Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rosh haShanah – The Day of Total Obedience



[the shofar – ram’s horn]

To be a Jew means to be a slave to God. This is very literal. Leviticus 25:55 states that a Jew cannot be purchased as a permanent slave in the way a gentile can be since we are already slaves to God. We literally belong to Him.

To a gentile, this is the most horrifying idea possible. An atheist like Richard Dawkins almost chokes when speaking about an assertive God. Christians seems to have a problem with this as well. They tend to contrast the “harsh” God of the Torah with the more forgiving Jesus. They also find comfort in spiritual loopholes such as penal substitution, for Protestants, and the sacrament of penance for Catholics. While Muslims do not accept those ideas, they nevertheless believe that if one totally struggles (literally “makes jihad”) for the sake of God, his sins are forgiven. (This has led to some unfortunate consequences.)

For the Jew, there are no easy ways out, no shortcuts. We are slaves. We must listen and obey.

The ultimate example of that obedience is the Binding of Isaac in Genesis 22. Here God asks Abraham to do something extremely cruel, destructive and senseless. He asks Abraham to murder Isaac his son. This is the ultimate test of obedience, and Abraham passes the test perfectly, prepared to obey without complaint, hesitation or question even though the command defies all logic.

The Binding of Isaac is closely connected to Rosh haShanah.

According to one opinion in Pesikta Rabbasi 40:6, the Binding took place on Rosh haShanah. This makes sense when one considers that according to the Talmud Rosh haShanah 16a the ram’s horn is blown in remembrance of the Binding of Isaac. (A ram, caught by its horns, was substituted for Isaac at the last moment.) The Binding therefore has a central place in the “remembrance” prayer of Rosh haShanah.

In this sense, Rosh haShanah is the most truly Jewish day of the year. Perhaps that explains why even so many secular Jews attend services on that day.

Let’s experience Rosh haShanah, the first day of the new year, as a renewal of our commitment to obey God with total discipline and commitment. We must redouble our efforts in Talmudic study, since obviously we cannot obey God if we have not bothered to study what He has commanded us. We must also inspire ourselves with ethical literature.

And let’s remember that God is not asking us to do anything as incomprehensible as murder our innocent children, as He asked Abraham. Rather, what does He ask of us; merely to be just, merciful and to humbly think about Him (Micah 6:8).

Wishing everyone a blessed new year!

30 comments:

david said...

I dont think that is entirely fair. The best defences I have ever heard of the way God is represtented in the Old Testament are from Christian apologists.
For example listen to what William Lane Craig has to say in response to Sam Harris

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer

jewish philosopher said...

Christianity of course includes many millions of people and thousands of sects. I am generalizing.

david said...

To be a Christian is to forsake ones self to follow God. It really is the same as being a Jew in many many ways, although I know you will not agree with that statemennt.
We are to take up our cross to follow him, so to speak. Devote our entire lives to his service. I still think it's a bit rough to generalize about our supposed contrasting of God in the Torah to Jesus, but I don't know what experiences you have had with Christians. Just remember that we believe they are one person.

Nikol said...

That's all fine. What, however, do you think about Obadiah Shoher's criticism pf Rosh Hashanah as aholiday that has nothing to do with New Year? Here, for example http://samsonblinded.org/blog/petty-paganism.htm

jewish philosopher said...

David, as an Orthodox Jew, I can’t help but feel that Christians tend to be morally somewhat lax, apparently believing that their sins are forgiven. Take for example Ted Haggard and the Catholic priest abuse scandal. Now I know that no community is perfect, everyone has a rotten apple, however these types of cases seem, from the point of view of my community, very extreme.

Nikol, the Talmud states that Rosh ha-Shanah is the anniversary of the creation of Adam and is therefore the new year. This is based on oral tradition.

david said...

Your right, these things are horrific. It is a shame that you only seem to recognise the bad that has been done by Christians, there is mountains of good that have been done by the Church and individuals within it.

jewish philosopher said...

As I mention in my heading "The purpose of this blog is to promote Orthodox Judaism and to critique other ideologies".

david said...

Yes I know, and I don't come here expecting anything else. But one reason I do come here is to defend what I can of what I believe. I just think it's a shame that you ignore the truth in your critique of other ideologies.

jewish philosopher said...

Well, if I thought Christianity was so convincing, I would have a blog called the Christian Philosopher. And then Jews would accuse me of unfairness.

david said...

Your getting me wrong here. Your Jewish and i am not arguing that Christian theology should be promoted if you don't believe it. But to always point to examples of Christians doing the wrong thing as typical is a lie and I am sure you know it. I am only objecting to the way you represent Christian theolgy because you so often get it so wrong. We are not the lawless lot you seem to think.

jewish philosopher said...

David, what can I say? I’ve had Muslims complaining that I’m too hard on them and really Islam is so mild and peaceful, if the Jews (and Americans, and Russians, and Hindus, etc. etc.) would just leave them alone. Some people are a little biased.

From an Orthodox Jewish point of view, Christianity today, while not the brutal dictatorship it was in the Middle Ages, is nevertheless a bit of a “talking religion”. You just spend an hour in church each week and you’re done; afterwards you live just about like everyone else. I see evangelical Protestantism as the perfect American religion, like McDonald’s. It’s cheap, quick, tasty, easy and not too healthy.

david said...

