PART 6. Judaism, Continued
Sections 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11
In this page I discuss (6) Passover laws, (7) taking the name of the Lord in vain, (8) my observations regarding the Book of Job, (9) our relationship with God and the world, (10) converts to Judaism, and (11) who was permitted to enter the Tabernacle and the holy places of the Temple.
6. Passover Observance
First of all, Passover (and the other festivals, except for Shavuoth) should be observed for exactly seven days as is spelled out in Exod. 12:15 below, for example. Remarkably, the duration of Shavuoth is not specified in the Torah and therefore should be one day. I believe that extending observance of any Torah holiday because of circumstances unforeseen by the Torah scribe(s) is a sin. Extending the festivals by an eighth day not only violates Deut. 4:2 and Deut. 13:1. It also violates Levi. 23:34, which specifies seven days for the observance of Sukkoth. Tell me, do you think God didn’t and doesn’t know that the Temple would be destroyed and the Jews would be dispersed? I doubt that it would have been appropriate for Him to have told us so in the Torah (except in vague terms). But would He have told us the festivals should be just seven days if He wanted them to become celebrated for eight days? I don’t think so. As far as I am concerned, they should therefore be seven days, not eight. The claim of the rabbis is that the first day is extended to the next day so that all of Israel can celebrate together at some time during the 48 hours. This is because in ancient times (following the Babylonian exile) there was uncertainty in establishing the day of the Jewish calendar (which is lunar-based) and the Diaspora had been well established by then. To notify everyone everywhere that the holiday was to start was fraught with uncertainty and difficulty. I have one problem with this reasoning. Passover (and Sukkoth as well) doesn’t require the world to know when it starts. It starts with the full moon, not a new moon. The full moon is visible everywhere. There was no need to notify all that this holiday was to start. Thus there appears to have been no need to extend Passover or Sukkoth for another day. Even Shavuoth, the third festival, doesn’t require worldwide broadcast of the start of the festival. It occurs on the sixth day of the month (of Sivan). In fact, its occurrence is counted from the second night of Passover. One last thought about extended days for holidays: If two days are required to insure that all Jews celebrate during the same time over a 48-hour period, why is not the Sabbath (and Yom Kippur) extended to two days?
Back to Passover exclusively: We will need to consider the Torah verses dealing with Passover. Warning: In the process of accomplishing this, we will eventually arrive at a truly startling and disconcerting discovery.
We start with Exod. 12:13 and 12:14, the first commands relating to a perpetual annual Passover observance. The Lord is dictating to Moses what he is to tell the people about the night the last plague, the death of the first born, will strike in Egypt.
וְהָיָה הַדָּם לָכֶם לְאֹת עַל הַבָּתִּים אֲשֶׁר אַתֶּם שָׁם וְרָאִיתִי אֶת־הַדָּם וּפָסַחְתִּי עֲלֵכֶם וְלֹא־יִהְיֶה בָכֶם
נֶגֶף לְמַשְׁחִית בְּהַכֹּתִי בְּאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם
Exod. 12:13 “And the blood shall be for a sign of yours upon the houses where you are. When I see the blood, then I will pass over above you and there shall not be a plague of destruction on you during My strike in the land of Egypt.”
וְהָיָה הַיֹּום הַזֶּה לָכֶם לְזִכָּרֹון וְחַגֹּתֶם אֹתֹו חַג לַיהוָה לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם חֻקַּת עֹולָם תְּחָגֻּהוּ
Exod. 12:14 “And this day shall be for a memorial for you, and you shall observe it, the Lord’s feast, an everlasting ordinance; throughout your generations you shall celebrate it.”
The Passover observance shall be a perpetual memorial. It is to be observed to remind us of the night of the tenth plague, the death of the first born, and of our hasty exodus from Egypt that night and (at Least) the next day.
Next read Exod. 12:15 and 12:16, which add more about Passover celebration.
שִׁבְעַת יָמִים מַצֹּות תֹּאכֵלוּ אַךְ בַּיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁון תַּשְׁבִּיתוּ שְּׂאֹר מִבָּתֵּיכֶם כִּי כָּל־אֹכֵל חָמֵץ וְנִכְרְתָה
הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מִיִּשְׂרָאֵל מִיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁן עַד־יֹום הַשְּׁבִעִי
Exod. 12:15 “Seven days you shall eat only unleavened bread. In the day before, you shall put away leaven from your houses. If anyone eats leavened bread from the first day to the seventh day, then that soul shall be cut off from Israel.”
וּבַיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁון מִקְרָא־קֹדֶשׁ וּבַיֹּום הַשְּׁבִיעִי מִקְרָא־קֹדֶשׁ יִהְיֶה לָכֶם כָּל־מְלָאכָה לֹא־יֵעָשֶׂה בָהֶם
אַךְ אֲשֶׁר יֵאָכֵל לְכָל־נֶפֶשׁ הוּא לְבַדֹּו יֵעָשֶׂה לָכֶם
Exod. 12:16 “And in the first day a holy convocation, and in the seventh day a holy convocation, shall be yours. You shall not do any work during them, except that one may eat according to any appetite; that only may be done for you.”
Notice the instruction in the first verse: “In the day before, you shall put away leaven ....” In the day before? That’s the fourteenth of Nisan. But the rabbis have told us we must get rid of all leaven on the night of the thirteenth, the night before the Seder (which takes place on the night of the fourteenth). As they have frequently done, I’m afraid they ignored or misunderstood Moses’ admonition about adding and subtracting (Deut. 4:2 and 13:1). Understanding that the food for the Seder must be prepared for much of the day and the dishes and utensils have to be available by then, it means that leaven is to be removed early that day. If you would follow the traditional ritual of searching for leaven, you must start once the stars have appeared on the night of the thirteenth. So there should be no leaven in the home after that, except that the leaven found the night before is to be burned (or eaten?!) early the next morning. As a result, the rabbis have led us to not eating leaven for nine days, not seven, the eight days of Passover and the entire day of the fourteenth. Admittedly we are also instructed in the same verse to eat unleavened bread for seven days. So we are not violating any instruction by not eating leaven for nine days, but what happened to the spirit of the law? As I see it, we are violating the spirit of this law, as well as its word.
