The Cool Kids
Who Are the Cool Kids, B’nei Noach or B’nei Israel?
At a low point for America in the Revolutionary War some of George Washington’s officers were asking, “Is God with us?” General Washington got wind of it and he is quoted as responding, “Surely, Gentlemen, ask rather, ‘Do we stand with God?’”
This was also roughly the modus operandi of Abraham the Prophet – who became God’s friend, in Isaiah’s words, the loved one of the Living God (Isaiah 41:8) and His prophet. That’s how he approached life, thereby connecting himself to the very mighty Power Who makes the cosmos. David too: God’s inspired “sweet singer,” His poet and psalmist, the “appointed king of the God of Jacob” (2 Chronicles 20:7). In fact, lots of prophets, sages and others have deliberated on this same question and managed to position themselves right alongside God.
Nothing could be clearer, from the Torah, that this kind of genuine, intimate connection between the Living God and man is perfectly conceivable and reasonable. In fact, people often say this thoughtlessly but the Torah itself makes this point repeatedly: the incredible Deity Who consciously took care to make every single one of us “in His image” (Genesis 1:26-28) graciously invites our company.
So suppose someone tells you, “Before you can get with God like Abraham, you need to get with His system. You can’t just holler, ‘Here I am! Now, lift me up!’ You need to humble yourself. Like David, Abraham and Moses, you need to learn a few things – some teachings of truth and righteousness – and apply them.”
You could respond, “Forget it. If God wants me, He knows where to find me.” However, if you want to stand firmly with the right, with Him Who steers the stars, the Master of wars, the Judge of Eternity, etc., you can.
He will meet you if you will meet Him. You just want Him to know that you are genuinely sincere enough to be counted among those “who call upon Him in truth” (Psalm 145:19).
People try to get God with them by going on quests, doing menial tasks for monks and gurus, funding kirks and temples, kissing priest’s feet, etc. But then we have the examples of people like Washington and Abraham, etc., above. Godly people will honestly consider how God - the Ultimate Power Who guides Creation - wants them to act.
When people begin approaching God that way, they almost invariably find themselves engaged with Jewish teachings. Which sometimes brings them closer to God.
Often, sadly, it doesn’t.
We keep hearing that the Torah is too demeaning to non-Jews. That self-respecting Noahides can’t find enough honor in service to the Living God because, basically, if He’s the God of Israel, where do they come in?
“We’re not b’nei Israel, we’re b’nei Noach. If Israel is His first-born, His eldest son among the nations (Exodus 4:22), His “suffering servant” (Isaiah 53), and also His “people of priests” (Exodus 19:6; Isaiah 61:6), what role is there for us non-Jews?” If God blesses those who bless Israel, as He says (Genesis 12:3, Numbers 2:9) what value do we have in God’s eyes, since we’re not Jews, except for what we can do for Israel?
A brilliant doctor, a non-Jew who orginally came from Christianity, and then to Buddhism, raised this issue with us. “You claim the Torah is for everyone but it looks to me like it’s just the Jews who matter in it. The Noahides can tag along but it’s the Jews who are the cool kids.”
“What kind of idea do you have of God?” was our first response. “You think that God lacks the capacity to give all His heart to you? That if He loves someone other than you He’ll run out of love for you?”
We started getting mad. “Can you get your head around the idea that a people called Jews have a unique relationship with Him? And that you need to avail yourself of some of their “Jewish knowledge” to get with Him the way you want to?”
“Does that offend you? That God has other friends and followers than you, and they have knowledge that they’ve accumulated, to share with you. And that you’d be wise to learn it?”
Based on stark objective facts, the teachings of history, the trueness of the Torah, the brilliance, soundness and reasonableness of the ancient Hebrew Teachings, one who seeks God while avoiding or ignoring “Jewish knowledge” is self-handicapping. Indeed, if you’re trying to “find God” without taking advantage of what you might learn from Israel, you are already on the wrong path.
