Let’s face it. There is a lot of “balderdash” or “urban legends” that circulate, particularly when it comes to religion. It seems there is hardly a week that goes by in which I do not receive some forwarded email from someone thinking they are doing me a favor by sending me an “inspiring” teaching on how the way Jesus folded the “napkin” after his resurrection alluded to his second coming, or how the blood of Jesus literally flowed down from the cross and onto the hidden Ark of the Covenant beneath the Temple Mount to make atonement for us. It’s just that way. Humans have an innate need for sensationalism to validate our paradigm. However, we need to know fact from fiction and need to always check our sources and be prepared to prove our outlandish propositions with evidence, if we make such claims.
This morning I came across a blog post from Lois Tverberg, which she recently posted as a response to another blog post from about a year ago which attempts to debunk the legitimacy of a popular rabbinic concept often used by Messianics in their teachings.
Back in April of last year, Trevin Wax (Managing Editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources) created a list of “urban legends” within Christianity. While the majority of these were great and need addressing, he included one that didn’t quite fit into the “balderdash” category. The concept he challenged was that of being “covered in the dust of your rabbi”, based off of Avot 1:4, which states:
Yosi ben Yoezer of Tzeredah said: Let your house be a meetinghouse for the sages and sit amid the dust of their feet and drink in their words with thirst.
I’m not quite sure why Wax thought this to be an urban legend, particularly since it is based squarely on a reliable Jewish text from antiquity, unless he was merely going on the misunderstanding of other misinformed bloggers who only had one desire: to attack Rob Bell and his use of the concept in his teaching (Dust – which I highly recommend). I think the real breakdown in communication came in that of the attackers thinking the more “Hebraic” or “Messianic” interpretation of this mishnah to be literal, rather than idiomatic. They seem to attack the concept of literally caking on dust while following your rabbi, particularly the origin of the phrase, “May you be covered in the dust of your Rabbi” (which is obviously a Rob Bell original).
This, however, is not the point of the mishnah. The point is that as disciples of our Master, we are to allow his teachings and his presence to “rub off” onto us so that we are better equipped to emulate him. We are to be constantly following him, constantly sitting at his feet in order learn from him, constantly looking for ways to imitate him. No, we shouldn’t grab a handful of dust and powder ourselves with it to feign our piety. We should, however, be getting a little dirty because of our concern for following our rabbi being greater than our concern for outward appearance.
Are you walking around squeaky clean, or are you beginning to collect the dust of your Rabbi?
ps. Dr. Tverberg – If you are reading this, I would be more than willing to post a review of your latest book, Walking In The Dust of Rabbi Jesus, if I could get my pauperly hands on one (hint, hint).