Dying In My Tent

“Resh Lakish said: Whence do we learn that words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for it? Because it says, This is the Torah, when a man shall die in the tent.”
(Babylonian Talmud, Berachot 63b)

While studying this week’s Torah Portion (Chukat/Chukas), I came to the this passage:

זֹאת הַתּוֹרָה אָדָם כִּי־יָמוּת בְּאֹהֶל

This is the law when someone dies in a tent (Numbers 19:14a)

It reminded me of the lessons I had learned from Artscroll’s A Daily Dose of Torah (ADDT) regarding this passage. Although this passage is literally about the law regarding the transfer of corpse impurity to anyone under the roof the same roof as a corpse, it is understood midrashically from the Hebrew to be a lesson about one who would “kill himself for the sake of Torah.” As the passage in Berachot 63b says, “the words of Torah are firmly held by one who kills himself for it.” Or as ADDT phrases it, “Torah remains only with one who kills himself for it.” And, as a reminder for the literal-minded, they clarify that it is not that one is to endanger one’s life for the sake of Torah. It is rather that we must restrict our personal pleasures, and sacrifice of our time in order to make the time for study so that the lessons of Torah will be impressed upon us with a lasting impression.

From the moment I learned this a few years back, this has spoken to me. However, this week it speaks even louder. Due to some undisclosed circumstances, over the last year or more, my guiding philosophy has been:

“For in much wisdom is much vexation,and he who increases knowledge increases sorrow.” (Ecclesiastes 1:18)

I have kept up with my studies just enough to give my family some direction, but nothing more. I have not “died in my tent.” I’ve only been in survival mode. However, during Shavuot of this year Hashem spoke to my heart and said that I must get back on course and “die in my tent” for His sake. I must put aside all of the coping mechanisms (distractions) with which I have been filling my life. I must “die to myself” in order to truly live, and become who He has intended for me to become.

“When I die and face the heavenly court,” the Hassidic Rabbi Zusha famously said, “if they ask me why I was not more like Abraham, I will say that I didn’t have Abraham’s intellectual abilities. If they say, ‘Why weren’t you more like Moses?’ then I will explain that I did not have Moses’ talent for leadership. For every such question I will have an answer, but if they say, ‘Zusha, why were you not Zusha?’ for that I will have no answer.”

Since Shavuot, I have been studying with renewed fervor. I have been a lot more consistent in my studying, and more engaged with the Holy Text. I’ve also been gleaning from other sources, and studying them more carefully as well. Although I still have a nagging trepidation, I am looking forward with anticipation to what Hashem is going to do in my life as I surrender to Him.

Will I ever become who I was intended to become? Will you? Maybe it is time for both of us to “die in our tents” together.

Soncino Babylonian Talmud Full Text In English

For those who don’t mind looking through multiple PDF documents, I recently ran across the complete text of the Soncino Babylonian Talmud in English as a series of free downloads. I thought I would post the link here for anyone who has been looking for an electronic source of this complete work, as I have in the past. I’m not sure who is responsible for this sight, I certainly appreciate the work that they’ve done to create it. They also have a few links to other resources (mostly in Hebrew/Aramaic) for things such as the Mishnah, Tosefta, Hebrew versions of both the Bavli & Yerushalmi, etc. Check it out when you have time:

http://www.halakhah.com/

Messianic Remnants

If you don’t know about FFOZ’s project to restore the writings of past Messianic leaders from bygone days, it would be worth your while to check it out. FFOZ is undertaking a monumental task of 1) finding, 2) translating, 3) republishing, and in some cases 4) adding additional commentary to the works of these incredible heros of our movement. If you want to hear it from the horse’s mouth (no offense, Boaz), here is part 1 and part 2 of their Back Office video giving all of the details of this endeavor:

FFOZ Back Office – Lost Luminaries of Messianic Judaism Part1

 

FFOZ Back Office – Lost Luminaries of Messianic Judaism Part2

Jewish Resurrected Messiah Text Causing Buzz

The New York Times published an article today that already has sparks flying on the internet. It is entitled, “Tablet Ignites Debate on Messiah and Resurrection.” It is a follow-up on an earlier article posted a year ago last April by Haaretz, called “In three days, you shall live.”

The basic premise is that of a Jewish tradition, predating Christianity which has the Messiah dying and resurrecting after three days, as a necessity of his messiahship. Israel Knohl, a professor from the Hebrew University, has been the main voice in this, because it appears to validate what he had already discovered in his studies of the Dead Sea Scroll manuscripts. In 2002, he published a book of his findings called, “The Messiah before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls” which explains his findings (and if anyone wants to get me a copy, I won’t complain).

Knohl takes the references of a Suffering (or Slain) Messiah (Mashiach ben Yosef) found in the Talmud (starting in Sukkah 52a), along with the DSS manuscripts to build a case for a first century expectation for a resurrected messiah. However, with the find of the Gabriel Tablet (the main focus of the two previous articles), Knohl has a very substantial text from the period just prior to the time of Yeshua to back his theory.

Be sure to read both articles, and pick up the book if you have a chance. This is some very interesting information that could prove very valuable in the near future.

Yeshua – Preserving Life, Establishing Halacha

As a well known fact, in its history Judaism has struggled with the balance of sanctifying the Sabbath and preserving life. The first book of Macabees gives us one such account of how the Jews in the time of Antiochus IV had to realize that preservation of life in regard to self-defense took precedent over Sabbath restrictions. After nearly being wiped out by the armies of their enemies, the made a determination that they would fight on Shabbat, rather than letting their brothers and sisters be exterminated like vermin (1 Macabees 2:29-41).

In the Gospels (less than two centuries later), there is still a struggle with balancing Sabbath restrictions with compassion for humanity. Yeshua chastises the opposing Pharisees for their lack of compassion and adamantly declares that bringing wholeness to a person on the Sabbath is the overriding element of the normal Sabbath stringencies. Mark records the account of the man with the withered hand as follows: Continue reading “Yeshua – Preserving Life, Establishing Halacha”