We also do no work on the first and seventh days and we hold a holy convocation, but we may eat whatever we desire, provided we eat no leaven. Skipping over Exod. 12:17, which essentially repeats 12:14, and also 12:18, which I discussed in relation to the start of the Jewish day, we encounter more of the Lord’s instructions in 12:19.
שִׁבְעַת יָמִים שְׂאֹר לֹא יִמָּצֵא בְּבָתֵּיכֶם כִּי כָּל־אֹכֵל מַחְמֶצֶת וְנִכְרְתָה הַנֶּפֶשׁ הַהִוא מֵעֲדַת יִשְׂרָאֵל
בַּגֵּר וּבְאֶזְרַח הָאָרֶץ
Exod. 12:19 “Seven days no leaven shall be found in your houses. If anyone, whether a foreigner or a native of the land, eats leaven, then that soul shall be cut off from the congregation of Israel.”
Notice first that a foreigner is someone not born in the land of Israel. But he or she would have to be a convert in the context of this verse. Next we’re told that all leaven must be removed from our house (or hidden so that it can’t be found). Finally if anyone, foreigner or native, eats leaven, the soul of that person is cut off from Israel. As an aside, this statement informs us that the Lord fully accepts the convert into the congregation readily as if he or she was a native. Because no leaven may be found in our houses, we work hard to clean our house of all leaven before the Passover. Next Exod. 12:24 emphasizes the eternal nature of this festival. As a further aside, many Jews believe the only holiday that will observed at the end of time is Sukkoth. Here we are told otherwise.
וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה לְחָק־לְךָ וּלְבָנֶיךָ עַד־עֹולָם
Exod. 12:24 “And you shall observe this event as an ordinance for you and for your children until the end of time.”
The next verse, Exod. 12:25, raises two interesting questions, that I will address afterward.
וְהָיָה כִּי־תָבֹאוּ אֶל־הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר יִתֵּן יְהוָה לָכֶם כַּאֲשֶׁר דִּבֵּר וּשְׁמַרְתֶּם אֶת־הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת
Exod. 12:25 “And it shall be, when you come to the land that the Lord will give to you as He promised, then you shall keep this service.”
The first question this raises for me is whether or not the Israelites observed the Passover in the wilderness. It seems that the Lord is saying the Passover should be kept once the children of Israel are in their new homeland. Does this mean that the festival was not observed in the wilderness? We will soon learn that at least the so-called “second” Passover was observed in the wilderness at Sinai. Presumably, the Passover was observed as well. The second question raised by this verse is, if we are not in the promised land, may we observe the Passover? I think, since this verse is a positive precept (when you come to the land ... you shall keep this service), I would hazard the conclusion that these words do not preclude us from observing the memorial anywhere else as well. But there is an important proviso we will soon discuss.
Next we encounter Exod. 12:26 and 12:27.
וְהָיָה כִּי־יֹאמְרוּ אֲלֵיכֶם בְּנֵיכֶם מָה הָעֲבֹדָה הַזֹּאת לָכֶם
Exod. 12:26 “And it shall be when your children shall say to you, ‘What is this service to you?’
וַאֲמַרְתֶּם זֶבַח־פֶּסַח הוּא לַיהוָה אֲשֶׁר פָּסַח עַל־בָּתֵּי בְנֵי־יִשְׂרָאֵל בְּמִצְרַיִם בְּנָגְפֹּו אֶת־מִצְרַיִם
וְאֶת־בָּתֵּינוּ הִצִּיל וַיִּקֹּד הָעָם וַיִּשְׁתַּחֲוּּ
Exod. 12:27 Then you shall say to them, ‘It is a Passover sacrifice to the Lord because He passed over above the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt on His smiting the Egyptians, and He delivered our houses.’” And the people bowed down, and they worshiped.
We need to explain to our children what the Passover service means to us. The service could be the Seder, but because the verse is not specific to the Seder, we may continue to explain the holiday to our children at any time. Remember, though, oddly enough, the first day of Passover is to be spent at the place that God chooses, not in the home. This is explained to us in Deuteronomy 16.
וְזָבַחְתָּ פֶּסַח לַיהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ צֹאן וּבָקָר בַּמָּקֹום אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר יְהוָה לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמֹו שָׁם
Deut. 16:2 “And you shall sacrifice the Passover offering to the Lord, your God, of the flock and of the herd in the place where the Lord shall choose to cause His name to dwell.”
לֹא־תֹאכַל עָלָיו חָמֵץ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל־עָלָיו מַצֹּות לֶחֶם עֹנִי כִּי בְחִפָּזֹון יָצָאתָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם
לְמַעַן תִּזְכֹּר אֶת־יֹום צֵאתְךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם כֹּל יְמֵי חַיֶּיךָ
Deut. 16:3 “You shall not eat leavened bread with it; seven days you shall eat unleavened bread, the bread of affliction, with it -- for you came forth in haste from the land of Egypt -- so that you will remember the day of your coming forth from the land of Egypt all the days of your life.”
לַבֹּקֶר וְלֹא־יֵרָאֶה לְךָ שְׂאֹר בְּכָל־גְּבֻלְךָ שִׁבְעַת יָמִים וְלֹא־יָלִין מִן־הַבָּשָׂר אֲשֶׁר תִּזְבַּח בָּעֶרֶב בַּיֹּום הָרִאשֹׁון
Deut. 16:4 “And no leaven shall be visible to you in all your territory seven days, and nothing from the flesh that you shall sacrifice in the evening on the first day shall remain by morning.”
