Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, February 16, 2020

Shavuah Tov *|FNAME|*,

Valentine’s Day 2020

By Dr. Raymond Finney

INTRODUCTION: My Sunday RR schedule does not perfectly coincide with the calendar. This past Friday (February 14) was Valentine’s Day. Since billions of words have been written about love, romance, marriage, and other matters of the heart, I can add nothing that has not already been said. In recognition of Valentine’s Day, however, I offer a few rambling, disconnected thoughts about a day of the year set aside for us to think about love.

WHAT IS VALENTINE’S DAY? The history of Valentine’s Day is a little murky and combines bits of Roman paganism and Christianity. February was long considered as the month of romance. The Roman Catholic Church recognizes three martyred saints by the name of Valentine or Valentinus. Valentine’s Day may have been an attempt of the Church to Christianize the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia. I will stop this history, now. If you want to read more, go to: https://www.history.com/topics/valentines-day/history-of-valentines-day-2 .

Whatever the true origin, we celebrate February 14 as Valentine’s Day.

THE LANGUAGE OF LOVE IN THE BIBLE: Valentine’s Day is about love.

In the English language, we overuse the word “love.” We may “love” a spouse, our children, chocolate pie, spaghetti, puppy dogs, a movie, blue jeans, and so forth. “Like” may be a better word than “love” for some of our preferences.

In the Tanakh (Old Testament), the Hebrew language is nearly as limited, using two words–  ahab as a verb (to love) and ahabah as a noun (love).

In the Brit Chadasha (New Testament), the Greek language better expresses love. The Greek language has four words for different types of love:

** Agapeo (agape): unconditional love, the highest and purest form of love. God has agape love for His children. Read of God’s agape love in the familiar John 3:16: “For God so loved the world….” Agape is the very essence of God, for God is love (see 1 John 4:7-12, 16). Agape is proven by the action it prompts. Yeshua had enough agape for mankind that He, being free of sin, took our sins upon Him, suffered, and died in our place to atone for the sins we commit.

** Phileo: love between friends. Phileo means to have a special interest in or affection for someone or something with whom there is close association. Phileo would be better translated for something other than “love,” but we have corrupted love by loving everything we really like.

The Greek text of John 21:15-17 makes this distinction more plainly than the English translation. Yeshua begins by asking Peter whether Peter loves (agape) Him. Peter, not always Yeshua’s sharpest disciple, answers that he loves (phileo) Him. Then, a second question-and-answer set is asked, with same results. A third time, Yeshua changes the question and asks Peter if he loves (phileo) Him. Peter answers that he does. On the first two occasions, Peter avoids for his own reasons to not express his agape love for Yeshua (as that might involve extreme sacrifice?). Peter could agree to phileo love and be Yeshua’s friend.

Many of us might agree to be Yeshua’s friend (to like Him on Facebook), but are we ready to sacrifice everything for Him? And yet, that is what following Yeshua may require (Matthew 16:24-25): Then Yeshua said to His disciples, “If anyone wants to follow after Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.” Would you carry your “cross” to a future “Golgotha” and follow Yeshua to death? If  the Tribulation occurs in your lifetime, when extreme martyrdom of Jews and Believers is prophesied, you may be required to make this decision.

** Eros: romantic love, sexual love. Although the Greeks used this word, named after the Greek god of love and sex (the counterpart of the Roman god Cupid), it is not used in the Bible’s text. Following the ideals of God, eros love would exist between a husband and wife. One can imagine the Bible translators’ blush, as they tried to make a PG (not an R) version, when they translated a man “knew his wife.” In ancient times, a man’s “knowing” a woman was a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse. God commanded such “knowledge,” though, when He decreed that Adam and Eve should be fruitful, multiply, and fill the earth (Genesis 1:28).

** Storge (pronounced, stor-GAY): love of family (parent-child, husband-wife, siblings, cousins, etc.). In Romans 12:10, Paul combines two words for “love,” philos (noun form of phileo) and storge, into one word– philostorgos (translated “kindly affectionate” or “tenderly devoted”) – to emphasize a special, endearing, cherishing love between Believers. This verse reads: Be tenderly devoted to one another in brotherly love; outdo one another in giving honor.

