#14-15. Not to Take Away From, or Add to, Torah.
In every degree, we are all hedonists who want our desires met, even if we also desire God to look favorably upon our Torah behavior and thought. This means we have two minds and two hearts. On one hand, every person has hopes, dreams, urges, wants and appetites. On the other hand, every person seeks respect, even admiration and love, for being “good” and “not evil.” The disparity, the argument, the tantrum even, occurs when a large enough bloc of power is against that which you hope, dream, or desire.
Most of the time, we can agree that certain hopes, dreams and desires should be denied us. Examples? When we are angry and wish to harm or kill someone. When we are jealous or greedy and wish to steal things or people (kidnapping, rape, adultery). When we are impetuous and wish to have revenge. When we are ungrateful and wish to rebel against the hand that feeds us.
On other things, we do not agree with blocs of power against us. Then we rebel to have what feels good or “right” and we justify rebellion by many words or, sometimes, actions. Some rebellion is justified. Contracts broken by powerful entities must be reinstated, and at times wars are fought to restore such lawful order. Other rebellion is not so cut-and-dried, including those which assert to be in favor of human dignity, and this is where Torah is lost.
Many will say that Torah is secondary to human desire. This is the essence of today’s lesson. In fact, the commandment itself acknowledges such human desire, and acknowledges the rebellion to fulfill that desire, against Torah. That is, Torah understands and assumes you want to rebel against it.
Nevertheless, Torah cannot be changed to meet your desires, or even the desires of an entire culture or society. Most lawful systems give some avenue for self-amendment, to satisfy larger-scale rebellion against rules or laws. Contracts include clauses for amendment by mutual agreement. Constitutions of nations include methods for lawful amendment. Torah, on the other hand, does not include any avenue for amendment, and specifically bars it. This is unique in law, which makes it all the more remarkable, even amongst other religious laws. For Islam has its Hadith, Christianity has its Paulian deviation, and even Hinduism has “evolved” from its original basis, but Torah is not subject to amendment.
Nevertheless, there are Jews who do not view Torah as unbreakable, and even some who do not believe it was God, but rather men, who gave the commandments. These "Conservative" and "Reform" Jews, however, cannot change the actual commandments, and their desires do not create new laws. Still other Jews do not amend Torah but cast many interpretations, so that desires may be included in Torah society for the sake of personal flexibility. The commentaries of these “Sages” were included in Talmud and other great books of Jewish thought on the subject of Torah. The greater danger to Torah is actually from this latter group. For it is not that desires overwhelm Torah, but that interpretations from respected Sages seem to verify rebellion over obedience.
There are two schools of thought on Sages. The first school of thought is Sadducee, which is literal interpretation of Torah, with very little room for imagination. This may appear too strict, but Sadducees understand that human desire is too strong to permit a Torah society for very long. The second school of thought is Pharisee, which permits wide interpretation of Torah. The difference between the two is profound. For example, the New Testaments tells us that the Pharisees believed in resurrection, but the Sadducees did not (Acts 23:8). Is resurrection in Torah? Whether the “dry bones” of Ezekiel, or the resurrection of people (for example, 1 Kings 17:17-24), there is a case to be made in favor of the reality of resurrection. The point is, even those strictly in favor of Torah may disagree on fundamental beliefs.
Where this disagreement becomes dangerous, to both Torah and society, is when actual commandments are thrown to the wind. There is no provision for negating any commandments, or for neutralizing any specified punishment for breaking a specific commandment. “OK then, smart guy, then tell me why the Jews don’t still perform animal sacrifices at the Temple?” To which I answer, what Temple? It is destroyed and not rebuilt. “OK then, smart guy, rebuild it and stop making excuses.” To which I answer, since the reestablishment of Israel in 1947/1948, the tensions within Jerusalem, between Arab and Jew, have prevented any such rebuilding. “Good excuses, smart guy, but if God commanded it, shouldn’t you go to war for it?” To which I say, good point, but is that really what you think is right, or commanded? “Aha! So you admit you would return to barbaric animal sacrifice, given the chance!” To which I say, it is not up to me what happens at the Temple, it is up to Torah. It is merely your disgust towards that which is commanded which causes you to bristle at them. The great truth is, your contempt for any commandment does not justify your rebellion against it.
This applies to all things. Whether arguments for eating unclean foods, wearing tattoos, accepting homosexuality, or breaking any other number of Torah taboos, there is a struggle for what is perceived as “human dignity” in order to do that which is forbidden. Christians invoke Jesus as their catalyst and attorney, saying Christ came to get rid of many Torah impediments. Really? That’s your argument: you love Christ because he permits your sin? “No, smart guy, it’s no longer sin because he died for my sin.” So you’re saying Christ died so you could eat pork, wear tattoos, and accept male homosexuality? “I don’t judge, smart guy, and neither should you.” This sounds like you want me to be quiet for the sake of peace. “That’s right, smart guy, peace. Stop being such a retrograde Neanderthal. Evolve!” To which I say, if Jesus wanted me to adapt for the sake of peace, why did He say, “I didn’t come to bring peace”? Are you saying Jesus came in favor of sin against Torah, His Torah, so that your desires could be met? “Hey, smart guy, it’s a mystery why God loves me, so I don’t question that love.”
And therein lies a deeper truth. Those who claim “mystery” regarding sin and Grace only see it as mystery because they are too busy justifying their sin. There is no mystery. God desires obedience rather than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22, et al), and the justification of sin due to some mysterious automatic Grace is not the truth of God or Christ, but rather Satan (Romans 6:1-2). Those who forgive sins while permitting them are aiding and abetting sin, and therefore sinners themselves. This cannot be the description of Christ, nor anyone who follows the Law of God.
“Oh yeah, smart guy, well, if God didn’t want us to sin, why did He create us as sinners? Is it God playing a sick game?” To which I say, the alternative to freedom of will is to be an automaton, a robot, a zombie. Is that preferable? God created you with free will for one reason, so you could choose to love Him. Selfish? Maybe. He does say His name is Jealousy. But He is the master of the universe, not you. If you question why you were created to be free, maybe you should ask yourself why being free is such a problem for you. That is, why is it so hard for you to be obedient? “Oh yeah, smart guy, are you perfect in the Law?” No, but I’m not teaching against the Law in order to justify my mistakes and sins. I own it and I repent for it. Repentance is acknowledging I am flawed, and then putting in effort to change, to stop the sin.
Naturally, nothing I say will stop those single-minded to have their way, whether sexually, or in food, or in drink, or in warfare, or in corruption. They will make me the butt of jokes, just as similar hedonists made Jesus the butt of jokes, and eventually crucified Him. Remember, the authorities put Jesus on the cross, but the people permitted it. First, the good people said nothing. Second, the sinners showed up to cheer on His death. Then, back to the business of their carnality. But the resurrection of Christ showed that Torah cannot be killed. Torah, not a person, was resurrected from the grave.
Hedonists continue in their sin. Justified by corrupt governments who love their weakness, and weak religious ideas that love carnality, and criminals who profit from distribution of hedonism. Torah is seen as backwards and, honestly, not a lot of fun. This is the eternal struggle.
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