We have 613 Mitzvot

©by Menashe Dovid Ben Avraham, 28 Jan 2016

The Animals.

Did you know that some people considered bands like the Beetles to be dangerously rebellious which was indicated by the way they dressed? No doubt even today some may hold them and other bands as the instigators of the world’s present day problems. What with all that free love and musical expression it just goes to show that sometimes stigmas about peoples, cultures, and religions still abound despite the obvious efforts by some to correct these stigmas.

Very often in conversation with non-Jews about Jews, certain theological stigmas and preconceived notions still exist. You see its all about a collective subconscious perception which is often part of the non-Jewish mindset. The collective subconscious by Christians is often vocalized with how Christians see the ‘old’ Testament as a bunch of oppressive laws of which, according to their ingrained theology, cannot be kept. And why would you even keep them if after all Jesus kept them all perfectly on your behalf and also suffered vicariously too for our lack of perfect obedience demanded by the Almighty. The bunch of oppressive laws if not kept one hundred percent perfectly, ultimately causes both Jews and non-Jews to go to hell. The faulty nature of these oppressive laws only came to be corrected two thousand years ago with the first advent, crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus as the ‘new’ Testament shows.

Moreover, prior to Jesus we have a mystery:

that has been kept hidden for ages and generations, but is now disclosed to the Lord’s people(Col 1:26). 

Which means that nobody knew about the whole divine/ human sacrifice/ atonement eternal BBQ thing or ‘else’ until Jesus came on the scene because it had been kept hidden for ages and generations.

In stark contrast the Jewish scriptures reveal that there are no mysteries in the ‘old’ testament. In fact it is quite the opposite:

The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law. Deut 29:29

I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Is 45:19

The problem with the word law is that it reminds you of the police, or like some “stern” character sitting there telling you what to do, which is what the NT says:

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. Gal 3:23-25

And of course more tellingly as part of the mystery, ‘faith’ was missing prior to Jesus which is how Paul was able to horribly mangle the Torah’s message:

Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it. Deut 30:11-14

cf

Moses writes this about the righteousness that is by the law: “The person who does these things will live by them.”But the righteousness that is by faith says: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ down) “or ‘Who will descend into the deep?’ ” (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead). But what does it say? “The word is near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (Rom 10:5-9)

So with Paul’s mangling of the Torah, he cuts out the idea that the ‘Law’ is doable and replaces it with faith which was not present/ available to people prior to Jesus. Also from the heavily redacted gospels, no doubt influenced by Paul, we have a reference to the “word”  as in “The word ismystNT near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart,” that is, the message concerning faith that we proclaim: If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. The parallel to the “divine” word becoming flesh (John 1:1,14) does not go unnoticed to a discerning reader of the NT and like a magic spell uttered in the mouth of a believer, the believer is saved! Moreover, the utterance of the magic spell gives birth to the idea of the ‘evangelical paradigm’ introduced by the NT writers. The evangelical paradigm which somewhat restricts people who are to be ‘saved’ (another unfortunate term at odds with the Hebrew bible[1]) to a new belief in a ‘mystery’ which only came to light two thousand years ago.

In contrast according to the evangelical paradigm, Jesus’ coming caused myriads of formerly ‘saved’ Jews and gentile God-fearers to slip into perdition or least into an eternal jeopardy because the basis of salvation had changed and narrowed with Jesus’ incarnation, crucifixion, resurrection, or ascension. The year before Jesus died and rose, faithful Jews and God-fearers needed only seek to live faithful to God, trusting in His faithfulness to Israel and in the provisions he had made through the Torah. Under such an arrangement, certainly there must have been tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of Jews whose status with God was assured, in this life and the next. But according to the New Testament, with the coming of Jesus, all that changed! Now, according to the prevailing paradigm, all of these Jews AND non-Jews were fundamentally lost, unless and until they accepted Jesus as their personal Savior. The evangelical paradigm still to this day requires Jews AND non-Jews to accept Jesus as their personal Savior or they are doomed. The evangelical paradigm means that human substitutionary atonement (before atonement using just animals is one part of the religion of Israel), now becomes a sole basis for a whole new religion/ faith for the new “Spiritual Israel” where blood is key!

Getting back to the problem with the word ‘law’ reminding you of the police, or some “stern” authority character sitting there telling you what to do and ready to punish you for your mistakes…… Law is a very bad translation of the word Torah which means to instruct. Specifically the word “Mitzva” often translated as ‘commandment’ (613 of them) actually means and conveys the idea that G-d gave us 613 ways to come close to Him. The ways are divided into two parts, 248 ways of reaching G-d by doing certain things, and 365 ways of reaching Him by not doing certain things. A further refinement of the idea is that in the Torah itself, aside from teaching us the actual mitzvot, we are also taught how to keep these mitzvot in a way that brings us closer to the purpose of the Torah. To understand the difference, we can use a car as a mashal/ parable.  It is one thing to know about all the parts of the car and what they do- but it is another to actually know how to drive the car to get to your destination. However, whilst doing normal everyday driving if there is a red light and I stop as I should, according to the law, nothing happens, right, no reward? However, if G-d’s red light flashed and I stop when I have a chance to do wrong, then something happens inside me, I have made a moral decision. The difference between man made laws and G-d’s laws is that something happened to me by me doing the right thing, in effect the Torah and its laws and my performance of them has converted me:

The law (Torah) of the LORD is perfect, refreshing the soul. The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy, making wise the simple. Psalm 19:7

A person, according to the teachings of the Jewish Scriptures takes an active role in his spiritual progression. In contradistinction a person according to new testament teachings takes on a passive role, since Jesus has done it all to one hundred percent satisfaction of god. One merely has to utter the magic spell a la Romans 10 and your saved! Why god would want to then continue roasting folks on  the eternal BBQ forever is also a mystery. Moreover, another mystery is how Jesus’ sacrifice was in actual fact a sacrifice, since by contrast a real sacrifice is used up/ gone forever, yet the teaching of the NT says Jesus lived again, how can this be considered a sacrifice?

In a strange paradox there are parts of New Testament which appear to have missed the efforts of the redactors of the New Testament. The strange paradox seems to re-affirm what might be labeled classical Abrahamic faith:

28 One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?” 29 “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. 30 Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ Mark 12

25 On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” 26 “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?” 27 He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’” 28 “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” Luke 10

Perhaps the thoughtful Christian or messianic may possibly wish to consider how quickly their respective organizations have rejected the definitive content of these New Testament declarations? Perhaps thoughtful Christian or messianic may consider the disharmony between the statements attributed to Jesus above and his idolatrous claim of being “the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me”? Perhaps thoughtful Christians or messianics may possibly consider the Jesus who was stripped and still is stripped of his most basic identity as a Jew who affirmed the oneness of G-d and who upheld the commandments of the Torah as the way to eternal life?

_________

  1. A look up of the word משיע (savior) in the Jewish scriptures shows up over 250 times and consistently carries the idea of being saved from ones enemies and NOT to be saved from sin!
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