Tag Archive | Adam and Eve

To My Daughter the Bride: A Lesson in Chosenness

 

My first encounter with a chuppa was watching Norman Jewison's 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom. (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

My first encounter with a chuppa was in Norman Jewison’s 1971 film adaptation of Fiddler on the Roof. I did not understand at the time the significance of the canopy over the bride and groom.  (© 1971 Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.)

Yesterday morning, as I reviewed the news over breakfast, something unusual caught my eye.  It wasn’t actually a news item, but it did appear in one of my usual news sources.  There on the sidebar of The Times of Israel web page was this article with the title, “To My Daughter Under the Chupa”.  As soon as I saw it, I thought, “Hey!  In about a month I’ll have a daughter standing under a chupa.  Maybe I should read this.”

I did read it, and I was greatly blessed.  It is the speech Rabbi Shmuley Boteach presented recently at the wedding of his daughter.  What I found in his remarks was something I have come to expect in Jewish biblical exposition:  a profound depth of truth and wisdom that not only supports, but to a great extent completes what I learned in my Christian upbringing.

Perhaps it would be good to explain what a chupa is.  It can also be spelled chuppa.  The Hebrew pronunciation is difficult for an English speaker, but saying “hoopa” is close enough.  One reputable Jewish source explains the chuppa this way:

The chuppah is a tapestry attached to the tops of four poles.  The word chuppah means covering or protection, and is intended as a roof or covering for the bride and groom at their wedding.

The chuppah is not merely a charming folk custom, a ceremonial object carried over from a primitive past.  It serves a definite, though complicated, legal purpose:  It is the decisive act that formally permits the couple’s new status of marriage to be actualized, and it is the legal conclusion of the marriage process that began with betrothal. . . .

Chuppah symbolizes the groom’s home, and the bride’s new domain.  More specifically, the chuppah symbolizes the bridal chamber, where the marital act was consummated in ancient times.

– Chabad.org, The Bridal Canopy (Chuppah)

This helps explain what I mean when I say that Jewish learning complements my Christian learning.  What I mean in this case is that the pastors and teachers I have been blessed to know have consistently taught me that I am part of the Bride of Christ.  What they did not teach me was what that means.  To understand this requires a Hebraic perspective that takes into account the entire record of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.  That is where the Jewish learning comes in.  The rabbis know that Israel is the chosen of God, and that He will betroth her as His bride.  What the rabbis and the pastors together could not have known until now is that this blessed betrothed one, the Israel of the rabbis and the Church of the pastors, is the same corporate body of believers joined together in the covenant sealed with the blood of YHVH’s Anointed.

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Fox Byte 5776 #2: Uncomplicated Good, Unrelenting Evil

Rocky, Bullwinkle, Boris, and Natasha. © Jay Ward Productions. Illustration accessed on Dishonest John's T.V. Toons.)

Rocky, Bullwinkle, Boris, and Natasha.  (© Jay Ward Productions. Illustration accessed on Dishonest John’s T.V. Toons.)

Great art retains its appeal through time.  This is true even with works created for children – including cartoons such as The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show.  The success of this cartoon classic is due to the things children appreciate:  outrageous characters, simple story lines, a make-believe world that mirrors real life, and just enough irreverence to entice the mischievous streak in every youngster.  And yet those who grew up with Rocky the flying squirrel and his friend Bullwinkle J. Moose continue to appreciate the show because of its sophistication.  As children we could not possibly understand the clever references to the Cold War then raging between the United States and the Soviet Union, nor the endless puns and jabs at politics, literature, and popular culture. 

As children we did not need to know those things.  All we needed to know was that Bullwinkle and Rocky were funny.  Even the villains were funny.  Boris Badenov and Natasha Fatale, along with their Fearless Leader, soon acquired fame that rivalled the title characters.  As caricatures of Soviet spies and political figures they were the perfect foils.  Moreover, they established a clear line between good and evil for young viewers.  Every child knew that Boris and Natasha were bad.  Their ceaseless efforts at killing Bullwinkle to advance their evil country’s fortunes originated from nothing else than pure meanness (as explained by Fearless Leader himself in the story “Goof Gas Attack”).  If the plot were exceptionally evil the spies would receive orders not only to deal with Bullwinkle, but to kill moose and squirrel.  Even when they received a note from Fearless Leader saying, “DO NOT kill Moose and Squirrel”, we knew that this apparent kindness occurred only because at that point the evil plans would best be served by keeping Rocky and Bullwinkle alive.

