Thursday, June 26, 2014

Messianics vs. Liberal Judaism, What's the Difference?

I’ve been interested in how classical, “Orthodox,” Judaism differentiates between non-halachic Jewish movements and Messianics/Jews for Jesus, even though both of these groups diverge from Rambam’s (Maimonades’) 13 principles of faith, which is seen in traditional circles as a litmus test.  In my opinion, part of the answer can be found in Melachim B (Kings II.)  Compare 15:28, “And he [King Pekach of Israel] did what was evil in the eyes of the Hashem, he did not turn from the sins of Yerovam (Jeroboam,)” aka worshiping the Ba’al idol. Simultaneously, in 15:34, “And he [King Uzyah of Yehuda (Judea)] did what was right in the eyes of Hashem… however, the high places were not removed,” referring to impermissible worship at private altars in lieu of the Beit Hamikdash (Holy Temple) in Jerusalem.  It seems that worshipping a foreign God (Messianics) is seen as an abomination.  Worshipping the God of Israel in a way which is not sanctioned is seen as a correctible misunderstanding.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Israel Expands while Declining

Melachim B (Kings II) 14:22 & 28: It’s interesting how, even though the Jewish people are split into two kingdoms, both of which are plagued by idolatry and internal instability, the realm of Jewish sovereignty has been extended as far south has Eilat and as far north as Damascus / Hamath (modern day Homs.)  Toward the end of Melachim there seems to be a loosening of the vice.  I.e., God’s use of external enemies to persecute Israel and spur them to repentance has failed, and maybe even become a distraction, so another strategy is taken, one of leniency.


Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Yehudah Stays Loyal to David, Even in Revolt

Melachim B (Kings II) 14:19; after failing in his war against the northern Kingdom of Israel, which is followed by the defeat and plundering of Jerusalem, King Amatzyahu (Amaziah) of Yehudah (Judea) suffers a popular revolt and flees south to Lachish.  Rather than destroying the family of the deposed Amatzyahu, as happened during revolts in the Kingdom of Israel, the people take his sixteen year old son Azaryah and put him on the throne.  While the southern Kingdom of Yehudah has drifted into the cycle of revolt and political chaos like the northern Kingdom of Yisrael, Yehudah still has a fealty to the line of David, whereas in the north, having thrown off the Davidic dynasty, there is a general loss of respect for the office of King.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Israel's Merit Runs Out

In Melachim B (Kings II) 13:23, in between mention of the oppression of Israel by Aramea, interjects suddenly with the ominous “Hashem (God) was merciful to them (Israel)… for the sake of his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, he did not want to destroy them… until now.”  There is some debate as to when Israel reaches the mark when the exile becomes inevitable, possibly with the resignation of the prophet Eliyahu, possibly with the death of Elisha in 13:21, but definitely here, there is an ominous portent that all of the inherited merit of previous generations has been exhausted and judgement won’t be delayed much longer.

Monday, June 09, 2014

Yoash as a Metaphor for the Kingdom of Israel

In chapter 13 of Melachim B (Kings II) Yoash (Joash) king of Israel, comes to visit the prophet of Elisha on his deathbed.  Elisha asks him to fire an arrow out the window, and then to start striking the ground.  Yoash fires the arrow out the window, strikes the ground three times, and then stops.  Elisha states, “You should have struck five or six times, then you would strike the Arameans until you would annihilate them completely, but now, you shall strike the Arameans but three times.”  It seems to epitomize the travails of the prophets.  The people, even those who worshipped idols, took the prophets seriously for a short while, but there was a lack of faithfulness and follow through.  One can almost feel Yoash starting with enthusiasm, but then gradually becoming more aware of himself, thinking, “I must look ridiculous,” and stopping.  Much like the people would initially be inspired by some miracle, but then lose faith in a God they could not see, and revert to worshipping idols.

Friday, June 06, 2014

Halachot that Come out of Melachim

In Melachim B (Kings II) chapter 12, When King Yehoash (Jehoash) begins fundraising for refurbishing Beit Hamikdash (the Holy Temple),  he orders that people should donate money to a Cohen (priest) with whom they are acquainted.  This seems to be within the theme of first seeing to the needs of one’s own community, and only later to the needs of the larger congregation.  When the repairs do not proceed apace, he orders a collection box be placed on the right side of the doorpost as one entered the temple, presumably that being the most visible spot.  The Talmud uses this as the argument in favor of affixing a mezuzah on the right side of one’s doorpost.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Revolting Against Athalia's Revolt

In Melachim B (Kings II) Yoash (Joash,) rightful heir to the throne of the Kingdom of Yehuda (Judea) is anointed, and Atalya (Athalia,) his mother and usurper to the throne, tears her garments screaming out, “Revolt!  Revolt!”  It’s interesting that she considers the potential restoration of what was the universally recognized legitimate king to be a, “Revolt!” It shows how one’s own illegitimate actions can become legitimized in one’s own mind, to an extreme that would seem objectively absurd.

Monday, June 02, 2014

Tanach is Relevant

For those who may feel a bit squeamish about the level of violence in the Tanach (bible), especially with the tendency of new kings to wipe out all the heirs of the overthrown king, or for those who think that this sort of political violence was something reserved for ancient times and is out of place in today’s enlightened western society, might I direct your attention to the Iraq War.  Saddam tried to assassinate Bush I.  Then Bush II pursued Saddam and hung him (which the world got to watch from a cell phone camera recording,) killed his heirs Udei and Qusei Hussein, and printed a deck of playing cards to make a game of hunting down and killing everyone who had so much as given him a cup of coffee, not to mention the events of Abu Ghraib.  Bush then outlawed the Ba’ath movement, much as the obedient kings wiped out the Ba’al movement.