לֹא תוּכַל לִזְבֹּחַ אֶת־הַפָּסַח בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר־יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךָ
Deut. 16:5 “You shall not be able to sacrifice the Passover offering within any of your gates that the Lord, your God, will be giving you,
כִּי אִם־אֶל־הַמָּקֹום אֲשֶׁר־יִבְחַר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ לְשַׁכֵּן שְׁמֹו שָׁם תִּזְבַּח אֶת־הַפֶּסַח בָּעָרֶב כְּבֹוא
הַשֶּׁמֶשׁ מֹועֵד צֵאתְךָ מִמִּצְרָיִם
Deut. 16:6 but only at the place where the Lord, your God, will choose to cause His name to dwell shall you sacrifice the Passover offering in the evening after the setting of the sun, the time of your coming forth from Egypt.”
The phrase “in the place where the Lord shall choose to cause His name to dwell” in v. 16:2 (and in 16:6) refers to the Tabernacle and later to the Temple. The sacrifice of the paschal lamb must be presented before the Lord, no where else, except as is specified below in Numbers.
Next come Exod. 12:43 to 12:46 in which we are told of the paschal lamb in Egypt before the night of the Passover.. A foreigner, a sojourner, or a hired hand may not eat it. Only a servant who has been circumcised may eat it with the family. Furthermore, it must be eaten in one house, not removed outside, and none of its bones may be broken. Exod. 12:48 and 12:49 inform us that a stranger who is circumcised may also eat of the paschal lamb. I would, as a result of this verse, equate a stranger with a convert. Foreigners, sojourners, and hired hands are not to be thought of as converts (except see Exod. 12:19 above).
Now for the incredible discovery I mentioned above: First, Numb. 9:10-9:12 tell us how the unclean or those who are distant from the Tabernacle or Temple shall celebrate Passover.
וְעָשָׂה פֶסַח לַיהוָה דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל לֵאמֹר אִישׁ אִישׁ כִּי־יִהְיֶה־טָמֵא לָנֶפֶשׁ אֹו בְדֶרֶךְ רְחֹקָה לָכֶם אֹו לְדֹרֹתֵיכֶם
Numb. 9:10 “Speak to the children of Israel saying, ‘When any man of you or of your generations will be unclean in regard to a death, or at a far distance, yet he shall prepare the paschal lamb to the Lord.’”
בַּחֹדֶשׁ הַשֵּׁנִי בְּאַרְבָּעָה עָשָׂר יֹום בֵּין הָעַרְבַּיִם יַעֲשׂוּ אֹתֹו עַל־מַצֹּות וּמְרֹרִים יֹאכְלֻהו
Numb. 9:11 “In the second month on the fourteenth day at dusk they shall prepare it. They shall eat it with unleavened bread and bitter herbs.”
לֹא־יַשְׁאִירוּ מִמֶּנּוּ עַד־בֹּקֶר וְעֶצֶם לֹא יִשְׁבְּרוּ־בֹו כְּכָל־חֻקַּת הַפֶּסַח יַעֲשׂוּ אֹתֹו
Numb. 9:12 “They shall not leave any of it until the morning, and they shall not break a bone in it; they shall do it according to every statute of the Passover.”
These verses inform us of something amazing and startling. They teach us that the paschal lamb may be sacrificed away from the place the Lord will choose, but only one month after the normal Passover date. From these verses, I am led to the startling realization that all the Jews in the world may not celebrate the normal Passover festival unless a Tabernacle or the Temple exists near enough for them to visit on the first day of the festival. This says to me that there may be no holiday (including a Seder) until the second Passover date. How can we observe the memorial (the Seder) if the sacrifice of the paschal lamb is forbidden? After all, that’s the primary purpose for the memorial -- to remember the night of the tenth plague when we sacrificed a lamb and placed its blood on our doors. Moreover, in accordance with the last part of Numb. 9:12, we are to observe the second Passover for the same number of days as the Passover, seven days.
If we were to follow this commandment properly, how better to memorialize the exodus from Egypt and the destruction of the Temples! That’s what Passover should be about: Those two -- three -- events. Our ancient nighttime flight to freedom and our subsequent twice-lost grace.
So now what can we conclude from the discussion in this section? What I believe is this. We may not observe the holiday or conduct a Seder on the evenings of the fourteenth (or fifteenth) of Nisan. We can have a regular meal and discuss the Exodus on the fourteenth. I think we should make the meal festive, but we should eat no meat at that meal to sadly acknowledge our inability to sacrifice the paschal lamb. But as for a formal Seder, that must wait one month until the fourteenth of Iyar. Following this practice would require us to have a different haggadah, one for the seven-day holiday in Iyar. No eight days!
Thus to be true to the Torah, we must observe only the second holiday of Passover. The first holiday in the month of Nisan may not be observed, only seven days one month later, with a formal Seder.
With this greatly unsettling finale, I bring the discussion in this section to a close, at least temporarily.
7. Taking the name of the Lord, our God, in vain
What are we told about taking the name of the Lord in vain? Two verses in the Torah, Exod. 20:7 and Levi. 19:12 are all that we are given, except that the first of these two is repeated in Deut. 5:12.
Here is what they say (my translation):
Exod. 20:7 You shall not take up the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, for the Lord will not hold innocent he who will take His name in vain.
Levi. 19:12 And you shall not swear deceptively by My name that you profane the name of your God. I am the Lord.
Jews have taken the first verse literally. They believe that one takes the name of the Lord in vain if he is not praying. When not praying, they say Hashem or Adoshem for the four-letter tetragram, yad-heh-vav-heh, that is translated as the Lord. They say Elokim for God, Elokechah for your God, and Elokeinu for our God. When praying, they say Adonai for the tetragram, Elohim for God, Elohechah for your God, and Eloheinu for our God.