What can I say, it's a shame thats all you have seen. In my own experience thats not the case, and the Bible certainly says that should not be the case.
By the way I've never even seen a Synogogue in Sydney. Does that mean that Jews do even less than what you see Christians do?

jewish philosopher said...

It's a shame about Synagogues in Sydney. If Jesus would visit there, he would have nowhere to pray.

Joebaum said...

I am not very proud about Jesus. i dont know about you JP.

david said...

I'm sure he could find somewhere, he was recorded praying outside of the Synagogues more often than not in his day.
Are you also telling me that the only place you can pray is in a Synagogue? I pity you if thats the case.

jewish philosopher said...

I am just often amused by missionaries who approach me here in New York City.

I am far more Christ-like than they are.

I can understand his language - Aramaic. I rest on Saturday, fast on Yom Kippur, eat matzo on Passover, and wear a beard. In my synagogue we recite the psalms in Hebrew and study the sayings of the rabbis Jesus knew.

david said...

Are you really more like Christ?
They are devoting their lives to spreading the Gospel of his life, just as he did. You have said in this very blog Jews don't feel the need to spread their belief.
And as for studying the sayings of rabbis Jesus knew, they I would assume go one better and study the sayings of Jesus himself.

This idea you have that Jesus was just an ordinary Jew with a bit of a Messianic delusion is faulse. Take ten minutes out of your day to skim through the Gospels and you should be able to disregard that idea.

jewish philosopher said...

I look at Christianity as being a sort of Judaism Lite. I prefer Judaism Classic.

david said...

Thats interesting, I would say the same thing about Judaism compared to Christianity. It's just not the same when you remove the Messiah, seems like an intermediate religion, half way to the full serve.

I would also like to point out that your pride in Judaism seems to me to be in the law. Just having the strictest religion is meaningless. Your people may well be the nicest bunch on earth, but that means nothing if your wrong. Infact if I am right, your people are among the most immoral on earth, openly rejecting God as you do. Just a thought.

jewish philosopher said...

David, I'm happy to take that chance.

kate said...

dear philosopher.

I find it hard to believe that you think you are more christ-like than missionarys.

I would like to imform you that christ is the God who created the world, the universe, and you and me. He sent his son to die for our sins, our mistakes! And i understand that you dont believe the the messiah hasnt come to earth yet, but could you really die for someone else?

Thik about it, God is and awsome God is and there is no word that can define God! To go to church, fast, rest on saturday and have a beard, do you really think thats what God wants, do you really think God cares what you look like?

He doesn't because when jesus came to earth he paid for all our sins and because of this God looks at us and dosent see sin, he sees perfect people wh have been forgiven. Isnt that like so awsone?

so, mr Philosofer sir, i am only 12 years of age and i dont want to offend you but please just rethink weather the christian faith is a whole lot more true than you think, and that God really does love you so much he sent his son to die for you.

Godbless

'Kate'

jewish philosopher said...

Kate, it's not true. Someone just made up all the Christian stuff to make life easier for themselves. Jesus was an evil fake.

kate said...

mr. philosopher,
Im afraid although your an adult you just said something that is very untrue.

Nobody made up christianity, its in the bible, the book that the all powerful God made! Its full of wisdom and TRUTH! Jesus IS not an evil fake!

C of E churches often don't take the christian religion seriously and put it into practice. I come from a penticostal church, and just like you we aim to put the teachings from the old testiment in our lives aswel as the new testiment (jesus' teachings)
I agree that some people call themselves christians to make their life easier which is a shame, but to be honest a christian who is sorry for their sins and asks jesus into their lives definatly live for God and takes everyday as a sunday.

Also, after jesus died, the early christians suffered and were persecuted.

Godbless

'kate'

ps. who told you Jesus is a fake?

jewish philosopher said...

Probably 90% of mankind considers Christianity to be a fake.

If you want to find out who Jesus really was, read this.

kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kate said...

right and thats probably why christianity is the largest and most common religion in mankind?

im not here to debate which religion is most common and im not here to offend either. I just can't understand how the jewish religion thinks God is such a powerful and almighty God (which he is) to an exstent that you cant write his name and can take just 40 steps on the sabath day and yet you call the book that he wrote (the bible) half true! God is omniscient you know what that mean? allknowing. He has all knowledge and yet you only believe the first few chapters of the bible? that doesnt seem all that christ-like to me!

God-bless

'kate'

jewish philosopher said...

There are millions of Muslims in the world. If there were more Muslims than Christians, would you become Muslim?

The New Testement was just added later and it isn't true. That's like the Mormons who just added on the Book of Mormon later.

kate said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kate said...

excuse me? when exactly did I say im a christian because its a popular religion? no i didn't i was just trying to show that you were wrong in saying 'Probably 90% of mankind considers Christianity to be a fake.'

Yeah so what if the new testiment was added on later! That is totally beside the point! Its Gods book he wrote it, he is sinless, im pretty sure he wouldn't write a book of lies.

Oh and by the way, you mr. Philosopher are a very rude jew who doesn't try to respect other religions, and when I first signed this blog I tried my best to respect you but it turns out you are not a very nice old man!

good day sir!

jewish philosopher said...

I don't accept the so called New Testement, just like you don't accept the Book of Mormon.

Christianity spreads lies about God, such as saying that He could become a man.