Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Numbers: Threats to Survival

The Book of Leviticus tells us that G-d established the conditions for us to meet in order to become spiritually receptive. Meeting these conditions could bring us closer to G-d and the Book of Numbers, for the first ten chapters, continues this theme. The Book of Numbers acts as as an extension of the conditions laid out in the Sinai Revelation!

An obvious point that can be made from the very title of the Book of Numbers is that this book deals with ... NUMBERS! The census which is taken of all of the members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel and their placement around the Tabernacle of G-d reflects the thought presented by Ezekiel (Chapter one) where he described the arrangement of celestial beings around the Glory of G-d, the Schechinah.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Leviticus: Jewish Spirituality and Maintaining G-d's Presence

G-d has given us a plan to live a holy life and to help further establish our relationship with Him! The Book of Leviticus lays out the blueprint for how to live a holy life. Leviticus, as a spiritual exercise, tells us how to bring kedushah (spiritual receptiveness) into our lives so that we can be open to G-d and His Presence. Through studying and observing the mitzvot in Leviticus, we can tear down and avoid the tumah (spiritual barriers which we instinctively erect. As a nation, when we seek to increase our kedushah, we can improve our sense of hashrahat haSchechinah, our sense of feeling and experiencing the Presence of G-d, as opposed to increasing our silook haSchechinah (creating a greater distance between ourselves and the Presence of G-d).

A key point in understanding how to maintain our sense of G-d's Presence is the idea of kedushah, the idea of being spiritually receptive to G-d. By being receptive spiritually to His Presence, we are actually striving to be more like G-d as spiritual beings clothed in flesh rather than merely physical beings with spirits. This is key! As asserted in Leviticus 11: 45, "For I am ADONAI, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt to be your G-d. Therefore you are to be holy, because I am holy". G-d wants us to be spiritually receptive to Him and to be aware of His Presence because He wants an everlasting relationship with each and everyone of us! Our responsibility in establishing this relationship is to strive to be as much like G-d as we can. We must pattern our ways after His ways, living holy and working to take care care and healing Creation (tikkun olam).

Monday, May 10, 2010

Exodus: the Book of Redemption

Nachmindes has described the second book of the Bible as "the Book of Redemption". Exodus is also the book that begins our account of historical creation, a them discussed earlier in regards to the Book of Genesis. Historical creation--which began in Genesis--actually starts to come to fruition in Exodus. The promise made in Genesis 15: 13 - 14 ("ADONAI said to Avram, "Know this for certain: your descendants will be foreigners in a land that is not theirs. They will be slaves and held in oppression there four hundred years. But I will also judge that nation, the one that makes them slaves. Afterwards, they will leave with many possessions") is played out in Exodus.

The Egyptian Exile of the historical creation did not end with the Jewish people being freed from slavery as they were made to wander in the wilderness and still lacked any identity as being Israelites. The ancient Hebrews lacked any unique sense of nationality and of being a people Chosen by G-d. They had spent so much time in Egypt that they lacked a real connection with G-d and were even willing to forego their service to G-d to be able to feel safe an secure through the worship of the ancient Egyptian gods (Exodus 32: 1 reportes that, "When the people saw that Moshe was taking a long time to come down from the mountain, they gathered around Aharon and said to him, 'Get busy; and make us gods to go ahead of us; because this Moshe, the man that brought us up from the land of Egypt - we don't know what has become of him'"). The ancient Israelites lacked the relationship with G-d that their ancestors, Avraham and Sarai, had. They lacked the knowing spiritual closeness that they needed.