Many Christians, on the other hand, believe the commandment means not to cuss. Part of the reason for this is based on the second of the above verses. Jews, however, interpret this verse to mean you shall not swear an oath you do not intend to fulfill.
Now I believe that God has revealed to me the proper meaning of these two verses. You may sneer or laugh at the idea that God provides me with knowledge, but I tell you that He would reveal these things to you if you attuned your awareness and your “hearing” and your belief appropriately. Unfortunately, Judaism offers little hope of teaching you how to do that, I suppose because most Jews believe that God is far away.
Now here is what I believe. Take it for what you think it’s worth.
We take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain in the following situations:
We succeed in not taking the name of the Lord, our God, in vain in the following situations:
According to my belief, it is not necessary to substitute different spellings for the Lord’s name under any circumstances. It demonstrates a disregard for the Lord, and dishonors His holy name.
8. The Book of Job
I have much to say about the Book of Job. As you may know, it is included among the bible books of wisdom. Few consider it an allegory as I do, most believe it wrestles directly with the vital questions of justice and suffering. I actually believe it may be both allegorical and mysteriously prophetic, but wisdom maybe only superficially. But then what is it an allegory about (if not justice and suffering)? And what about the book makes it prophetic? Well, to admit a deep secret, I believe it is primarily prophetic -- addressing the future of Israel, the Jews, and the world.
I have two reasons for my belief.
For one, the story of Job offers a mysterious, mystical “proof” against a strongly held widespread belief that has persisted throughout much of the last 2,000 years.. You know that much of the world believes that Satan influences us in our minds. The expression, “The devil made me do it,” stands as testimony to this widespread belief. Well, in this book of Job, its author shows how Satan works. And it’s not in our minds!
In Chapters 1 and 2 we see that Satan functions in the physical world by making our lives harder than they need to be, sometimes disastrously so. As a kind of aside -- but an important one! -- you will find in Part 7, Messages (Introduction), on this web site I state that the Lord speaks to us in our mind (in a still small voice) all the time. And I dare say that God does not share the space in our head with any lesser being (other than ourselves).
For my second reason, I have guessed that Job is the personification of Judaism, and the three friends are the competing religions Christianity, Islam, and an as-yet unknown future religion. Elihu may personify yet another future religion as well, one that comes, makes a relatively short appearance, and then fades. but I’m a bit leery about Elihu. He may be just an aberration.
Why do I believe Job represents Judaism? First, he has ten offspring (two times to emphasize the fact) -- tribes, I would assume. Actually, it may be that the second time means the ten tribes are resurrected in the future (DNA testing perhaps?). So the second set of children is also prophetic. That three of them are female is not crucial to my interpretation, as they would be considered equal in rank to their brothers. But having made them women, the author may be conveying a hidden message, one that I can’t fathom. Next, after an initially prosperous beginning (representing the patriarchs and matriarchs, the reigns of David and Solomon), Job sinks into trouble and abject suffering (loss of the two Temples and a prolonged exile in the Diaspora, along with continual unfounded but vengeful hatred and anti-Semitism). Next, notice the things Eliphaz believes about Job: Job speaks empty meaningless words, he is abominable and corrupt. Bildad, on the other hand, is certain that Job and/or his children are sinners, witness their suffering and death; evil-doers suffer and the righteous prosper, and he curses Job incessantly. And Zophar: Job’s questioning God is mocking Him, and no one can know of God, the evil-doer will suffer. Zophar’s advice is to repent, and the Lord will respond. Does this not sound like Job and the others represent history (and the present and future)?
Why do I believe the friends represent competing religions? There are several reasons. For one, the three friends try to persuade Job to adopt their self-assured points of view (evangelism). For another, they curse and insult Job without just cause, relying only on their own unfounded prejudices. For yet another, Eliphaz professes to have received visions from God, informing him of the truths of which he speaks. More: Job is accused of not being “pure” enough to hear from God, he must be guilty of sins the three do not commit, and he is an insult to God. Evil does not spring up from the dust (but from the devil), and humans are born evil. Does that sound familiar? Does it not sound like anti-Semitism?
I know there is at least one competing argument to all this, that Job is probably younger than at least one of the three “friends,” but the story requires that to an extent -- he had to live long enough after his release from his ordeal so he would have the opportunity to make up (two-fold) for his suffering. I must presume that in the end he lives longer than the other four.
So as I imagine this story’s message, Judaism persists till the end, and the other world religions then in existence will be “corrected” and absorbed into it. Now remember, if you are inspired to argue against this point of view, my opinion is all this is. I do not put nor advocate any importance or significance, other than my own, on my beliefs. However, if you were to discover evidence that my theories might be wrong, I would be delighted to hear about it. If you show me to be wrong, I will sincerely apologize and state so here.
Next I want to offer my personal views on this book of Job. Although I deeply admire the breathtakingly marvelous poetry it comprises, I have two points I want to stress, both being negative criticisms. First there is my view of the story line. Second is my belief about God and how this book conflicts with it; as part of this discussion, I will investigate God’s stunningly human attributes as revealed in this book.
As to the first point, I see this story, especially the first two chapters, as obviously (painfully so) and deliberately contrived in order to justify Job’s dire predicament. As such, it immediately falls flat as wisdom literature. But my complaint goes beyond the apparent artificiality of the book’s beginning. It falls even flatter as a wisdom book for the rest of the chapters as well.
Incidentally, why is Job counted among the books of wisdom? Does it offer advice about good living as Proverbs does? No. Does it provide sage insight into the meaning of life as Ecclesiastes does? No. Does it reveal an approach to the pious life as Psalms does? No. Then what does it offer in the way of wisdom? I see little to qualify it as a wisdom book. It deals with evil and human integrity, I admit, and the reason for human suffering. But what does it say about them? My answer? Little meaningful at best. The only “wisdom” in the book, if there is any, is in Job’s objections to his condition. The soliloquies of the “friends,” of Elihu -- or even of God’s -- offer us little more than beliefs that are commonly accepted, mostly unfounded and untested opinions. I come away from this book with no new bits of wisdom or knowledge, only the same confusion I had when I started. I suspect Job might have been included among the wisdom books only because it fit no where else.
