You wouldn’t think you’d need to even say it: it isn't wise to treat the words of Torah Scripture like a joke.
Most people nowadays don’t really “know” the Bible, many have literally never seen one, most people conflate the “’New’ Testament” with the real thing, and very, very few know anything about the brilliant people in every generation who did know something about it and saw in it the most exalted holiness.
Today, after all the book-bannings, martyring Bible-translators, the Catholic Church’s campaigns against it, and all the attacks by erudite German Protestants who claimed it all to be fraudulent, we are at the stage where the vast majority of humanity has no idea how the wise, ancient Teachings of Sinai – the radically revolutionary statutes of law and principle – became the West’s Law, how it laid the underpinnings of the Scientific Revolution, and made Western culture as “normal” and sane (speaking relatively) as it is.
This stuff didn’t come up out of mere folk wisdom. If you know anything about committees, you know it wasn't written by committee:
“I give you dominion over this planet.” “One law for you and for the stranger,” “justice, justice shall you pursue,” “you shall not follow a multitude to do evil,” “you shall love your neighbor as yourself,”“you shall not afflict any widow or orphan,” “you shall not take up a false report,” “you shall not steal nor do falsely nor lie one to another,” “a false balance is an abomination,” “He who is gracious to the poor lends to the Lord,” “You shall not refuse to pay a just debt,” “God made you in His image,” etc. Not just scattered uplift or self-help advice, there’s a whole culture here, a radical worldview, that’s starkly unique in world history, that gives modern Western, “scientific” culture its footings.
So… it’s a little irritating when you hear self-styled “free thinkers” denounce what Nietzsche called “The Divine Book of Righteousness” as primitive absurd teachings, when they mock the Torah ignorantly, stupidly - “eye for an eye is savagery,” “who did Adam and Eve’s sons marry?”, “eating shrimp or a ham sandwich as bad as murder,” “the Bible condones slavery,” “God loves harsh and bloody punishments,” etc.
It’s a shame. People completely miss out on what God’s offering here: NOT just the overflowing wisdom of His Written Teachings – teachings that, incidentally, literally, historically, banned trials by ordeal and harsh and bloody punishments! - but actual confirmation of His existence; knowledge of His real nature; vivid insight into every person’s connections to Him; and, e.g., the Divine role of mankind in His universe.
It’s all there, ready for the taking, for anyone with a brain, who takes Scripture seriously. You want proof of God? Here it is. Proof that God is Who He said He is? Here it is. Proof that you can have a holy, loving, one-to-one relationship with the Divine Eternal Being Who Sustains the Entire Cosmos? Yes, of course that’s an incredible proposition. They're all incredible propositions. But here’s the proof.
It’s screamingly obvious. True, you do have to look beyond Scripture at reality and contextualize what the Hebrew Revolution’s done. God makes spectacularly unlikely promises AND THEN realizes the promises – now that mankind’s got the historical perspective to see it.
Abraham, Moses, King David and the rest of the Hebrew prophets needed faith – confidence that God would be true to His word in fulfilling promised blessings sometime in the future. Nowadays, by the early 21st century, we've got perspective.
The Hebrew Revolution’s extremely dubious central prophecy – that a particular people, forged to be a free and even somewhat holy people, will serve God on Earth as His special witnesses and will, in every generation, help civilize and elevate humankind, has been borne out. In fact, it’s more than just history. It’s a principle of history.
Of course we could keep on listing realized prophecies. The People of Israel’s return to the Land of Israel and its flowering from accursed wasteland to modern Israel, for instance. The interesting principle, so frequently fulfilled: Israel’s enemies always lose (cursed are they who curse Israel). Recently, Israel’s enemies fulfilling "[God] will feed them with their own flesh” in civil wars. Or, even more drearily, Israel failing to correctly address the revanchist claims of bitter enemies, the “legitimate claims of the Palestinian People,” the promise that “they will be pins in your eyes and thorns in your sides.”
So what happens when the light clicks on when someone “gets” it: notices the holy in Holy Scripture and the Hebrew Revolutionary Tradition?
That, alas, is where normal human structures fail. People turn to their pastors, their religious leaders, and professors of philosophy. Who generally reflexively mislead them.
Not to end this issue hopelessly. It’s a Biblical guarantee that the cause of God in the world will succeed. We just don’t know exactly how.
You should have the next issue - for August, Av - for you shortly. Look for more on this.
By Michael Dallen
“He will not forsake you, nor destroy you, nor forget the Covenant with your ancestors which He swore to them.”