YESHUA, WHO LOVES US WITH PERFECT LOVE: In a recent RR, I pointed out that Yeshua’s ministry was based on love. He emphasized three commandments: (1) love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength; (2) love your neighbor, as you love yourself; and (3) love other Believers, as Yeshua loves all who follow Him. (See Mark 12:28-31 and John 13:34.) We can sin only if we fail to demonstrate the perfect love Yeshua would have for God and  humans created in God’s image.

THE FIRST MARRIAGE: I will skip around early chapters of Genesis to re-create the origin of man:

** God (Hebrew: Elohim– a plural word for the monotheistic Jewish audience– an early hint of the Trinity?) created everything in the Universe (Genesis 1:1).

** God created man from the dust of the earth. He named this creature Adam. (Hebrew Adam = “Man;” more precisely, “Ruddy man”) (Genesis 2:7). Understand: Adam = man || ruddy man = ancient Middle Easterners recognized two races– “ruddy,” which we would call Caucasian, or “black,” which we would call Negro || man (Adam) was created from the soil of the earth (Hebrew soil = adamah).

** Read the previously cited verse (Genesis 2:7) to better understand the miracle of creation: Then Adonai Elohim formed the man out of the dust from the ground and He breathed into his nostrils a breath of life– so the man became a living being. When Adonai Elohim breathed into Adam, He transferred His eternal spirit into man and following generations. Anthropologists may be correct, and there may have been thousands of years of ape-like humanoids roaming the earth. But, man was created only when Elohim chose one of these humanoids and made him in “God’s image” by giving him a soul. Man shares many chromosomal traits with primates, but man has a soul and a primate does not have a soul.

We call the eternal spirit of God dwelling in man the “soul.” This is what Elohim meant, when He said (Genesis 1:26): … ““Let Us make man in Our image, after Our likeness!….” God does not look like anyone in the Shomair congregation, but we Believers share a similar trait with Him– we share His eternal life (His spirit, our souls).

** To provide a means of reproduction and a companion and helpmate, God created woman. Adam named this woman Chavvah. (Hebrew Chavvah = “life” or “living.”) The woman was called Chavvah because only females give birth. Childbirth– a woman’s ability grow an infant in her belly and deliver it a few months later– must have mystified early humans. They were not confused by the LGBTQ/ transgender/ etc. mess we have today. Boys were boys and girls were girls, then.

SIDELIGHT 1: Adam’s wife opens several doors of discussion:

** In the Hebrew Torah text, Adam’s wife, whom Adam named, was clearly Chavvah, but we call her Eve. Both Chavvah and Eve are translated as “life” or “living” in recognition of a woman’s indispensable role in reproduction.

** The commentators I have read unsatisfactorily gloss over the transition from Hebrew Chavvah to English Eve. I still am uncertain how Chavvah (Hebew text) becomes Eve (English translation).

** Even more confusing is a Jewish mythological woman, named Lilith. Dating to the Babylonian Talmud, it was claimed that Lilith was Adam’s first wife, with Eve being his second wife. The creation account can be confusing. Elohim created man and woman in His image, and told them to be fruitful, multiply, subdue the earth, and have dominion over the earth’s creatures (Genesis 1:26-28).

** But then, Elohim created man (Adam) from the dust of the earth (Genesis 2:7). Observing the loneliness of Adam, Elohim made him a helper, equal in importance (Genesis 2:18). Adam was put to sleep, and Elohim took one of Adam’s ribs and created a woman from the rib (Genesis 2:21-22). Adam named his wife Woman (Hebrew: Ishshah), reasoning (Genesis 2:23): Then the man said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh from my flesh. This one is called woman, for from man was taken this one.”  Adam would later name her Chavvah, in Hebrew, or Eve, in English translations (Genesis 3:20).

** It is understandable how someone might reason there were two man-woman creations in chapters 2 and 3 of Genesis. Imaginative Jewish rabbis created a first wife for Adam (Babylonian Talmud), whom they named Lilith. Lilith was a sexually wanton creature, who was expelled from Eden to become a demon. A woman named Lilith is not present in our Bible. Was she identified as a screech owl in Isaiah 34:14 (Hebrew, liyliyth; pronounced, lee-LEETH)? Disregard Lilith as an important person in the Bible, if she even existed at all. We can safely consider Chavvah (Eve) as Adam’s wife. END sidelight.