Next, I move on to the book’s depiction of God. As some of you may already know, that is, those of you who have visited my main web site, my perception of God is as an omniscient, omnipotent, everlasting, loving, benevolent, caring, forgiving Being Who is close to each of us, in our thoughts, our dreams, and our visions. And on that web site I bring evidence from the bible to that effect. I believe that God is unfathomable. In some respects He is depicted as such in parts of the chapters of His soliloquy in this book, but this conclusion is implied rather than openly stated. There is no evidence for the latter belief but I expect that the orderliness and complexity of the universe attests to it. What does seem to come through rather clearly in God’s speeches is that humanity is not in a partnership with God. But in a very important sense this “fact” presents us with a dilemma. The Torah states that we are indeed in such a partnership. It is represented by the covenant.
Finally, I believe that God doesn’t possess human instincts or attributes and He exhibits no human behavioral traits. We may delineate and speak of His divine traits, but they are only dismally minimal approximations of His reality.
Yet as described in this book, God is boastful, accepts dares, exhibits pride, is not omniscient or omnipotent, becomes angry, cares little for his servants, even his most faithful, and indulges His whims. The divine Being Who created the universe, Who brought about the incredible conditions of the Big Bang! Could a Being with such power, wisdom, capability, and majesty be anything like a human? I claim He couldn’t be. I have no proof, of course; I can offer no infallible argument. I have little more than an instinctual (and fallible) knowledge.
As I construe the bible, God sees all of time “simultaneously.” In His “eyes” all potential futures, possibilities brought about by human (and other intelligent beings?) free will, exist (“simultaneously”). And God can “see” which outcomes are “good.” And He acts accordingly when necessary to further His plan for the universe and His servants, whom He loves “passionately” with infinite “patience” and benevolent “fatherly” guidance. Remember, in my opinion, patience is really only one of our imperfect human perceptions about God. Seeing all time, He appears patient to us, but the term is meaningless for such a Being.
Moreover, I believe that God does not exhibit anger. Seeing all, He is never surprised as we are. It is surprise, disappointment, painful but undeserved punishment and/or a sense of betrayal or unfairness that make one angry. I ask you, would God experience any of these? I believe not.
Does God boast or “feel” pride? Only someone who believes he has competition from his/her peers and feels the need to respond in kind would boast and feel pride. And God has no competition. There is none like our God.
Now why would God have to or even entertain accepting a dare? As far as I am concerned, for the same reasons He would not be proud or boastful. We accept a dare because we are proud and afraid to refuse. Does that seem like God! Again I say, “No!”
And why would He show such callous disregard for the suffering of one of His most faithful servants? Because He knows He will eventually undo all the damage He allowed Satan to do? Seems unlikely to me. Seems to me more like a children’s story to justify otherwise unexplainable events.
Finally, to have allowed Satan to wreak such havoc with Job and his loved ones must be viewed as a whim. It is an unpredictable and arbitrary decision based on feelings or desires. That is a definition of a whim. And I believe God does not possess these traits in the way that we know them.
In summary, as far as I am concerned, the depiction of God in the Book of Job is naive and simplistic, and leaves me with the uncomfortable thought that God is being diminished and insulted by it.
So I am left only with my own (silly?) ideas about God, the universe, and Job at the end of this book. Make of them what you will.
9. Our relationship with God and the World
In this section I will explain what I believe is the mutual relationship between God, the Jews, and the other peoples of the world and with the world itself. Some of what I say will be familiar, things I’ve said in other parts of this site and in my companion site. Some will consist of additional insights acquired during my journey through the bible and in contemplation. I will discuss what I believe our attitude should be toward our Creator, the Supreme Being of the universe, what I believe His “attitude” is toward us, and how that relates to us who are His creation and are living in His creation.
As for what I believe our attitude toward the Lord should be, here are my thoughts: First of all, we must be joyous beyond our imagined capacity, because of the simple single most important fact of all -- God exists! We must be thankful for His having created us and placing us in this ideal (but utterly painful and treacherous) “laboratory” (or “school”) in which we live. We must love God with all our heart, and soul, and might -- unconditionally! We must revere Him unconditionally. We must strive to overcome our selfish and egotistical desire to go our own way and ignore God, working mightily to achieve the ultimate goal of regarding God above ourselves. We must look at our life in this realm as an opportunity, an adventure of discovery, to personally learn what God “wants” of us. And as Jews we must study and follow the Torah’s teachings as they apply to us today. Everyone else has to follow at least five laws written in the Torah. For one, after the Flood God “acquiesced” and permitted humans and animals to eat meat, but He said in Gene. 9:4, “Only the flesh with its blood, it shall you not eat.” In other words, meat must be drained of its blood before it is cooked and eaten. See below for a discussion of the so-called Noahide laws.
Look, either God exists and is the Creator of the entire universe, or He is -- as some believe -- a fiction. If we believe He exists, what can be more important to us, who are His creation? That we exist? That the world exists? That the animals and vegetation exist? Aren’t all these products of His existence? If He doesn’t exist, then does any of this exist? An interesting question! Can anything exist without having been created? Think of it this way: If something exists that wasn’t created, it had to have been here since before the beginning of time. Another view might have it that the chemical ingredients for the development of life did exist for most of the history of the universe. My answer? What was there at the Beginning? An explosive flash of light! Was that enough to eventually lead to humans? No one is smart enough to say with absolute certainty.
