says, "[ritual] is a rite, a practice, a habit whose codes may help some future generation unlock its meaning, but which means little today."  He doesn't realize how right he is. The Jewish holidays were given for a purpose. Their practice became habit and its true meaning has been lost, but looking back, a willing spirit can see the scarlet thread running through history, connecting the memorials with that which they commemorate and prefigure. Daniel doesn't understand that he himself is included in the group of those who are not fully free but only ritually free. Like he said, "ritual is the gateway to a state of mind." I would say that the Jewish rituals are meant to point toward something greater and more profound than themselves.

Until the understanding dawns on any given Jew, individually, that the meaning of all their rituals and holy days is to point toward a Messiah who will not only give them an everlasting kingdom--that's just the icing on the cake--but who will save them from their sins and reconcile them to their heavenly Father, the Passover will remain a journey that they remain perpetually stuck in the middle of, unable to come to the end and find rest.

Hebrews 10:
For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins.But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.11 And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified. (Hebrews 10:1-18)
My prayer is that my Jewish brothers through Adam, whom I love dearly, would have their eyes and hearts opened so that they may also be my brothers in Christ. 

~ Rak Chazak

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