Sunday, May 18, 2008
The tired old canard states that Judaism is a religion of law while Christianity is a religion of love. According to this way of thinking, Judaism concentrates on the trivial points of ritual observance whose curse Christians have been freed from by Jesus fulfilling the law. Christians achieve grace through the sacrifice of Jesus while Jews spent their lives aimlessly trying to follow an impossible system of obligations and commandments in which there is no spirituality. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The second a Jew wakes up in the morning, he says the Modeh Ani, thanking G-d for returning his soul to him. He then washes his hands, wiping away the impurity of near-death. Before he can eat anything, he must don his tallit and tefillin and pray shacharit. The Jew unfolds his prayer shawl and wraps himself around it, saying the blessing over it. He then proceeds to tie the leather straps of the tefillin around his arm, with the box next to his heart. He places the head tefillin like a crown and praises G-d's name. As he wraps the tefillin around his fingers like a ring, forming one of G-d's names, he says the verse: "And I will bethroth you to Me forever, and I will bethroth you to Me in justice and righteousness, and kindness and mercy, and I will bethroth you to Me in faith, and you shall know HaShem." With this simple action every single morning, a Jew connects himself to his G-d and reaches the most sublime heights of spirituality. Through a simple leather strap and a box containing a few parchments, a Jew is able to please G-d, to fulfill His Will and to bring a level of perfection into the world. What a priviledge! What an opportunity!
Judaism is a very action-oriented religion. G-d is not found in rigid dogmas or in ancient philosophies. Truth does not exist on forsaken shores, lofty mountains, dark oceans or in lone monasteries. Quite the opposite. "For this commandment which I command thee this day, it is not too hard for thee, neither is it far off. It is not in heaven, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go up for us to heaven, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' Neither is it beyond the sea, that thou shouldest say: 'Who shall go over the sea for us, and bring it unto us, and make us to hear it, that we may do it?' But the word is very nigh unto thee, in thy mouth, and in thy heart, that thou mayest do it." (Deut. 30:11-14) Spirituality is found in the wool fringes tied to the corner of our garments, in candles lit in honour of the Shabbat, in a kind word, in a blessing, in a chapter of Torah studied. Even the most simple Jew can connect to G-d through countless mitzvot during the day. Kashrut is the Jewish way of achieving spirituality through eating. Shabbat is the Jewish way of making the mundane work week spiritual.
The Christian claim that through the intercession of Jesus, they are able to approach G-d, falls remarkably short. At Mount Sinai, G-d told the entire nation of Israel that they are to have no other gods before Him, as intermediaries between Him and them. There is nothing that stands between a Jew, and truly all of Creation, and HaShem. There is no need for an intercessor as G-d is directly approachable by every single person, each in his own way. By keeping the mitzvot of the Torah with passion and dedication, a Jew comes close to G-d. The idea that ritual observance is devoid of passion is absolutely ludicrous. It is precisely by doing something concrete as opposed to believing in the abstract that a person can achieve a genuine connection with G-d. Missionaries frequently ask their prey if they have a personal relationship with G-d, because in their minds such a relationship is impossible without Jesus. That is patently absurd. Jews have been engaging in a meaningful connection with HaShem for three millenia through His Torah. It is the channel for spirituality in this world.
"O come, let us sing unto the LORD; let us shout for joy to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving, let us shout for joy unto Him with psalms. For the LORD is a great God, and a great King above all gods." Throw away all intercessors or obstacles between you and G-d. He wants to get to know you personally, and for you to get to know Him. He is waiting. There is no other.