Now what do I believe about God’s relationship with us? First, as I said in part 2, I believe that God’s holy spirit exists throughout the universe (or universes). It is found in every animate and inanimate thing. It “sees” how all the parts of the universe interact and how quantum particles interact with each other. It “understands” all. It has all the answers.
Yet, despite the reality of God’s “immensity,” He has a personal relationship with each of His creations. It appears that His most “desired” outcome is for us (all living creatures?) to learn and to improve. As a result, He is “constantly” engaged in communicating His love and wisdom to us. This communication may appear as ideas in our thoughts, visions, and/or dreams, and sometimes as spoken words that we hear with our ears. Our job in loving the Lord with all our heart, soul, and might is to receive this communication, tell others about it, and act accordingly.
Some people express or exhibit an assurance that they possess a special conduit between them and God. Maybe some people do, but I’m sure not all of them do. But most of us who strive to “hear” the Lord are often beset with doubts. Yet there are times when even we who are filled with doubt or even disbelief may be certain we received a Divine message. My own incredible dream that I dreamed circa 1991 that changed my life is one of those times for me (see my companion website for this story).
Finally, I have to briefly consider our relationship to the world. Do you ever ask if we own the world or, for that matter, if we own anything? Well, the Lord has given us the answer to these questions. It is found in Levi. 25:23. He is speaking to Moses, but is addressing the people.
וְהָאָרֶץ לֹא תִמָּכֵר לִצְמִתֻת כִּי־לִי הָאָרֶץ כִּי־גֵרִים וְתֹושָׁבִים אַתֶּם עִמָּדִי
Levi. 25:23 “Now the land shall never be sold in perpetuity, because the land is Mine, for you are strangers and settlers with Me.”
We are strangers on this earth, mere settlers. We own nothing here. But we are charged with taking care of this world. God gives us dominion over it (Gene. 1:26). Do we have the right to harm or destroy it? I believe He answers with a resounding “NO!”
As I promised, I will now turn my attention to the Noahide laws.
These are the Noahide laws as recorded in the Talmud.
Apparently these seven laws are meant to apply to all non-Jews. Moreover they defined “Righteous Gentiles” for some Jews. To them these observant non-Jews were entitled to the rewards of the world to come.
I would like to comment on these laws and their derivation. The first six were exegetically derived from verses in Genesis. That is, they were derived through rabbinic analyses and discussions of various verses in the chapter following the Flood. The seventh was dictated by the Talmudic rabbis as a legal means to maintain order.
I intend to write a critique of these laws.
First of all, I believe we Jews have no right to dictate laws to non-Jews. Only God has that right. And God did indicate in the Torah that some laws were applicable to all humanity. But they were mostly not among the above seven. The first of them should be “Do not murder.” This comes from Gene. 4:10-12 and Gene. 9:6. In the first set of verses, God is speaking to Cain:
Gen. 4:10. And He said, “What have you done? A sound! The blood of your brother is crying out to Me from the ground.” 11. “So now cursed are you from the ground that has opened its mouth to receive the blood of your brother because of your hand.” 12. “When you till the ground, it shall not yield its strength to you. A fugitive and a wanderer shall you be throughout the earth.”
In the last of these verses God is speaking to Noah and his sons:
Gen. 9:4. “Whosoever sheds the blood of a human, by a human shall his blood be shed, for in the image of God He made the human.”
My second, third, and fourth laws are encountered in Genesis Chapter 9. The second law is “be fruitful and multiply.” The Lord is speaking to Noah and his sons:
Gen. 9:1 “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth.”
The third law is “do not eat the blood of any animal.” God is still addressing Noah and his sons:
Gen. 9:4. “Only the flesh with its blood, shall you not eat it.”
The fourth law is “do not uncover the nakedness of your father.” This comes from Gene. 9:25, but several introductory verses have to be included here:
Gen. 9:21 And he drank of the wine and was drunk and was uncovered within his tent. 22. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and he told his two brothers outside. 23. And Shem took, with Japheth, a gown and placed it over the shoulders of both of them, and they went backward and covered the nakedness of their father, and their faces were backward so they did not see the nakedness of their father. 24. When Noah awoke from his wine imbibing, then he knew what his youngest son had done to him. 25. And he said, “Cursed shall be Canaan! A servant of servants shall he be to his brethren.”
Some doubt remains as to what the fourth law should include. Gen. 9:24 seems to imply that Ham did something more than just looking, but we are not privileged to know what it was. As there is no way to know with any certainty, we have to follow the scripture itself.
The fifth and final law is “do not try to be like God.” This one should be uncomfortable for many Christians, those who believe they should strive to be like Jesus (God to them). This law is derived from Genesis Chapter 11, verses 11:3-6:
Gen, 11:3. And they said each to his neighbor, “Come let us try to build bricks that we burn thoroughly,” so they had brick for stone, and they had mud for mortar. 4. And they said, “Come let us try to build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, so that we can make a name for ourselves, lest we would be scattered over the surface of the whole earth.” 5. And the Lord came down to see the city and the tower that the sons of humanity had built. 6. And the Lord said, “Behold, one people and one language for all of them, and this they begin to do, and now all that they will think to do will not be withheld from them.”
In summary, the legitimate laws of Noah from my point of view are these five:
I believe the first two of the traditional seven Noahide laws, noble as they may be, are not justified. The same is true of the fourth. Laws five, six, and seven are honorable rabbinic wishes, but I can’t see how they can be derived from Torah scripture.
One more point before I end this section: The number seven is a magical number to those who study the Torah, so it has spiritual significance. Primarily it represents the seven days of the week. It also represents the number of years in the agricultural cycle. I suspect the rabbis made up some of their seven laws in order to reach this magical number.