This spiritual closeness and relationship were the products of salvation through the Sinai Revelation! The spiritual connection between the Jewish people and G-d did not begin until G-d actively dwelt with the people, His presence or Shechinah, as He done when the Patriarchs were alive. Consider the words found in Exodus 40: 34 - 35 where it is said that, "Then the cloud covered the tent of meeting, and the glory of ADONAI filled the tabernacle. Moshe was unable to enter the tent of meeting, because the cloud remained on it, and the glory of ADONAI filled the tabernacle". Only through the Sinai Revelation were the Isralites positioned so that they could form a nation of G-dly people, a G-dly nation!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Genesis: the Book of Creations

Back in the early 1980s, one of my favorite science fiction movies was "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan". A major device in the story was the so-called "Genesis Device", a scientific creation which could seemingly create matter out of nothingness. In our culture, the word "genesis" is often used to describe the beginning, the origin point, or the creation of something or another. Where once something did not exist or happen, that same something has now come into being.

The first book of the Torah is Genesis. Its very name tells us that this book should concern itself mainly with the issue of something (our world, for example) coming from nothing. here's the thing, though.Of the fifty chapters in Genesis, how many of these chapters actually deal with the creation of our world? 50? 40? 30?How about a whopping thirty four verses out of the full fifty chapters? That's right. Only 34 verses--not chapters--out of fifty chapters deal with the creation of our physical world! Instead of being concerned with the creation of our world, the Book of genesis is actually mainly concerned with the ancient Patriarchs and Matriarchs of Israel, a creation story (if you will) of Israel rather than of the world.

That's right. There are two distinct creation themes in Genesis (actually, if you want to get technical, there are really three distinct creation themes). The first theme is concerned with the creation of this world and takes up 34 verses. It doesn't take that long to read and it is seemingly the minor focus of genesis. Everything is created within thirty four brief verses, the rocks, the sand, the moon, the waters, the animals ranging from the smallest microbe to the largest blue whale, and of man. This is the creation of the natural laws and forces, the law of gravity, the law of thermodynamics, the various laws of physics. Every law of physics and biology that affect the world came into play in these very short verses!

After this Universal Creation, however, we then get to read of the historical creation of the Jewish people. This important. You see, various themes are played out in the Bible in regard to G-d's desired relationship with man.

First, G-d created us in His image. We have independent thought. We have self-awareness. We have a conscience. We can decide between right and wrong.

Second, G-d placed Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. By all accounts, this was the perfect environment for the physical and spiritual development of our first ancestors.

Third, even after Adam and Eve were driven out of the Garden of Eden, they were still given a land which would be able to produce all of the food they needed, the materials for their clothing and shelter, and plants for medicinal use. They were still provided for despite their disobedience against G-d.

Fourth, mankind grew proud and willful and G-d sent the flood to wash the face of the earth clean. Despite the flood, G-d provided a way for some portion of the human race to survive and to repopulate the world!

Fifth, Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and the ancient Hebrews were slaves in Egypt. Despite the betrayal by Joseph's brothers, G-d brought their descendants out of slavery and gave to them His Laws for life! After this, he even gave them the land which is now called Israel as the Promised Land.

Now, in a set of parentheses above, I finally admitted that there are actually three creation themes in Genesis. The third theme is simple and it is obvious (I like it when basic truths are simple--when truth is too complicated, it might as well not exist for humans as we cannot even begin to grasp them then). Moses led the Hebrews out of bondage from Egypt. From there, they gathered at the foot of Mt. Sinai and the third creation theme becomes the dominant theme of the Hebrew Bible--the creation of the Hebrew people as the Jewish people whose duty is to glorify and to serve G-d! From this creation theme sprang the roots of two other major religious paths (Christianity and Islam) which had served to preserve Western thought (as the Muslims did in Europe during the Dark Ages with their keeping of the ancient wisdoms from Greece and Rome) and the spread of Western thought through the Christian colonialization of the Western hemisphere. Without the third creation theme, could the preservation of Western thought have even been possible?

