Sunday, June 25, 2017

Didn't Jesus do away with all the rules? part 13

The Rev. Know-it-all’s “Young Christian’s Guide to Halakhic Law”, finally terminated.

In my previous ravings, patient reader, I explained that among the 613 commandments of the Law of Moses there are 365 don’ts and 248 do’s. Among these commandments there are commandments, witnesses, and rules that have no apparent reason. If Jesus says that “until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is fulfilled.” (Matt 5:18), how, pray tell, does Jesus fulfill something like the law prohibiting Shatnez?  Allow me to explain. 

Shatnez is cloth containing both wool and linen which Torah prohibits.  Leviticus 19:19 and Deuteronomy 22:9–11 prohibit an individual from wearing wool and linen fabrics in one garment, the interbreeding of different species of animals, and the planting different kinds of seeds together. My suspicion is that the prohibition against these inter-mixings is a reminder of the wall of separation between Israel and the nations that surrounded them. The law requiring circumcision and much of the dietary law had the same function. I remember inviting Rabbi Lefkowitz to dinner at my rectory with the alderman. It was a Chicago kind of thing.  It had to be a kosher catered meal served on sealed, disposable plates, glasses and flatware. An observant Jew cannot eat in a Gentile home except with great difficulty. We are unclean. If that does not put a damper on chumminess, what will?  Mixture is discouraged at every turn, and this is reasonable.

The Canaanites among whom Israel found itself living practiced abominations like religious prostitution and child sacrifice. An invitation to dinner might involve who knows what?  As the Yiddishe bubbi (grandmother, for us goyim) says, “It’s better vee shouldn’t mix in!” This is a huge biblical principle, not just the worries of a nervous grandmother. Why should they mix in? Simple.

The idea of a moral and righteous God was new to the world. Religion had almost nothing to do with what we think of as morality among the nations of the ancient world. It was more a kind of practical voodoo about how to get what you wanted and how to keep the gods from squashing you like a bug. This whole Israelite thing about a righteous God who loves humanity with a passionate and jealous love was unheard of in the ancient world. If you think about it, that sort of thing really doesn’t come naturally to us humans. We are far more interested in the voodoo that allows us to do pretty much what we please.

In the law, God created a people set apart. By the time of the Roman Empire about two thousand years ago, the concepts of the religion of Israel were pretty well known and fairly respected. The nation of Israel had prospered and the books of Moses were known throughout out the Persian and Roman empires. The Roman Empire was about ten percent Jewish. Jews had trading colonies as far away as India and Spain. They filled the Greek speaking world and the Roman Empire. Separation had done its job. The God of Israel, the Righteous One, was poised to replace the innumerable capricious gods of the pagans. The wall of separation would come crashing down in the teachings of the Messiah Jesus, in His sacrificial death for all mankind and in His miraculous resurrection.

Paul of Tarsus the Pharisee talmid (student) would explain this fulfillment in his many letters.  We fulfill the commandment by doing more than the law requires. Not only do we refrain from adultery, but we love our spouses as we love our own bodies, St. Paul explains. We fulfill the commandments of witness by living and dying for the Lord. We are allowed to trim the corners of our beards if we live in such charity that the world can see the law fulfilled in our love and kindness for those around us be they pagan or believer.

The first Christians fulfilled the witness commandments by their deaths in the Roman amphitheaters. The witness commandments are fulfilled every time a Middle Eastern Christian has his head lopped off by one of the enemies of God. But Shatnez? How does Jesus and how do we fulfill this prohibition and those like it, such as circumcision and the refusal to eat lobster?  The key lies in one Torah text. (Hang on. This will be obscure.) I refer you to Exodus 39:29:

 “…and (you shall make) the belt (for the high priest) of fine twined linen, and blue, and purple, and scarlet, the work of the weaver in colors, as the Lord commanded Moses.”

Rabbinic Judaism maintains that Shatnez, mixture, was mandated in the case of the high priest’s belt, in which fine white linen was interwoven with purple, blue, and scarlet material. According to the sages, the purple, blue, and scarlet were made from wool and interwoven with the fine linen. The high priest wore a symbolic word around his waist that one day Shatnez would be allowed.

If Jesus is the great high priest the fulfillment of the priesthood of the temple he fulfills this prophecy made in fabric and the prohibitions against Shatnez are no longer necessary. Go, enjoy a ham sandwich. Just make sure you honor the image of God in every human being you meet but without submitting the immoral practices of the nations such as abortion and promiscuity.

I think I am about finished with this whole thing about the law.

Rev. Know-it-all


  1. Can I cheer that you are done? Perhaps a fruitful topic would be helping us understand details of the 10 commandments. For example this month I realized I had become an idolater. I have red hair and lean toward tantrums. "I want what I want for me." Classic case of idolatry. I know what God wants; I know what God has given so I either worship God or I worship myself, satisfying me first and praising me. What was the test? My family rejected me for being Catholic and when my parent died we did not receive money. The parent prior asked I leave the Catholic church and I obeyed God instead. We did not inherit so our children suffer financially for my decision. God has been so generous people will write books about it when I die. Unfortunately I am so not interested in that I attempted spiritual suicide. I wanted someone like yourself to help me understand the miracles God has given and no priest took my hand to help including you the Father K-I-A (3C4t). How would it look for the celibate priest to be close to a female? Even if she is younger he would not look like a Father but an old goat, right? If I were a gay male no problem, right? We must keep up appearances, and at all costs? I struggled deeply with that. I said to the parish priest, fine be a Shepherd with a providential but stupid stupid lamb as I leave the pen and refuse to eat costing what God has given you. Therefore if you do not give me what I want after I have given up so much for the Church that God asks I remain at I will make it so you can not use what He has given through me. You can not use the cool miracle stuff if I do not attend mass, right? On the third week I re-entered on my own, choosing God over everything else including me. Why? I am not smart. One can be brilliant like you Father yet you are still a lamb. Lambs are stupid. It might not be what we think or what we "want" but as difficult as it is we must turn to God obediently saying, yes Father let it be Your way. The extremely tough lesson: GOD MUST BE FIRST IN YOUR LIFE. Could we all need to hear about Ephesians 5:5-6?

  2. As a sheep owner, let me state clearly: Sheep are not stupid and neither are their lambs.
    Lady sheep are interested in food, safety, shelter.In the case of females, they are interested in protecting their lambs and the lambs of other ewes. In the case of rams, well, it's all about sex. more sex, where is the sex? And as an aside, is there food where there is sex ?

    Just sayin'....