10. Conversion to Judaism
Traditionally, converts to Judaism have to go through at least two years of study, circumcision for men, an intensive interview by a body called a Beit Din (house of judgment), and immersion in a ritual bath. Many converts profess to have enjoyed these experiences (even the circumcision?), but they were instituted centuries ago by guardians of the faith to insure that every convert sincerely wanted to be Jewish. I suspect they also intended to make Judaism as exclusive as possible, to be sure that its holiness is preserved. They probably thought being Jewish was a great privilege and was worth all that effort.
I admit the following is my opinion, but I believe there should be no requirements (other than circumcision for men) for becoming a Jew. My model for this opinion is found in the book of Ruth. Ruth, the daughter-in-law of Naomi, was a Moabitess. She had no formal Jewish training and did not face a Beit Din. She voluntarily became a member of the Jewish people. Yet she was the great- grandmother of David. Ruth 1:16 says it all. Ruth is speaking to Naomi:
“But Ruth said, ‘Do not plead with me to forsake you, to turn away from following you.
For wherever you may go, I will go, and wherein you may lodge, I will lodge. Your
people are my people, and your God is my God.’”
Why are there now such stringent requirements to enter into the faith? In my judgment, the practice and world experience of Judaism is fraught with difficulty. Throughout history Jews have been subjected to beatings, murder, genocide, ugly words, a hopelessly bad reputation, and more. Why would anyone wish to voluntarily join us? So I say anyone who does is either crazy or a fanatic for the Jewish faith. In either case, we should welcome them with open arms -- no strings attached. They should be considered Jewish from the moment they express their desire to join us. However, for men, there has to be one requirement: Circumcision!
11. Who was permitted to enter the Tabernacle
According to most (maybe all) rabbis, every “clean” priest was permitted to enter the Tabernacle while it was at rest. They could each light the candlestick, burn incense on the golden altar, and prepare and place the showbread. The Levites were excluded from the resting Tabernacle except when all the holy furniture had been covered by the priests in preparation for moving to a new location in the wilderness. However, only the high priest was permitted to enter behind the veil over the ark, and that only once a year -- on Yom Kippur.
I believe there is evidence in the Torah to show that much of this popular and respected belief is inaccurate.
But before I present that evidence, I have to raise -- and answer to everyone’s satisfaction -- one question inspired by a seemingly rather obvious omission in the Torah: If the high priest was permitted to enter behind the veil of the ark only on Yom Kippur, how could the ark have been prepared for moving when the Tabernacle was to be carried to a new location? I envision only one possible answer. The answer would have to be that there was a suspension of certain rules at those times.
This is highly significant. We have here an important precedent that cannot be ignored. Either of two conclusions may be appropriate in situations such as these that we may encounter in the Torah. Either there are exceptions, at times unrevealed, to some stated commandments, or there is an implicit understanding that the wording of some verses imply more than the words apparently convey. The verse inspiring the above question is an example of the first case. The second case is exemplified by the verses of Numbers Chapter 7, which describes the twelve chiefs of the tribes bringing their offerings to dedicate the newly erected Tabernacle on twelve consecutive days. This chapter (as well as elsewhere in Leviticus) informs us that (1) the service of the Tabernacle (and the Temple) was not suspended on the Sabbath and (2) that people were permitted to leave their tents on the Sabbath with their offerings, perhaps even carrying them in wagons.
Now for the discussion of who was permitted to ordinarily enter the Tabernacle. I claim it was only the high priest.
The following discussion provides the basis for my claim. It will focus on a two-pronged argument. First I will present and analyze the verses that mention a priest entering the Tabernacle. I will then discuss the verses that seem to indicate that ordinary priests are never mentioned as entering the Tabernacle.
To begin the investigation of the first “prong,” I direct you to Exod. 29:29 and 29:30.
`~dy"-ta, ~b-aLem;l.W ~hê,b hxv.ml. wyr_x]a; wyn"bl. Wyh.yI !rêoh]a;l. rv,a] vd,Qoh; ydeg>biW
Exod. 29:29 “And the garments of holiness that are Aaron’s shall be his sons’ after him, to be anointed by them and to be empowered by them.”
`vd,QoB; trevl. d[eAm lh,ao-la, aboy" rv,a] wyn="Bmi wyTx.T; !heKoh; ~vBl.yI ~ymiy" t[;b.vi
Exod. 29:30 “The priest in his stead from his sons, who will come in to the tent of meeting to minister in the holy place, shall put them on seven days.”
Before we discuss the evidence these verses present, I have to mention one other point. The first verse tells us that whenever Aaron’s sons are mentioned, it doesn’t necessarily mean all of them. In this situation only Aaron’s descendants who will be high priests are meant. It’s obvious that Aaron’s garments are meant only for the high priest.
The combination of these two verses informs us that the phrases "Aaron's sons" or "his sons" have to be understood in the context of the verse in which they appear. In some verses, "his sons" can be understood to refer to all his sons. In other instances, "his sons" refers only to subsequent high priests. The latter is the case in these two verses. The second verse also hints at my conclusion that only the high priest could enter the Tabernacle (and the holy places of the Temple).
Other facts are implied by the two verses. The first verse seems to tell us that the subsequent high priests (after Eleazar) were anointed by the garments of the high priest. The second verse seems to tell us that subsequent high priests assume their new position by wearing the high priest's garments for seven consecutive days (as Aaron did originally).
The phrase [the high priest] “from his sons, who will come in,” means what it says. It was only the high priest who normally entered the tent of meeting. That rule was suspended when the Tabernacle was to be moved.
Now we turn to six verses starting with Levi. 4:2. The Lord is speaking to Moses.