In short, Man rebelled against G-d and G-d, returning the favor, blessed Man. It is up to us to continue this work and to bless the world in which we live; we do not have the moral right to shirk this responsibility. I need to paraphrase something here from the movie "Rent". The opposite of death is not life--it is creation. The three creation themes in the Book of Genesis are the opposite of spiritual death and, as such, they promise us life; that is the blessing which G-d has bestowed upon us.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Expanding On The Mitzvot

Earlier, I mentioned that the purpose of the mitzvot is to help us establish our personal relationship with G-d. In addition, these same 613 mitzvot serve to emphasize the state of interconnectedness that exists between all human beings and with everything else that exists on this planet. Leviticus 18: 4 - 5 ("You are to obey my rulings and laws and live accordingly; I am ADONAI your God. You are to observe my laws and rulings; if a person does them, he will have life through them; I am ADONAI") tells us that these commandments are the promise of life. Deuteronomy 4: 45 and 5: 1 confirm that these are the laws which G-d passed down to us through Moses. From these simple facts, we can deduce that following G-d's law is life.

A major consideration in the mitzvot is the division of these commandments between the mishpatim (the commandments which we can reason out for ourselves and which we can see the immediate sense in (common sense rules)) and the chukim, the laws which we may not see the immediate wisdom in. Consider the verse in Leviticus (18: 4) which commands us as, "You are to obey my rulings and laws and live accordingly; I am ADONAI your G-d." Another way to read this same verse is, "You are to obey my mishpatim (the commandments which even you can see the common sense in) and chukim [(the commandments which may be a bit too deep for you to immediately understand); be careful to observe and keep My chukim] and live accordingly; I am ADONAI your G-d." We can understand the immediate impact of violating the mishpatim, such as would result from stealing from someone, murder, cannibalism, and the like. Mishpatim involve concrete ideas with obvious natural consequences. Chukim are a bit more abstract and less obvious to us, such as the rules found in Leviticus 11: 7 and Leviticus 19: 19. The chukim commandments may be less obvious to us in their rationale, but they are still valid as G-d has given them and following them promises life (Leviticus 18: 5).

Mishpatim are logical and, from a judicial perspective, they are similar to the rationale behind the existence of criminal law. Criminal law exists to deter us from causing harm to society. Mishpatim help to prevent harm to society at large (in this very real sense, the mishpatim are the laws of how we interact with other people in order to bring about tikkun olam through ensuring right behavior and justice to other people).

Mishpatim are the Mitzvot of Reason, but chukim are the Mitzvot of Revelation!

Mishpatim depend upon rational reason, but chukim depend upon revelation. Isaiah 55: 9 - 11 tells us, "As high as the sky is above the earth are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. For just as rain and snow fall from the sky and do not return there, but water the earth, causing it to bud and produce, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater; so is my word that goes out from my mouth - it will not return to me unfulfilled; but it will accomplish what I intend, and cause to succeed what I sent it to do". G-d's Word, which is higher than our ways, consists of the chukim! We may never understand them fully, but they are still His ways and cannot simply be dismissed just because later Christian theologians, such as Paul, say they are no longer relevant. If G-d is relevant, then the chukim are relevant. as observed by King Solomon in Proverbs 30: 5, "Every word of God's is pure; he shields those taking refuge in him". His Words are "pure", they were not just tossed out at random. They have purpose behind them!

In addition to the mishpatim and the chukim, there is a third category of the mitzvot, the edot. The edot are our testimony to the world of the ancient truths inherent in following G-d and clinging to G-d. Our every action and every word we speak tesifies of our relationship with G-d and the edot remind us that we should speak and behave in ways that glorify G-d rather than justify ourselves. We are to behave in such a way as to demonstrate that we belong to G-d and not the other way around. We should exemplify that G-d's laws are supreme ad that we are to trust in His wisdom and mercy (we should know, by now, how dangerous it can be to rely on the mercy of our fellow human beings). We are His stewards, not His supervisor with Him expected to perform as a genie in the bottle.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Purpose of the Mitzvot

