Rabbi’s Reflections – Monday, November 25, 2019
I would like to memorialize the 79th birthday of my late wife, Angelyn “Ann” Chambless Weiner, Z”L. The above image is of her monument in the memorial garden outside the side entrance to our synagogue. We met in 1972 when I was hired to teach Hebrew to 3rd graders at Temple Beth Shalom in Houston, TX. Ann was one of 3 secretaries of Rabbi Kahane (uncle to the famous Rabbi Meir Kahane).
I knew her for 2 years before we started dating. We dated for 2 years before we were married. We were married for 42 years before she died. How can I summarize 46 years into 2 lines of text? It doesn’t seem possible, it isn’t, but here goes. She was close to God in this life. She is closer still to Him today. May her memory be a blessing. Happy birthday dear one and “L’hitraot.”
When the rabbis tell a story to explain the Scriptures, it’s called a “Midrash.” A “Drash” is just short for “Midrash.” There should always be a clear distinction between Midrash and Scripture. The distinction is usually clear, but the value placed on Midrash in parts of both traditional Judaism and Messianic Judaism, too often equals (and sometimes even exceeds) the value placed on Scripture.
Midrash found in the Talmud is regularly given the weight of Scripture. The classic example of this is the Kashrut ordinance of the separation of milk and meat among orthodox Jews. The Bible simply says, Exodus 23:19b “Do not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” It’s an obscure command in the middle of a lot of other commands and promises.
Even though Abraham served the Lord (Genesis 18:3) milk and meat together (Genesis 18:8), the rabbis created an entire regimen of separate dishes, separate refrigeration, and separate cooking. Why don’t we just do as the Scripture says and not boil a baby in it’s mother’s milk.
We have many similar instructions in Scripture. The explanation for such instructions is beyond our human ability to understand. God says it, we do it, that’s it. These commands are called “Chukim” in Hebrew. (One is a “Chauk.”)
Let me tell you one of my favorite Midrashim. So the story goes from one rabbi… “God spoke the Torah to Moses, who wrote down what he heard from God. When God was telling Moses the words of (what would become) the Five Books of Moses, He came to the 10 commandments (now found in Exodus 20). But God, being all powerful and efficient didn’t really have to speak all 10 commandments to Moses, only the first commandment, and Moses automatically, by the power of God understood the other 9.”
A second rabbi chimes in, saying… “Since God is all powerful and efficient, God didn’t really have to speak the entire first commandment, but only the first word of the first commandment.” The first word of the first commandment is “Anochi” meaning “I am.” (Exodus 20:2) God said, “I am” and Moses by God’s power understood all the rest of the 10 commandments.
A third rabbi chimed in with the last word. He said… “Since God is all powerful and efficient, God didn’t really have to speak the entire first word of the first commandment to Moses either, but only the first letter.” All the rabbis (and now you) were astonished to hear this, because they (and now you) knew that the first letter of “Anochi” is the “aleph” a silent letter. God is so powerful and efficient that He didn’t have to speak at all, (speaking the silent letter) Moses just knew.
Is God speaking to you today? Psalm 95:7 “For He is our God, and we are the people of His pasture, the flock of His hand. Today, if you hear His voice:” Listen carefully and you will hear God speak even the silent letters to you. May His name be blessed.
Memory Verse: Hebrews 4:14 Therefore, since we have a great Kohen Gadol who has passed through the heavens, Yeshua Ben-Elohim, let us hold firmly to our confessed allegiance. 15 For we do not have a kohen gadol who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all the same ways—yet without sin. 16 Therefore let us draw near to the throne of grace with boldness, so that we may receive mercy and find grace for help in time of need.
* 236 11/25 Monday: Philippians 1-2
237 11/26 Tuesday: Philippians 3-4
238 11/27 Wednesday: Hebrews 1-2
239 11/28 Thursday: Hebrews 3-4
240 11/29 Friday: Hebrews 5-6
Question of the day: So many excellent verses in the reading today. Many of them would make excellent RR subject lines. Which verse seemed to me to be the highlight of the 2 chapters?
Answer: Philippians 1:20 My eager expectation and hope is that in no way will I be put to shame, but that with complete boldness Messiah will even now, as always, be exalted in my body—whether through life or through death.
Paul is praying that Yeshua would be lifted us through his life and in his death. His stated desire to avoid shame intrigues me. The Bible makes promises to the believer that he/she will not be ashamed. 1 Peter 4:16 But if anyone suffers for following Messiah, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in this name.
This idea of not being ashamed on behalf of God is not new to the New Testament. Isaiah 50:7 For Adonai Elohim will help Me. Therefore I have not been disgraced. Therefore I set My face like flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.
What do we say in Hebrew (especially when someone offers a compliment for a job well done?… “B’ezrat HaShem,” meaning “with the help of God.” God’s help comes in the form of grace. Grace is not our excuse to do every type of sin as some say, “There’s grace for that.” (Whatever “that” is.)
Rather, “grace” is God-given desire to do His will. And, because He is both gracious and loving, He would not frustrate us by giving us a desire for which there is no possibility of accomplishing it, God also gives us the ability to do His will. Grace is both desire and ability from God. These form the two sides of the “grace coin.”
God’s grace draws us into relationship with Him. John 14:15 “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” What follows is the promise of help as Yeshua continues speaking. John 14:16 “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper so He may be with you forever—“
May we all walk according to the will of God in a way that none of us will be ashamed. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Blessings. R. Michael.