Monday, May 18, 2009

Torah Portion Bechukotai - 22 IYYAR 5769

This Torah Portion was a double portion where two sections of the Torah are read and studied.

LEVITICUS 26:3 TO 27:34 - JEREMIAH 16:19 TO 17:14 - LUKE 23-24

This 2nd part is titled Bechukotai, which means "In My Statutes".

Le 26:3 If you walk in My statutes and keep My commandments and do them, 4 then I will give you rain in due season, and the land shall yield her increase, and the trees of the field shall yield their fruit.(MKJV)

Isn't there a redundant statement here? Perhaps not. It is a common Hebrew expression to state an idea or concept twice in order to emphasize its importance. Here we have “walk in My statutes” and “keep My commandments”. On the surface one would think that they mean the same thing. Like most Hebrew doublet expressions, this one also has a deeper meaning. According to Rashi, an historic Jewish commentator on the Torah, “walking in My statutes” refers to the intensive study of God’s word. “Keeping the commandments” refers to learning how the commandments of the Torah are to be kept. In other words, we should study God’s word for the purpose of learning it, and we should learn it in order to know how to do it.

This portion starts out by listing blessings for keeping God’s statutes and curses for disobedience. It raises the question of “Prosperity Preaching”. Is this some kind of promise of physical blessing for spiritual obedience and a delineation of the consequences for disobedience? The answer to that is in examining the difference between the “Western” and “Hebrew” mindset.

In the Western way of thinking, the physical and spiritual are divided. They are separate and distinct. The physical realm is tangible and the spiritual realm is ethereal. This describes “Dualism” and comes to us from the ancient Greeks. This dualism philosophy greatly influenced the early church and is central to much of our modern Christian doctrines where physical things are general seen as carnal and/or evil and the spiritual is seen as the noble and or good.

In the Hebrew mindset and the Torah, the distinction between physical and spiritual is not as clear. The Hebrew mindset says that the physical world is spiritual because God created it. The physical universe was created from the spiritual. God said “Let there be light”. He spoke the universe into existence.

This Hebraic view of the physical world did not sit well with many of the early Christian church founders because they were primarily Hellenistic (i.e. Greek) gentiles. They regarded it as carnal when the distinction between physical and spiritual was blurred. An interpretation of the scriptures as being strictly spiritual arose in the early church. The blessings and curses of this and other scripture passages became metaphors for spiritual rewards and punishments. By the fourth century this infiltration of Hellenism became so prevalent that it was taught that God did not really want us to literally obey his commandments but instead the commandments of the Torah were symbolic representations of spiritual disciplines.

Through this infiltration of Hellenistic philosophy, the early church taught that the Bible should not be read literally. We live with this legacy today in that the Bible is all about Israel but the church largely teaches that when the Bible says "Israel" it means the "Church"! This is “Replacement Theology” and is a stark departure from the intended meaning of the scriptures.

The word of God was intended to bring to the physical world a spiritual content. For example: when we keep God’s commandments here in the physical world in which we live, we are submitting it to the authority of the Creator. Our perfect example of the oneness of the physical and spiritual worlds is the person of Messiah, Yeshua (or Jesus if you prefer). Yeshua is the Son of God who comes from the Father in Heaven. See the first chapter of the Gospel of John or several passages in the Old Testament including Isaiah 53. Simultaneously He was a real human being with an ordinary human body with all the ordinary human limitations. Through His miraculous birth, he was completely spiritual and completely physical.

When we adopt and/or keep this Helenistic philosophy that prevails in the Church, we loose sight of the very nature of the God of creation (Elohim) and the LORD God of our salvation (Yahwah). "Walk in His statutes and keep His commandments" and "He will bring rains in their season". Blessings are abundant in the LORD God of our salvation!

Shabbat Shalom


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