The mitzvot are the Commandments which help to establish the relationship between the human race and G-d. According to the Christian Bible, in John 1: 1, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God". Rabbi Yehudah Ha'Levi, however, tells us that this concept of Yeshua as the "Logos" is irrelevant to having a relationship with G-d when he notes that neither the mere desire to be close to G-d guarantees a relationship with G-d nor a belief in a G-d Who has always existed. It is more than desire and belief that creates this relationship with G-d! People speaking ex cathedra for Focus On The Family, for the "700 Club", for Victory Chapel or New Life Church cannot create a relationship with G-d for you by telling you what to do or how to live your life! Their own logic and interpretation of G-d's Word, their own sense of logic can do no more than to create the idea of how to develop such a relationship, but they would leave us in the cold in regards to how to perform whatever tasks are necessary to having this relationship with G-d.

No man--not even Dr. James Dobson--can tell us how to have an idea relationship with G-d. At best, humans can only express their ideas, but not G-d's ideas. We need G-d to give us the blueprint in how to establish a relationship between us and Him.

When I read the various postings on the Colorado Springs Gazette and its threads and its blogs telling me how I am supposed to behave and act in order to be acceptable to G-d, to not be an "abomination" to G-d, I am reading the words of people who know next to nothing about me. They are like a pharmacist who fills prescriptions for patients without any regard to any medical history of that person, without any regard to how a medication may interact with another medication. They are prescribing, even when done with the best of intentions, a "one size fits all" prescription, something that any good doctor knows cannot always work. Some people may be healed by this pharmacist, but that would be purely by accident and not by proper work and study. "Believing on Yeshua" strikes me as the same approach; some people may become better human beings for their belief, but the "one size fits all" mentality is useless to so many other people!

The mitzvot, performing a mitzvah, serves as a reminder to us of what our obligations to the world around us are. We are responsible for taking one step at a time, to save one life at a time, in order to save the world. The mitzvot actively remind us of the inherent worth of each individual human being and soul (and how can a human being not be of immeasurable worth when we each have the Divine Spark within us as we are all the Sons and Daughters of G-d?).

Back in the first half of the 1980s, I experiemented with Christianity--to the shame of my parents (believe me, it took over 20 years before they and my brother would even begin to let me live that time in my life down)--and a lot of damage was done. Strains were placed unnecessarily on our relationship. I lost many good friends. I felt constant guilt and self-hatred because I could not measure up to the standards imposed by this "one size fits all" system of belief. When I left Christianity, I was embittered and resentful, mistrusting any form of spirituality (not just Christianity) as a result of what I had seen and heard in my experiences. "One size" did not fit all and it could have caused a spiritual death for me (I Peter 4: 6).

Before the Sinai Revelation, people were busily engaged in idol worship. Today, a "one size fits all" faith system engages in a form of idol worship, replacing G-d with a bit of wood and a carpenter. There is this need to experience "speaking in tongues" and to revere angels and dead people. There is the drive to place one's faith in a man, no matter how decent a person he may have been, and in the Apostle Paul instead of in G-d.

Exidus shows us that it is more than a mere belief that helps to establish a relationship with G-d. the Tabernacle is a prime example of this! Exodus 31: 1 -6 tells us that Betzalel, the prime architect of the Tabernacle, adhered to G-d's instructions closely rather than follow a "one size fits all" plan for a construction to house the Shechinah so that G-d would dwell among the Israelites (Exodus 25: 8 - 9, "They are to make me a sanctuary, so that I may live among them. You are to make it according to everything I show you -the design of the tabernacle and the design of its furnishings. This is how you are to make it"). Because of this adherence to G-d's plan, the Tabernacle was fashioned exactly as G-d had instructed Moses. Human logic did not design it and James Dobson could give no sound advice for how it was to be constructed; G-d was the Mastermind behind the plan! G-d, not Paul, tells us how to develop a relationship with Him (Deuteronomy 12: 29 - 32 tells us, "When ADONAI your God has cut off ahead of you the nations you are entering in order to dispossess, and when you have dispossessed them and are living in their land; be careful, after they have been destroyed ahead of you, not to be trapped into following them; so that you inquire after their gods and ask, 'How did these nations serve their gods? I want to do the same.' You must not do this to ADONAI your God! For they have done to their gods all the abominations that ADONAI hates! They even burn up their sons and daughters in the fire for their gods! Everything I am commanding you, you are to take care to do. Do not add to it or subtract from it"). Additionally, Deuteronomy 13: 1 - 3 further tells us to avoid the later teachings of people who would tell us different ways to have a relationship with G-d ("If a prophet or someone who gets messages while dreaming arises among you and he gives you a sign or wonder, and the sign or wonder comes about as he predicted when he said, 'Let's follow other gods, which you have not known; and let us serve them,' you are not to listen to what that prophet or dreamer says. For ADONAI your God is testing you, in order to find out whether you really do love ADONAI your God with all your heart and being").