Children may not understand such things completely, but they grasp them instinctively.  Understanding comes later, after they have become adults and acquired years of knowledge and experience, not all of which is good or pleasant.  Children in their innocence discern good and evil, but they take as established fact that there is no gray area between the two.  After a few significant encounters in the real world they begin to learn that people and things can be confusing mixtures of good and evil.  Some appear to be good, but are evil at the core.  Some may do evil things, but for good reasons – or so they maintain.  Some do good for selfish reasons.  The sad reality is that children soon learn there is no absolute good among human beings, which makes navigation of this world exceedingly hazardous.  It is easier to revert to childhood innocence and attempt to stay there as long as possible.

The childlike place is comforting and safe.  There we recognize that good and evil exist, but all we need do is cling to the one while avoiding the other.  We need not seek the origins of evil, nor try to understand why evil and good seem to be intertwined in every heart.  A child will take the word of its parents in faith and act accordingly.  If they say a thing is good or bad, the child will act on that.  It is only later that the child begins to inquire into the nature of good and bad.  In time that path of inquiry leads to a line that should never be crossed:  the point of defining good and evil on his own terms.  Unfortunately, it seems that this very line has marked the boundary between childhood and adulthood since the time of Adam and Eve.  That may be why Messiah Yeshua said this:

And He called a child to Himself and set him before them, and said, “Truly I say to you, unless you are converted and become like children, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.  Whoever then humbles himself as this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.”  (Matthew 18:2-4 NASB) Please click here to continue reading

Fox Byte 5775 #42-43: Mattot (Tribes); Massei (Stages)

מַּטּוֹת / מַסְעֵי

The Princes in the Tower. John Everett Millais, depicts the young King Edward V of England and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, two royal sons allegedly murdered by order of their uncle, King Richard III, who sought to deprive them of their rightful inheritance and claim the throne of England for himself.

The Princes in the Tower. by John Everett Millais, depicts the young King Edward V of England and his brother, Richard, Duke of York, two royal sons allegedly murdered by order of their uncle, King Richard III, who sought to deprive them of their rightful inheritance and claim the throne of England for himself.

William Shakespeare has such as way with murder.  With so many characters meeting violent death in his plays it would seem that he regarded murder as an essential part of good drama.  Richard III is an excellent example.  When my daughter studied the play in school, she and her fellow students kept a “body count” of the many characters who died over the course of Richard’s rise to power.  Shakespeare’s preoccupation with murder may have been the product of the violent world in which he lived, and indeed England in the 16th century was a violent place, yet we need only look at the headlines of events in our own cities to realize that our world is no less violent than Shakespeare’s.  If the Bard had no qualms about employing murder as a plot device, it was because his art imitated life.  Richard III was a historical play based on events that shook the British Isles just one hundred years earlier.  The play’s popularity derived in part from the horrendous nature of Richard’s quest for power, extending even to allegations that in 1483 he ordered the deaths of his two nephews, the 12-year-old King Edward V and his younger brother Richard, Duke of York.  Their uncles’ guilt has never been proven, but it is plausible that he removed them so they would not stand in the way of his quest to seize the throne of their father, the late Edward IV.

Richard III is not the only Shakespearian villain to usurp a throne and seize the inheritance of a rightful heir.  Two others that come to mind are MacBeth of Scotland and Claudius of Denmark.  Although not historical plays, MacBeth and Hamlet have roots in actual events.  The central action of MacBeth occurs when the warrior of that name murders King Duncan of Scotland.  Duncan’s sons, fearing they will be blamed for the murder, flee the country, allowing Macbeth to take the throne.  In Hamlet, we do not see the murder of Denmark’s king; when the play opens his brother Claudius has already seized the throne by killing him and marrying his queen.  The plot follows Prince Hamlet as he learns the truth of his father’s death and his uncle’s guilt. 

As was necessary for Richard III, MacBeth and Claudius must deal with the heirs to the murdered kings.  MacBeth prepares to defend Scotland against the exiled princes Malcolm and Donalbain, and Claudius concocts a plot to have Hamlet killed in a duel by an opponent wielding a poisoned blade.  In the end all three villains meet violent deaths.  Richard and MacBeth fall in battle as their own countrymen rise in revolt against them, and Claudius is slain by Hamlet himself just before the young prince dies.