SIDELIGHT 2: Why is the creation of Eve from Adam’s rib included in the Bible? I have no special insight, but I suggest the following: A Covenant is a contract or pact between God and man. There are eight major Covenants– Edenic, Adamic, Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Palestinian, Davidic, and New. I consider there is a special relationship that preceded these eight generally recognized Covenants. This relationship (covenant? sacrament? institution?) is marriage. God brought Adam and Eve together (Genesis 2:22). God established the model of marriage that a man and a woman should live together, saying (Genesis 2:24): This is why a man leaves his father and his mother and clings to his wife; and they become one flesh. Yeshua repeated this model for marriage in Matthew 19:4-6. Yeshua continued His teaching on marriage by discussing the reasons and grounds for divorce in Matthew 19:7-9. Each Believer is commanded to remain faithful to his/ her spouse and to God. For example, one of the Ten Commandments reads (Exodus 20:14): [God spoke] “Do not commit adultery.”    

Marriage is the most intimate of human relationships. This model was chosen as the relationship between Yeshua and His followers (Believers). In several Scriptures, Yeshua is called “the Bridegroom,” and Yeshua’s followers are called His “Bride.” Shortly after we Believers enter our eternal life, we will wed our Bridegroom (Yeshua) in the Marriage of the Lamb, followed by the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10).

But, why take Adam’s rib? Ancient practices for God’s Covenants with man commonly involved dividing (cutting) an animal, necessarily resulting in blood  shedding. The New Covenant (and the Communion meal which symbolizes it) recalls Yeshua’s shedding of blood on Golgotha’s cross and the cleansing of our sins by that blood. In establishing the New Covenant, Yeshua was grievously injured and bled heavily during His Passion and crucifixion to atone for our sins.

Thus, by taking Adam’s rib, God caused Adam to bleed. Adam said of his contribution to Eve (Genesis 2:23): Then the man said, “This one, at last, is bone of my bones and flesh from my flesh. This one is called woman, for from man was taken this one.” British commentator Matthew Henry beautifully phrased this creation: “Eve was not taken out of Adam’s head to top him, neither out of his feet to be trampled on by him, but out of his side to be equal with him, under his arm to be protected by him, and near his heart to be loved by him.”

Using our modern understanding of health sciences, we might also wonder this: If God had given Adam His breath (creating a soul in Adam), did God perform a “DNA transfusion,” transferring the spark of eternal life embodied in Adam’s soul to Eve and all their descendants, including us? Are we all God’s spiritual children because He first created a soul in Adam through breathing in Adam’s nostrils? In a future RR, I may write about creation of life and why Moses and Charles Darwin may have said the same thing about creation of life, only in different ways. END sidelight.

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, LINDA: I take the liberty of a personal note. This past December, Linda and I celebrated our fifty-eighth wedding anniversary. We met on a blind date, when she was fifteen. She was a gorgeous, petite, smart,  sweet, kind girl. I fell in love with her at first sight. After decades of marriage, I love her more today than I did when we married.

To young people in love, who may dread growing old, I add this comment: Linda and I have both aged, of course. It would be bizarre, if she still looked like the fifteen year-old girl I saw on our first date. In my mind’s eye, though, she is still the beautiful, little, perky teenager who answered my knock on the door of her Trescott Drive home in Knoxville in the late 1950s. As I grow older, I find true love may cause us to see things the way we wish, rather than the way they may  appear to others. This seemingly strange ability (gift?) is compensation for aging. An old person’s good friend can be his/ her memories.

Before long, we were going steady (if that term is still used). Then, we were engaged; then, married. She had just turned eighteen at marriage. After meeting Linda, I have never wanted to date or be married to anyone else. She is my perfect mate. I could write much more about her, but this RR is not about us.

Linda, you deserve a better husband. But, thank you for marrying me and remaining in our faithful marriage for nearly six decades. I appreciate your hard work to make a home for our children and me. Thank you for all you have brought to the lives of our family. Happy Valentine’s Day!

IS TODAY A GOOD DAY? Valentine’s Day is always a good day to tell someone you love him/ her. My calendar shows each year has 364 additional days (365  additional days in this leap year) in which we can express love.

As you and I lie on our deathbeds, we may regret many things. I doubt we will regret time spent being kind to people; or, telling a spouse and family members we love them; or, telling God we love Him.

This year’s Valentine’s Day has passed, but today– or any other day– is a good day to express love. By expressing love, you act as Yeshua would act. You also surely please God, who abides in you because you love (1 John 4:16): So we have come to know and trust in the love that God has for us. God is love. Now whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. Shalom and Maranatha.