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Torah Narratives

In twenty-first century America, it is easy to assert that the ancient Torah has no relevance to modern life. After all, why should we care about the commandment to go outside of our city limits and bury our excrement whenever we have a bowel movement or why is it so important to read through all of those genealogies in the Bible?

The Torah is relevant, though! It shows the framework around which the Jewish religion was--and is--formed and the Torah, by making so many demands for positive behaviors, reduces the risk of socially unacceptable and dangerous behaviors. I heard one Christian commedian comment in the 1980s that if we just spent all of our time doing what the Bible commands us to do, then we would have no time to do the things that the Bible forbids! The Torah does just that; it allows us tohe opportunity to spend all of our lives in doing the positive and decreasing the need for the negative.

The Torah teaches us various lessons about our world:

[1] Genealogies
While all of the human race stems from Adam and Eve, we now have a mulplicity of races, cultures, and languages. According to Genesis, we all are descened from Adam and Eve (members of the same race, culture, and language, presumably). We were all of the same ethnicity until the Tower of Babel where G-d sundered all human beings so that they spread over the face of the world and developed different races and languages through distance and time.

[2] Divine Justice
The Torah encourages each of us to reflect on our own need for spiritual sensitivity and moral behavior. We learn to accept responsibility for our own actions instead of relying on the old "the devil made me do it" defense. Because we alone are responsible for our thoughts, words, and actions, we assume a greater moral responsibility for trying to heal our relationships with one another, with the world around us, and with G-d. Psalm 58: 10 - 11 tells us that "The righteous will rejoice to see vengeance done, they will wash their feet in the blood of the wicked; 11 and people will say, "Yes, the righteous are rewarded; there is, after all, a God who judges the earth", but we are the ones responsible for inviting that Divine Judgment on ourselves by our own actions.

[3] We must rely on G-d, but we must never make Him solely responsible for our getting through life!
Consider the words of Proverbs 21: 31 where we are advised that, "A horse may be prepared for the day of battle, but victory comes from ADONAI". The future is in G-d's hands, but He relies on us to do our share and to plan and to work in order to get through this life. We are not to simply laze around and coast, counting on Him to carry us. We must work in order to succeed. We must put forth an honest effort.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Torah Wisdom

One of my favorite books in my library is Judaism for Dummies. It makes for a wonderful and light introduction all things Jewish in America and breaks the religion, its history, and its culture down in easy to understand terms for people or all faith systems.

Of course, when studying what it is to be a Jew, you must grapple with the Scriptures and examine the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, which serve as the ultimate map and guide to Jewish life! If you were only able to keep five books from the Bible, these five books would be the critical ones that should be on everyone's list; everything else is simply expansion on what was already written and commentaries.