Shakespeare’s works have remained popular for over 400 years because they really do imitate life, even to a disturbing degree.  In these plays we see that an inheritance is not secure even if there are sons ready to claim their fathers’ legacy.  What worse things might the villains have done had there been no sons and heirs?  Who would ensure that the bereaved family retained their place in the nation?  That very question prompted the tribe of Manasseh to ask Moses for guarantees not only for their brethren who had no sons, but for the entire tribe’s legacy in the Promised Land.

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Fox Byte 5775 #39: Chukat (Decree Of)

חֻקַּת

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of karate in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid.  (Photo from a review by Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984)

Mr. Miyagi (Pat Morita) instructs Daniel (Ralph Macchio) in the art of karate in the 1984 movie, The Karate Kid. (Photo from a review by Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984)

Is it possible to be a hero without paying a price?  A hero is one who does something worthy of esteem on behalf of someone else, and that requires sacrifice.  Sometimes it requires the sacrifice of a life, and sometimes merely the sacrifice of time and attention.  Sometimes heroes save nations, and sometimes they save little children from tears of embarrassment, pain, or grief.  Every act of salvation, no matter how small, entails a sacrifice that someone offers willingly.  And that is what makes a hero.

We learn about heroes in The Karate Kid, a 1984 film starring Ralph Macchio as Daniel Larusso, a fatherless teenager very much in need of a hero.  Daniel suffers a vicious beating by boys from a local martial arts school.  He is saved by a humble janitor, Mr. Miyagi (played by Noriyuki “Pat” Morita), who drives off the attackers with a masterful display of karate skills.  Before long Mr. Miyagi agrees to teach karate to Daniel.  The instruction begins when Miyagi assigns Daniel a number of hard tasks.  First he must wash and wax Miyagi’s antique automobiles, using special hand motions to “wax on” and “wax off”.  Then he must sand the walkway around Miyagi’s house, paint the fence around the property, and finally paint the house itself.  Each task features a specific set of hand motions.  After days of arduous labor, Daniel complains that he has learned nothing about karate while working like a slave.  Miyagi responds by having Daniel perform the hand motions for each task.  He then throws punches and kicks at Daniel, demonstrating that “wax on, wax off”, “sand the floor”, “paint the fence”, and “paint the house” have trained the boy to defend against attacks from many angles.  As he blocks Miyagi’s attacks, Daniel realizes the truth:  his faithfulness in seemingly unconnected menial tasks has made him ready for further instruction and greater responsibility in the art of karate.

In time Daniel becomes competent at karate and confident in himself as Miyagi’s training transforms him from a self-absorbed braggart into a self-controlled warrior.  In the concluding scenes he enters a martial arts tournament where he faces the boys who first attacked him.  Each is a formidable opponent, yet while Daniel learned karate as a means of disciplining himself in service of others, they had learned it as a means to exalt themselves over the weak.  They do not realize that the humble attitude Miyagi cultivated in Daniel has made him stronger and better able to withstand pain and suffering.  Their combined efforts at wounding and weakening Daniel only help him discover deeper wells of strength which in the end bring him victory.

This is a life lesson few are willing to learn.  Either we walk humbly in the confidence of our King, or we get eaten by our adversary.  As the Apostle Peter says:

You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.  Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time, casting all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.  Be of sober spirit, be on the alert.  Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  (I Peter 5:5-8 NASB)

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Fox Byte 5775 #26: Shmini (Eighth)

שְּׁמִינִי

Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice by Alan Rickman) escorts Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, a prototype ship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.  (Photo:  TheGuardian.com)

Marvin the Paranoid Android (voice by Alan Rickman) escorts Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) and Ford Prefect (Mos Def) to the bridge of the Heart of Gold, a prototype ship powered by the Infinite Improbability Drive in the 2005 film adaptation of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. (Photo: TheGuardian.com)

The problem with great satire is that it can be so irreverent.  Then again, that is the strength of satire:  using humor and ridicule to point out something (usually a shortcoming, hypocrisy, or vice) often overlooked in the routine of living.  Satire can be cruel, and thus must be used with great caution.  If employed properly, it moves the audience to laugh loudly in genuine humor at their own or their society’s expense, and plants seeds for reflection that hopefully will bloom into motivation for positive change.

