Fox Byte 5775 #24: Vayikra (He called)

וַיִּקְרָא

In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house.  (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)
In this scene from The Cat in the Hat, the son takes action to stop the desecration of the house. (Picture from The Cat in the Hat, read by RC Ward, on Just Books Read Aloud)

A standard feature of civilization is the rules of the house, the guidelines by which a person can be welcomed into and remain peacefully within someone’s home.  At the most basic level these are rules children learn from their parents at the earliest age.  Parents explain proper behavior and children grow up doing what they have said, or suffering the consequences if they disobey.  As adults the children pass on these rules to their children so they may act properly when visiting Grandma and Grandpa.  This maintains peace in the family, not only ensuring respect for the elders, but establishing and reinforcing a foundation for loving relationships.

If this is so, then how should we approach The Cat in the Hat?  Since its publication in 1957 by Theodore Geisel (aka Dr. Seuss), The Cat in the Hat has become one of the world’s most popular and successful children’s books.  Geisel wrote it as an attempt to find an easier way for children to learn to read, but his creation has become much more than that; the Cat is now a cultural icon.  The book has everything that would appeal to children:  an engaging story told in simple, silly rhyme, colorful illustrations, and an outrageous degree of irreverence for the house rules.  The story opens with a rainy day in a normal house, where a Boy and his sister Sally are left at home with nothing to do while their Mother is out.  Suddenly their quiet boredom is interrupted by the entrance of the Cat who promises, “Lots of good fun that is funny”.  He then proceeds to violate every rule of the house by using everything he sees – including the pet Fish in its bowl – as a plaything.  Just when we think it can get no worse, the Cat introduces his friends Thing 1 and Thing 2.  The three anarchic intruders accelerate the mayhem, and in a very short time everything that is sacred, including Mother’s new gown and her bedroom furniture, have suffered violence.  At the height of the disaster, the Fish alerts the children to the approach of their Mother and urges them to do something to stop the destruction.  The Boy jumps into action, grabbing a large net with which he captures the Things and orders the Cat to pack them up and take them away.

With the intruders gone, the children and the Fish contemplate how to clean up the enormous mess.  To their surprise, the Cat returns with a machine that puts everything back in order just in time.  Thus The Cat in the Hat ends on a good note, with the house rules mended.  Yet that is not the end of the lesson.  While Dr. Seuss may not have intended it, his story resembles the tale of another Son concerned about violation of the house rules established by His Parent:

And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all those who were buying and selling in the temple, and overturned the tables of the money changers and the seats of those who were selling doves.  And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”  (Matthew 21:12-13 NASB)

Please click here to continue reading

Fox Byte #29: An Eye For. . . .

BFB141008 Three MonkeysFrom what we have seen so far in the Sermon on the Mount, Yeshua is indeed correcting our understanding of what His Father really meant when He gave His Law (Torah) to Moses.  The attitude of our heart is the most important thing.  Specific commandments like, ”You shall not murder”, and “Bring your gift to the altar”, help us measure how far our heart has come toward operating the way God designed.  After all, that’s really what the Law is:  God’s operating instructions.  If we operate within the parameters of the Law (choose life), we get all kinds of good things (blessings); but if we operate outside His design parameters (choose death), we suffer all manner of consequences (curses). (Deuteronomy 30:11-20James 1:22-2:13).  If our heart is right with our Creator, then we will do His commandments naturally, as an act of love for Him.  And that is the exactly what the Apostle John, the Apostle Paul, and Yeshua Himself told us.

Yeshua continues his teaching by addressing another sticky point of human nature:

Please click here to continue reading

Fox Byte #28: An Acceptable Sacrifice

When Abel and Cain offered sacrifices, both had meaning, but only one was acceptable.  (Bible Card illustration, "The Story of Cain and Abel")
When Abel and Cain offered sacrifices, both had meaning, but only one was acceptable. (Bible Card illustration, “The Story of Cain and Abel”)

If Yeshua really did make it possible to understand and live out God’s commandments (Torah) as our Creator originally intended, then we would expect Him to give us a few examples.  And in fact He did.  It’s all a matter of going beyond the “letter of the Law” and getting to the Spirit behind it.  Consider what Yeshua said right after He told His audience that their righteousness should exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees:

You have heard that it was said to those of old, “You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.”  But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment.  And whoever says to his brother, “Raca!” shall be in danger of the council.  But whoever says, “You fool!” shall be in danger of hell fire.  Therefore if you bring your gift to the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar, and go your way.  First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift.  Agree with your adversary quickly, while you are on the way with him, lest your adversary deliver you to the judge, the judge hand you over to the officer, and you be thrown into prison.  Assuredly, I say to you, you will by no means get out of there till you have paid the last penny.  (Matthew 5:21-26 NKJV)

Please click here to continue reading

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.

Please click here to continue reading