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“Oy!” said the prophet, pondering his people’s sins (Isaiah 3:9). “Oy!” we said, today, looking at our First Covenant mail.
“You are creating your own religion as you go,” one fellow writes, “creating prayers and venerating Jews as if they are superior.”
That hurts. Our last Covenant Connection, The Spiritual Physics of Blessing,“ spoke of cleaving to God – aligning oneself with the great godly forces that govern Creation – as being something that’s obviously a good thing, and that doing the opposite, like Nazis, say, defying HaShem and cursing those He’s blessed, obviously isn’t good. But how could that be controversial?
Appreciating the Jews’ status as HaShem’s “treasure from among all peoples” (Exodus 19:5) is not “venerating Jews”! It’s just getting with The Program. Starting out with Shem and later Abraham, we understand, God’s crafted a group of people for special service, as an instrument, a tool, to achieve His special purpose. But the purpose – the work - is far, far greater than the instrument. (See J.H. Hertz, Pentateuch and Haftorahs, “The Hertz Chumash,” on Exodus 19:5.) To “bless Israel” is to bless the work, not to treat the Jews as herrenvolk [master racers].
God wants to redeem that world. That’s the work. As for giving blessings:
“Blessing requires knowledge and loving understanding of the person or cause to be blessed. Furthermore, to bless others is a difficult task, requiring readiness for sacrifice and prayerfulness… He that blesses must be quite ‘sober’– the fanatic or he whose judgment is beclouded by hatred or prejudice can never truly bless anyone.”
J.H. Hertz, supra, on Numbers 6:23.
That’s sincere blessing – the only kind that means anything. But never mind the Jews. You don’t need to focus on Israel to receive blessing. Look at Scripture:
HaShem is near to all those that call upon Him,
To all that call upon Him in truth.
He will fulfill the desire of those that fear Him;
He will also hear their cry, and will save them.
Hashem preserves all them that love Him
The proper attitude of man – man and woman, Jew and non-Jew – to HaShem is awestruck love and gratitude, of complete allegiance to the Divine Being to Whom we clearly, obviously owe our every particle of love and loyalty. God addresses man (through Israel) this wise: YOU [You personally, you as an individual; you in the singular]! “You shall love HaShem your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.” (Deuteronomy 6:6)
Let’s not ferplutz this! We are not creating prayers or any new religion, we’re just sticking with the old ones and showing how they work. What we need to do and are trying to do here is cut through the monstrous misconceptions of Deity that pervade our common culture – that God is phony, mean, incapable, or unjust in any way – and get to reality’s great underlying truth.
HaShem is “jealous” of our love – You! “HaShem your God is a devouring fire, a jealous God” (Deuteronomy 4:24) - not just because He knows that He’s entitled to it, but because we sicken ourselves when we stray from Him, and when we accept false ideas that diminish Him.
We keep stressing the wonderful beauty and holiness of God’s Law – of course our speciality is the Universal Law, the Seven Commandments or mitzvot of the Descendants of Noa’ch, the 7M – along with the role and history of Israel in the world, because they provide such clear proof of God’s awesome reality and holiness.
We're Not Prophets
We’re not prophets, but these predictions are too easy. Soon:
Humanity will look back on the crazy ideas that people entertained about their gods – the ferplutzed concepts that kept people away from HaShem – accurately, as crazy, lazy, lame ideas.
They’ll look at things like the Biblical Documentary Hypothesis, that argues that the Bible’s story of the Exodus was forged centuries later, in David’s or Ezra’s time, as little more than the crude product of Jew-hating German Protestant theologians.
They’ll look at the wild mistranslations of the Bible’s idiomatic Hebrew, that gave preposterous numbers to Scripture’s accountings of Persian and Philistine dead, and – e.g. - made the army of Israel leaving Egypt larger than Napoleon’s Grand Army, as forgivable human mistakes in reading uniquely sacred texts. And they’ll know better than to take every aspect of the Bible’s homiletic teachings – the stories that are so clearly legendary, that the Bible even introduces with key words that indicate that they’re legendary – in the exact same light as a frankly factual law or lesson.
They’ll stop regarding great prophets like Sarah and Abraham as impossible to emulate figures of Divine enlightenment but will understand, instead, that it’s natural and normal for men (and women) to “walk before HaShem,” spiritually and intellectually; and that the proper relationship of man (and woman) to a loving, holy God is exemplified more by the true “friendship” between Hashem and Moses than it is by cringing fear or thoughtless affection.
A very nice lady in Wales writes thanking us, saying, “I can’t tell you how much blessing I’ve received since I stopped conceiving of God as material.”
She asks, how can I “commemorate” the Sabbath “as you’ve said”?
We said, following the great sage Rashi, that everyone who follows HaShem and only HaShem as God should commemorate the universal aspect of the Sabbath – i.e., that God didn’t go beyond the Sixth “Day” of Creation, making better and better beings, but instead stopped with us, mere humans. In other words, all of us, Jew and Noahide, should celebrate HaShem’s gift to mankind of dominion over the Earth, including the right to enjoy our status at the top of the earthly food chain.
We responded: Celebrating shabbat – universally, it's somewhat special meals, saving up the best meals of the week for the holiest day of the week, maybe a nice drink or two to ring in the day at sunset, over the meal; reading something that you've wanted to read all week but haven't had a chance to before the holy day; having the luxury of taking a nice nap, usually in the afternoon; having the luxury of really praying, having a real conversation, as it were, with HaShem, on the holy day; maybe wearing somewhat special clothes; having people over, perhaps, to enjoy eating with them….
A gentleman in Birmingham, England, asks some fine questions. Here are two:
Q: “Have you considered creating places of worship for those who follow the [First] Covenant, or is it too much like another religion then?”
We believe that Noahides should establish houses of assembly, prayer and study just as Israel has them.
Q: “Are polytheists or monolatrists [people who entertain belief in several gods, but worship only one] unable to be considered part of the [First] Covenant?”
We believe the First Covenant is a great argument for HaShem – because, as we said, the 7M “bear Divinity on their face,” as supernaturally terse, incisive, just, wise, generous, comprehensive, and eternally, universally applicable moral and legal rules. Part of that is that the 7M don’t mandate allegiance to HaShem. One can believe in many gods, or no god, and still be a good person – and, obviously, a member in good standing of the First Covenant. Such tolerant liberality is, to our minds, just more proof of the reality of the Holy Author. The problem here is that the polytheist or whatever doesn’t get the blessing that comes from following only Him.
As we’ve said before, the person who recognizes God’s Name – God’s real Nature – to the extent of appreciating that God is truly, uniquely one, yet also omnipresent and omniscient (so God is able to be in many places at once, which means that God is not carnal or corporeal at all) has a very different set of core beliefs and understanding of reality than one who doesn’t.
Someone who worships an invisible, eternal, indivisible, kindly, justice-loving, free-willed, intelligently self-aware Being, has an extremely sophisticated and enlightened “take” on ultimate reality – as opposed to the person who worships an idol, a man-made god, or some created force or being, or who believes that life and the world are essentially pointless, or that man is the measure of all things.
Believing in HaShem, Y- H – V – H, the holy King of Israel, a Being of infinite compassion Who is ready to forgive, Who is so holy that even His Name can’t be pronounced, brings a person blessing and an enlightened mindset that, just by itself alone, is worth diamonds.