Or perhaps not.  Sometimes humor exists only for humor.  That is one way to consider the works of Douglas Adams, the late English author best known for his satirical science fiction works, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It is quite possible that Adams and I could have been good friends, although our worldviews would have generated a continuous wrestling match between us.  To the end of his life he remained utterly convinced in the nonexistence of a Creator, even as I am utterly convinced that there is no god but YHVH.  And yet I can appreciate his masterful use of the English language, his clever story lines, and his penetrating wit, all of which he employed to point out things worthy of our consideration.  Here is one example from the first Hitchhiker’s Guide novel:

The History of every major Galactic Civilization tends to pass through three distinct and recognizable phases, those of Survival, Inquiry and Sophistication, otherwise known as the How, Why and Where phases.  For instance, the first phase is characterized by the question How can we eat? the second by the question Why do we eat? and the third by the question Where shall we have lunch?.

This is Adams at his best, using seemingly trivial questions with simple answers to provoke a deeper level of inquiry on the very nature and meaning of human existence.  Perhaps he would be surprised to learn that the Lord God does the very same thing.  The small, simple, seemingly insignificant things are what He uses to test our hearts, to discipline us, and to mature us so we can exercise greater responsibility, and all the time He magnifies His glory through us and through these processes.  Thus, when it comes to distinctions between believers in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the differences usually are much smaller than we may think.  Consider, for example, the attitudes of believers in Messiah Yeshua (Jesus Christ) regarding the Law, or Torah, of God.  To define this difference, we can use the same pattern Douglas Adams used by asking three simple questions:

When are we to worship God?

How are we to worship God?

What does God say is food?

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Fox Byte 5775 #1: Beresheet (In The Beginning)

בְרֵאשִׁת

This is the first Shabbat (Sabbath) of a new Torah cycle.  Each year, Jews and Messianic believers in Yeshua go through the Torah (the Books of Moses) and the Haftorah (selected passages from the other books of the Tanakh (Old Testament)) in weekly portions.  The portion for this week is Beresheet, “In the Beginning”.

After losing the French and Indian War, France chose to trade all of Canada and Louisiana for the small island of Guadeloupe.

After losing the French and Indian War, France chose to trade all of Canada and Louisiana for the small island of Guadeloupe.

The world’s first truly global conflict, known in Europe as the Seven Years’ War and in America as the French and Indian War, was a disaster for France.  By the war’s end in 1763, France had ceded the vast territories of Canada and Louisiana to England and Spain.  And yet it was not a complete disaster; the Treaty of Paris which ended the war left France with its most prized possession:  the Caribbean sugar island of Guadeloupe.  Great Britain had won control over both Guadeloupe and Canada during the war, and in the peace negotiations the British deemed Canada more strategically valuable to their empire.  But Guadeloupe had proven more valuable economically, producing more income for France than all the fur collected by trappers and traders in Canada, and all the sugar produced by Britain’s own island colonies.  King Louis XV, therefore, was quite willing to trade a vast empire for this small island.

A similar transaction appears in Scripture, when the Lord explains what He is ready to do to redeem a people He deems more valuable than all the nations of the earth:

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Commonwealth and Cooperation

This paper was presented on September 8, 2012 at a conference hosted jointly by Healing Tree International and Israel Arise at Hershey, PA, and again on May 25, 2013, at a fellowship hosted by Proclaiming Justice to the Nations in Franklin, TN.

140103 Pink Elephant BalloonPink Elephants

Most people have experience the peculiar phenomenon of the pink elephant in the living room, that awkward situation in which a group of people are confronted with an obvious, but uncomfortable, issue.  Because it is obvious everyone knows or suspects what the others are thinking, yet because it is uncomfortable no one is willing to address it.  Therefore the issue goes unresolved and the relationships within the group, however cordial, remain tense, fragile, and shallow.

My purpose is to address the pink elephants that keep Jews and Christians from cooperating in a spirit of mutual trust and support, touching on areas of disagreement and misunderstanding that have bedeviled us for centuries.  The intent is not to pour salt old wounds, but to move through the uncomfortable territory and arrive at common ground where we may stand together as one people united in the service of the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  This journey is beset with many openings for offense.  Given the likelihood that I shall stray into one of those openings, I ask in advance for pardon, for no offense is intended.  I am confident that if we persevere together, we will overcome the awkwardness and find the common ground which we desperately need in this critical hour.

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