Rabbi’s Reflections – Thursday, November 30, 2023

Rabbi’s Note: Last night several of us attended the Knoxville City Council meeting downtown.  As you probably know, what attracted our attention was a resolution put forward by Council Member Amelia Parker (At Large Seat C) in support of a cease fire in Gaza.  Much of this has been previously discussed and published in RRs within the last week (www.syknox.org/blog).  The link to last night’s meeting is not yet available.  I’ll get it to you when it becomes available in the next few days so you can see the level of discord.  Now, I want to give you the update.

I had prepared some remarks (also previously published) and submitted them in advance to the entire City Council.  One Council member, Seema Singh, called to thank me for providing my perspective and apologize she was going to have to miss the meeting.  The Vice-Mayor also called to express his belief that the resolution was not consistent with the objectives of the City Council, which is to provide a better life for the citizens of Knoxville.  Finally, I spoke with the mayor just before the meeting started.  She took a trip to Israel a few months ago on a solidarity tour, and seemed pleased to see everyone in attendance.

About 90 minutes into the meeting, the resolution came up for discussion.  The crowd of about 300 people was divided about 60/40 in favor of Israel.  There was plenty of disorder and disarray in this part of the meeting.  The Mayor’s gavel was not effective in keeping order.  Ms. Parker spoke for 5 minutes in favor of her measure at the start of discussion and for 7 minutes at the end.  In between there were 3 speakers for and 3 against.  The pro-Israel speakers (against the measure) were repeatedly shouted down and the mayor was unable to maintain order.

After about 45 minutes of discussion, the measure was brought up for a vote, but did not receive a second.  Without a second, the measure was not put to a vote, but was dismissed.  (I guess Knoxville isn’t Oakland – https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/world/oakland-city-council-passes-resolution-calling-for-gaza-ceasefire-safety-for-all-innocent-civilians/ar-AA1kG8Gu) With our objective achieved, I didn’t see any reason to stay until the end of the meeting to speak during the open forum.  The lack of decorum influenced my decision.  If I ever got the chance to speak, I’m sure someone would have shouted over me.

No one was arrested and the mayor seemed pleased that the people had been heard (due process followed).  There is a season of conflict and foment in the world today.  There are two things about which I’m sure.  The conflict and foment are going to get worse over time, and only Yeshua’s return will provide the answers we seek.  Luke 21:34 “But watch out so your hearts are not weighed down by carousing, strong drink, and the worries of life. Do not let that day come upon you suddenly like a trap. 35 For it will come rushing upon all who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 But stay alert at all times, praying that you may have the strength to escape all these things about to happen, and to stand before the Son of Man.” End RN.

Life In The Body part 47 – Romans, part 222

Romans 14:20 Stop tearing down the work of God for the sake of food. Indeed all things are clean, but wrong for the man who by eating causes stumbling. 

There are many commandments.  The rabbis have identified 613 (first mentioned in the Talmud), but that’s a number they “backed into” by combining some and omitting others.  By their count (I’ve never counted myself) there are 248 Positive Commandments (do’s) and 365 Negative Commandments (do not’s).  When it comes time to list them, the rabbis disagree among themselves in the details.

Furthermore; many of these commandments cannot be performed today because we lack a Temple, a priesthood and a sacrificial system, so anyone who purports to keep them all is lying (which I’m sure is one of them).  With supposedly 613 commandments from which to choose, it amazes me that 98% of the discussion focuses on only two of them, Shabbat and Kashrut.

That’s right, how to keep Shabbat (and by extension, the rest of the holidays, also called Shabbatot) and what is really kosher, (how kosher is kosher) make up 98% of all discussion on obeying God’s commandments.  Paul is admonishing us not to become consumed with minutia, but to “build up” the work of God by living in righteousness and helping others to do the same.

Yeshua, Himself, addressed this religious spirit.  Mat 23:23 “Woe to you, Torah scholars and Pharisees, hypocrites! You tithe mint and dill and cumin, yet you have neglected the weightier matters of Torah—justice and mercy and faithfulness. It is necessary to do these things without neglecting the others. 24 O blind guides, straining out a gnat while swallowing a camel!  

Before we close this, I have to mention the phrase, “Indeed all things are clean.”  Beware not to take this out of context.  Almost exactly the same phrase also appears in 1 Timothy 4:4 For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.  Well, there you go… just pray over hammy.  Pray and it will be turned into lammy, and away you go.

Not so fast… again, let’s check the context by reading the next verse.  1Timothy 4:5 for it is sanctified through the word of God and prayer.  What is “sanctified through the word of God” is identified in Leviticus 11 as suitable for food.  The Bible never proposes that anything that we can hold in our hand and fit in our mouths is suitable to be called food.

The Bible clearly specifies what food is.  The problem is when people want to add to what God says.  Deuteronomy 13:1 (12:32)  “Whatever I command you, you must take care to do—you are not to add to it or take away from it.”  In other words, obey God’s commandments to give Him glory and build ourselves and each other up in Him.  Shalom shalom.

Daily Bread, reading plan by Lars Enarson (https://www.thewatchman.org/)
Thu 30-Nov-2023 17th of Kislev, 5784
Ge 34:1-35:11 1 Sa 8 Ps 48 Mk 6:1-29 (1 Co 7:25-40)