The Torah is believed to have been communicated to Moses by G-d before Moses' death. In other words, even though the Torah includes what happens after Moses' physical life is over, it was all revealed to him while he was still alive (Exodus 24: 12 "ADONAI said to Moshe, 'Come up to me on the mountain, and stay there. I will give you the stone tablets with the Torah and the mitzvot I have written on them, so that you can teach them.'") and serves as history and prophsy for people everywhere! The stone tablets referred to in Exodus 24: 12 refer to the Ten Commandments (thank you, Charlton Heston) and the mitzvot refer to the 613 commandments (248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments) given by G-d to help His people live a holy life. These five books make up the Torah, the "guide" to Jewish life which leads us to a deeper belief in and relationship with G-d. The Torah teaches (ירה) us how to live. We develop emunah or faith in G-d (think of Exodus 17: 12, "However, Moshe's hands grew heavy; so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it. Aharon and Hur held up his hands, the one on the one side and the other on the other; so that his hands stayed steady until sunset").The Torah covers history from Creation to the building of the Tabernacle by Betzalel (אֵלin Exodus 31: 1 - 6).

We know that the Torah consists of the Five Books of Moses, however, nowhere does Moses record anything in the first person; he did not write "I went down to Egypt. I received the Ten Commandments." Instead, everything is seen from the persepctive of a Third Person. The reason is simple! Moses was not the author of these books. Instead, he served as the transcriber of these books which came from the Mouth and heart of G-d!

Other books in the Scriptures tell us how the Prophets were transcribing the Words of G-d directly. The Torah does not do this. This is because the books of the other prophets are all written in the immediacy of G-d's work and Word. The Torah wasn't written as soon as it happened; instead, the Torah existed bevfore Creation even happened! Moses was simply recording what had already been in existence well before Adam and Eve walked the earth. It was not a human experience and could only exist outside of the human experience.

The Torah existed before humankind existed and, as such, is colored by G-d's Wisdom (Psalm 119: 96, "I see the limits of all perfection, but your mitzvah has no bounds"). It was at Mt. Sinai that Moses was instructed in the wisdom of the Fifty Gates of Wisdom (the Tree of Life, the Qabbalah).

[QUOTE]Although foreboding clouds may line the sky,
My love will fill my desire.
When passing through the Fifty Gates of Wisdom,
Discerning Leah will push me onward
And with me the love of Rachel for her sons, I will not sway.
By your sovereign secrets I will reach the tenth sphere,
Oh Almighty,
Hurry with the salvation
For Your nation
Wrapped in the tranquility of Inner peace,
Our throats are raw
For we the Children of Jacob
The Treasures of Abraham.

Rabbi Shalom Shabazi / Ofrah Haza(from the poem "Ayelet Chen")[/QUOTE]

G-d taughtMoses the nature of Creation and of the Universe, a Wisdom which can be found in the Torah. It was this same Wisdom in which Moses was instructed which allowed Solomon to be known for his wisdom (I Kings 4: 33 - 34, "He could discuss trees, from the cedar in the L'vanon to the hyssop growing out of the wall; he could discuss wild animals, poultry, reptiles and fish. People from all nations came to hear the wisdom of Shlomo, including kings from all over the earth who had heard of his wisdom").

Wisdom exists in the Torah! It is not an impossible wisdom to acquire or to understand. The Torah's Wisdom is designed so that we can each approach it and understand it on the level from which we operate (Shemoth Rabbah 29). The entire Torah has meaning, but its meaning relies on our own intelligence and ability to understand. We are not to all be held at the same level of responsibility as Solomon's level was because of is own wisdom.