מֵאַחַת דַּבֵּר אֶל־בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵללֵאמֹר נֶפֶשׁ כִּי־תֶחֱטָא בִשְׁגָגָה מִכֹּל מִצְוֺת יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר לֹא תֵעָשֶׂינָה וְעָשָׂה
Levi. 4:2 “Speak to the children of Israel saying, ‘When a person might sin in error out of all commandments of the Lord that must not be done, and will do one from them:
אִם הַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ יֶחֱטָא לְאַשְׁמַת הָעָם וְהִקְרִיב עַל חַטָּאתוֹ אֲשֶׁר חָטָא פַּר בֶּן־בָּקָר תָּמִים לַיהוָה לְחַטָּאת׃
Levi. 4:3 If the anointed priest should sin in an offense of the people, then he shall offer, because of his sin that he had committed, a young bullock without blemish to the Lord for a sin offering.’
וְהֵבִיא אֶת־הַפָּר אֶל־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְסָמַךְ אֶת־יָדוֹ עַל־רֹאשׁ הַפָּר וְשָׁחַט אֶת־הַפָּר לִפְנֵי
Levi. 4:4 ‘And he shall bring the bullock to the entrance of the tent of meeting before the Lord and he shall lay his hand on the head of the bullock and slaughter the bullock before the Lord.’
וְלָקַח הַכֹּהֵן הַמָּשִׁיחַ מִדַּם הַפָּר וְהֵבִיא אֹתוֹ אֶל־אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד׃
Levi. 4:5 ‘And the anointed priest shall take some of the blood of the bullock and bring it in to the tent of meeting.’
וְטָבַל הַכֹּהֵן אֶת־אֶצְבָּעוֹ בַּדָּם וְהִזָּה מִן־הַדָּם שֶׁבַע פְּעָמִים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֶת־פְּנֵי פָּרֹכֶת הַקֹּדֶשׁ׃
Levi. 4:6 ‘And the priest shall dip his finger in the blood and sprinkle, from the blood, the front of the veil of the sanctuary seven times before the Lord.’
וְנָתַן הַכֹּהֵן מִן־הַדָּם עַל־קַרְנוֹת מִזְבַּח קְטֹרֶת הַסַּמִּים לִפְנֵי יְהוָה אֲשֶׁר בְּאֹהֶל מוֹעֵד וְאֵת כָּל־דַּם הַפָּר
יִשְׁפֹּךְ אֶל־יְסוֹד מִזְבַּח הָעֹלָה אֲשֶׁר־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד׃
Levi. 4:7 ‘And the priest shall put some of the blood on the horns of the altar of sweet incense before the Lord that is in the tent of meeting, and he shall pour out all the blood of the bullock at the base of the altar of the burnt offering that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting.’
In these verses, “the anointed priest” must refer to the high priest; otherwise it would have said “An anointed priest.” I suspect the reason this phrase is used instead of either the “high priest” or “Aaron” is that these verses describe future circumstances, as indicated in Levi. 4:2. These verses inform us how the high priest could atone for the his sin. He was to enter the Tabernacle to sprinkle blood on the “veil of the sanctuary.”
Verses Levi. 4:16, 17, 18 repeat the instructions of Levi. 4:5, 6 and 7 for a different occasion. As they are essentially identical, I have not included them here.
Next I direct you to Levi. 16:32. The Lord is instructing Moses as to the high priest’s responsibilities on Yom Kippur. However, for a number of verses before this one, all priests having a physical defect are being discussed. Here the Lord abruptly narrows His focus to only subsequent high priests.
`vd,Qoh; ydeg>Bi dB'h; ydeg>Bi-ta, vb;l'w> wyb_ia' tx;T; !hek;l. Adêy"-ta, aLem;y> rv,a]w: Atao xv;m.yI-rv,a] !heKoh; rP,kiw
Levi. 16:32 “And the priest who shall be anointed to it and who shall have completed his consecration to be priest in place of his father shall make atonement. And he shall put on the linen garments, the holy garments.”
We can surmise that the high priest is also indicated here, because of the two phrases “the priest who shall be anointed” and “to be priest in place of his father.” Moreover, he has to have completed his seven days of consecration. After Moses, it could have been uncertain as to how that is accomplished. But referring back to Numb. 29:30 above, it’s pretty clear that the consecration is completed by his wearing the garments of the high priest for seven days. Because of the discussion that started this section and Numb. 29:30 and Levi. 16:32, we can assume that either he does it by himself or he has another priest help him. However it is accomplished, it must be done.
Chapter 4 of Leviticus goes on to address sins of the congregation, of a ruler or prince, and of “any from the common people.” There again the same instructions are given for the high priest.
To include all the possible evidence even if ambiguous, I have to mention that Chapter 5 of Leviticus contains more instructions to Moses regarding other sins committed in general, also specifying “the priest.” Although the chapter appears to be a direct continuation of Chapter 4, it can’t be said with any assurance that the priest is the high priest of the previous chapter. Therefore I haven’t included it as evidence.
At this point we have completed the evidence for the high priest being the one who administers in the tent of meeting. In order to reach the appropriate conclusion to this discussion, we have to consider the evidence for no other priests being given permission to enter the tent of meeting or tasks that would require it (except when the Tabernacle is to be moved).
The first verse to support this second “prong” is Levi. 1:5.
וְשָׁחַט אֶת־בֶּן הַבָּקָר לִפְנֵי יְהוָה וְהִקְרִיבוּ בְּנֵי אַהֲרֹן הַכֹּהֲנִים אֶת־הַדָּם וְזָרְקוּ אֶת־הַדָּם עַל־הַמִּזְבֵּחַ סָבִיב
אֲשֶׁר־פֶּתַח אֹהֶל מוֹעֵד׃
Levi. 1:5 “And he shall slaughter the calf before the Lord, and the sons of Aaron, the priests, shall bring the blood and scatter the blood against the altar that is at the entrance of the tent of meeting, all around.”
The pronoun he refers to the Isrealite who brings the calf. You can see that in this verse, the ordinary priests are directed only to serve at the alter of the burnt offering, which is in front of the Tabernacle. I will include more evidence in the future
This is the end of my diatribe -- for now. As I encounter new personal “evidence,” I will add to this site.
[5. Judaism ]