One of the problems that emerge when people do actively engage with Jewish teachings: they neglect to inquire deeply into what the Torah has to teach about God’s Name. That is, God’s identity, Who God is.
It’s a treasure-house of information on the subject but people – particularly when they’re full of themselves, as people so often tend to be, and lacking in sincerity and humility - tend to prefer their own assumptions.
People like this often “know” that the God of Creation is with them but, without Torah, the god in their heads – the god in their heads, with a small ‘g,’ because a preposterous man-made false conception of God doesn’t merit a capital ‘G’ - is a monster.
Theology divorced from Jewish teachings is mind-boggling.
You’d think this fact below would already be common knowledge but here’s an example of the kind of fact about the basic nature of Creation – and the basic nature of God - that comes only from Jewish teaching.
There is at least 500 times more good than bad in Creation.
How do we know this? It’s simply part of Who God is. He was kind enough to spell it out, to Moses, for our benefit. God answered Moses’ yearning prayer to better understand the fundamental nature of reality. Exodus 34:6-7:
“The Lord [HaShem], the Lord, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and Who will in no wise clear the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.”
Discarding the outrageous suggestion that this sounds like an unjust God punishing children for the sins of their fathers and grandfathers – that’s not the subject! Quite the contrary. This speaks of the half-life of sin – the world is constituted, we see here, so that God’s mercy, forgiveness and goodness extends at least two thousand times (“thousands,” not thousand, and you can’t have a plural smaller than “two”), while His punishments extend, at most, only four times. That is, four, at most, divided into two thousand, at least. Or 500 times more good than bad. Compared to all the punishments, in other words, Creation is packed full of life and love and blessing. Which fact is directly due to the eternal, essential Nature of God.
Watching folks stumble with this kind of truth, with their cramped, horrible assumptions about Who and what God is... You’d think they would want to study how Israel prays to God, to learn how man should conceive of Deity and act towards Deity but, alas, no… That they should subscribe to such awful horrible belittlement and blasphemies in preference to the astounding goodness that they could learn about God’s Name from Israel is heart-rending. But it also helps explain the metaphysics of the fundamental cosmic principle that’s so remarkable in Torah, of God blessing those who bless Israel while cursing the opposition.
Here on the one hand you’ve got the Bible’s fundamental “prosperity gospel,” but there you go refusing to learn God’s Name from the Jews – rejecting whatever the Torah has to teach you about His infinity and oneness and holiness - because you figure He doesn’t have enough of a place in His heart for you!
You have to ask yourself, ‘what am I giving up, exactly, if I reject the Torah system, if I stand apart from all that?’ You’re ready to forego the opportunity to get with God Himself, to realize yourself in Him? To serve Him, and be a blessing to the world, and receive His help and blessing in all you do? Because you resent Him for giving the Jews their role in the universe?
The Scriptural portion below was written by a Jew for the Jews, but it’s absolutely universal in its message. You don’t have to be any kind of Jew to stand with God, betrothed to Him - and indisputably a cool kid.
This passage was part of my own “bar mitzvah portion” - the Prophetic Scriptural section assigned to me for being born in May on Day One, Rosh Chodesh, of the month of Sivan.
Observant Israel recites this every morning in connection with the mitzvah of tefillin. Everyone should want what it promises:
“I [HaShem] will betroth you to Me for ever, and I will betroth you to Me in righteousness, and justice, and loving kindness, and compassion. And I will betroth you to me in faithfulness, and you shall know [HaShem] the Lord.”
The really amazing thing here, about God, and the system He’s created, is that everyone, or nearly everyone, can have it.
“The Lord [HaShem] is near unto all those who call upon Him, who call upon Him in truth.”
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By Michael Dallen
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"Say to the Israelites, 'The LORD [HaShem], the God of your fathers--the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob--has sent me to you.' This is My name forever, and this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.
– Exodus 3:15
Sing the glory of His Name; make His praise glorious.