Times change

It has been a good while since I have posted anything here. So, what's nu in my life?
I turned 50 a few weeks ago. That's not so bad. I am constantly trimming the grays from my mustache and goatee, but not too many more lines or wrinkles.
I realized how much German I have forgotten. I recently ran across a copy of a textbook of mine from high school and was trying to read a short story ("Thomas" by Anna Seghers, I think it was) and I it looked like it was written in a foreign language! It's hard to believe that I used to be fluent in German, but, now, it looks and sounds foreign to me. I guess I am going to have to brush up on it and relearn the language as we want to eventually take a vacation there--RainBear wants to see my old neighborhood (Hugel) in the city of Frankfurt a.M. over there and I want to see the former eastern sector of the country as I had never been in the East. I think I have about 50 Ostmark to my name, but, now, they use Euros there.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Micah 6: 8 and Glenn Beck's Fear of Social Justice

Micah is a book in the Bible that appears to be from the exilic times for the Jewish people and can be divided into three sections. In terms of the issue of social justice, I am mainly interested in the third (denounces the people for their sins and a promise of restoration) section, but will also assert that this third section relies on the second section (the future restoration of the people after the coming destruction), as well.

Micah 6: 8 states clearly, "Human being, you have already been told what is good, what ADONAI demands of you - no more than to act justly, love grace and walk in purity with your God". In this verse, we are reminded of G-d's promises to Avraham and the conditions which Avraham had to follow as set forth in Genesis 18: 19: "For I have made myself known to him, so that he will give orders to his children and to his household after him to keep the way of ADONAI and to do what is right and just, so that ADONAI may bring about for Avraham what he has promised him."

Now, we are getting somewhere. Justice is important to G-d--and doing what is "right". What is doing "right"? In I Samuel 15: 22, we have been told, "Sh'mu'el said, "Does ADONAI take as much pleasure in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying what ADONAI says? Surely obeying is better than sacrifice, and heeding orders than the fat of rams". Further more, in Hosea 6: 6, we are advised that, "For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices, knowledge of God more than burnt offerings". Doing "right means:

[1] Obedience to G-d
[2] Doing what is just
[3] Mercy

So far, these are three attributes that are a part of social justice. G-d has not condemned social justice, yet--only man has made such a condemnation.

Micah tells us that G-d wants us to do justly. Yeshua argues in Mark 12: 31 that the second greatest commandment is, "The second is this: `You are to love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no other mitzvah greater than these." To do justly, according to Christian scripture, we are to love our neighbor and not hate him or go around calling him "evil" and "sickening". People who do that disobey Yeshua and are not Christian according to Yeshua's own words. If we keep calling them "evil", then we are constantly sinning against our neighbor. Justice and true love demands that we bless--and not curse--our neighbors.

Micah then reminds us that we are to love mercy. Justice--as measured in a scale, especially one thrown off balance by personal hatred and bigotry--is cold and unfeeling (Micah 7: 18). If we want to do justly, we must seek to demonstrate mercy! Titus 3: 5 explains that a real Christian seeking to demonstrate mercy should remember, "he delivered us. It was not on the ground of any righteous deeds we had done, but on the ground of his own mercy. He did it by means of the mikveh of rebirth and the renewal brought about by the Ruach HaKodesh".

What is mercy? History tells us through the Jewish tradition--the religion that Yeshua was raised in--that mercy shows:

[1] Benevolence
[2] Forgiveness
[3] Kindness
[4] Charity

Micah tells us that G-d wants us to walk humbly. Quoting Leviticus daily to call people and "abomination" is not walking humbly when people use that old argument to support how "morally superior" they are. It is arrogance and conceit. Lying about people (Proverbs 12: 22) to stir up trouble and redirect attention away from one's own transgressions is not walking humbly; it is an abomination. Accordingly, I Peter 5: 5 tells us that, "Further, all of you should clothe yourselves in humility toward one another, because G-d opposes the arrogant, but to the humble he gives grace". If you have to show your "moral superiority" by tearing others down, then, according to Christian scripture, G-d cannot give you grace. If they truly want to demonstrate real "moral superiority", then let them heed Yeshua in Matthew 11: 29 - 30, where he says, "29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light".

Micah tells us in verse 8 what God wants. He wants Justice and Mercy to their fellow man and Loyalty to G-d. This is the theme of the book.

Does this sound familiar? "You are to love ADONAI your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength and with all your understanding; and your neighbor as yourself" (Luke 10: 27).