I love opinionated non-PC people. This blog is to vent my opinions on life, the universe and everything. Which is 42 which in gematria is "My Heart" (LBY) according to Rabbi Abulafia. The Divine Heart is the centre of everything.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Traditions of the Sages in Mark 7: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective

In a course I am studying I was asked this question. I thought some of you would be interested in my response.

Question: If the Sages which came before Yeshua could not be trusted in their teaching, why cannot the teaching of the Sages of the Talmud, which came after Yeshua, be trusted?

Answer: I do not like this question. I do not think Yeshua intended to discredit the traditions of the Sages of Israel. He did criticise a group of Pharisees and Scribes who were placing the teachings of the Elders above the Biblical commandments and interpreting them in a way that distorted both the Sages teachings and Scripture. Mark in chapter 7 verses 3-4 is not criticising the Jewish customs but explaining them to the Gentile audience he is writing to. Yeshua goes on in Mark 7 to give some examples of this misuse of Scripture and tradition. These Pharisees and Scribes appeal to the authentic ‘traditions of the Elders’ but Yeshua never criticises this tradition only the twisted reasoning of this group who have misused the ‘traditions of the Elders’ to create their own man-made tradition that actually undermines the Torah and its interpretation by the Sages. Yeshua very pointedly calls it “your tradition” to distinguish it from the “tradition of the Elders”.

Yeshua using the commandment of “Honour thy mother and father”, as an example, demonstrates this unspiritual approach. Yeshua is not criticising the idea of a korban or the setting aside of gifts for God’s service. What he is criticising is this group's perverted use of tradition to justify their evil desire to not help their parents and thus by their twisted use of tradition they undermined the written Torah and make the mosaic tradition of no value. When they criticised others for not performing n’tilat yadaim (washing of hands), Yeshua saw that it was from a hypocritical heart of judging others on secondary matters that at this time was not even a universal custom. Unfortunately this has been confused by the Greek of the text which has translated the Hebrew word ‘kol’ as ‘all’ when in Hebrew it can also mean ‘many’. The text should read in English ‘and many of the Judeans’ rather than “and all the Jews”. The Jews of the Galil had a different minhag (custom) but it is obvious that Yeshua himself observed the Judean and Pharisee minhag as they did not criticise him for eating without doing n’tilat yadaim, only some of his talmidim (disciples). The reason for this is that Yeshua’s family originally came from Judea and observed this greater stringency of washing before eating ordinary food (chullin/common) that many of the Pharisees practiced at that time. This stringency is not what Yeshua condemned when done in the right spirit of enhancing the spiritual sanctity in ordinary acts, but when this stringency was used as a judgement of how pure another Jew was, he was indignant.

We must also never take Scripture out of context. Matthew 23 states that the Pharisaic authorities sit in the chair of Moshe and that their teaching of the Mosaic tradition is correct and must be followed. Yeshua warns them however not to follow the distorted interpretation of this Tradition that leads certain groups of them to live out in their lives in a hypocritical manner. Everything is done for show not from kevanah (heart devotion).

As for the Sages of the Talmud they also teach with Mosaic authority and their opinions should be respected and the consensus of the Sages followed by all Jews. Of course Gentile believers are not bound to adhere to the particular Jewish Torah-observances or to the Mosaic authorities, they live out Torah at the universal level and follow Yeshua according to their own particular ethnic minhaggim (customs) under the teaching of the New Covenant authorities who sit in the chair of Peter.

Jewish believers in Yeshua while respecting the chair of Moshe and adhering to its teachings on Jewish relevant issues are also under the New Covenant chair of Peter and its teaching authority on faith and morals. Those of us in the New Covenant should also be aware of distorted interpretations of the New Covenant Scripture and Tradition by many priests, theologians and bishops of the New Covenant. We must be aware that Yeshua is criticising certain groups and trends within the Pharisee movement who had distorted Torah. The Talmud itself criticises five different groups of fanatical Pharisees. I believe when Yeshua speaks of the ‘yeast of the Pharisees’ he is referring to a small but powerful group within the broader body of the Pharisee movement. It is obvious Yeshua is not speaking of those Pharisees who are sincere like Nicodemus, Joseph of Arimathea and Gamaliel. Even today in Orthodox Judaism (the Modern Pharisees) we see certain groups that are a dangerous yeast that tends towards fanaticism and burdensome and unloving stringency, but this does not represent the bulk of Orthodox Jewry or the consensus of Rabbinic teaching.

Also the Sages of Israel compare the holy vessels of the Temple with the vessels of ones tongue and heart. It is forbidden to comment on the level of observance of another Jew in a negative way this is lashon hara (evil talk). This is why Yeshua is so upset with these Pharisees, that they should be committing the sin of lashon hara which is much worse than putting non-kosher food on holy vessels. To speak lashon hara pollutes the inner man and the temple and domestic purity of dishes is only a sign alluding to this spiritual purity/impurity of the inner heart and tongue.

Note: When I speak of stringencies I am not referring to stringencies one does out of Kevanah (heart devotion)which one does not burden other groups or individuals with their level of stringency.