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.

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Scroll of Secrets (Megilat Setarim): A Hebrew Catholic Opinion


One of the deepest secrets of Brelsov Chasidism is the Messianic secret. Rebbe Nachman hid this in his writings in cryptic form and he also taught his two closest disciples Rabbi Nathan of Nemirov and Rabbi Naftali more on this topic which they concealed in writings in code form which became known as "The Scroll of Secrets". Some of this Scroll was passed down in manuscripts in the Brelsov communities and this portion of the secret began to be revealed in 2006 (after the two hundred year period was drawing to its close). Zvi Mark has told the story of this in his book "The Scroll of the Secret:The hidden messianic vision of R. Nachman of Breslav".

While Zvi Mark reveals some of the surface story of the Scroll, the hidden meaning beyond the words is still veiled and kept secret. In fact certain parts of the portion of the Scroll revealed to him by the Brelsovers are still untranslatable and coded. It is important to note that this is only a portion of the secret which was allowed to circulate among the inner circles of the Breslov Chasidim. The full Scroll and its secrets are still hidden except for the one in each generation who was entrusted with this secret.

It is obvious from the traditions about the Scroll that much is still hidden. For example we know that Rebbe Nachman revealed to them the mystery of Russia and the Czars and their connection to this first end of days (or times) but this is not mentioned in this portion. The Zohar mentions two 'end of times (or days)'. We also know that the mystery of the golden tree and its miraculous healing leaves is also not in this section of the Scroll that has been released. Also we know that the full secret alludes to the azure blue thread of the tzitzits but this is also not found in this released portion of the secret.

Rebbe Nachman hides within his writings the mystery of the 'Messiah who is like unto Moses' who has two phases to his mission firstly as the Messiah son of Joseph and then finally as the Messiah son of David. This is the spiritual and Mystical Messiah who is represented by the breath of the nostrils and the nose. This Messiah is the child-Messiah that will be revealed in a glorious manifestation in the heavenlies as the Child-Messiah who is crucified and resurrected. He will appear as the pierced one of prophecy as a child. Zvi Mark writes: "The messiah, often thought of as 'above all men', is depicted in the Scroll as beginning his career as a mere child...But further reservations could have sprung from the knowledge that this child-messiah was modeled after R. Nachman's own son, Shlomo Efraim...This also presents a particular problem of seemingly Christian overtones to the entire messianic picture. The Christian infant-messiah motif was well-known throughout the Ukraine even to the Jewish population as it figured prominently in public iconography (as it still does to this day). R. Nachman was correct in worrying that the Scroll's depiction of the child messiah would leave him open to charges of christological influence. When this is combined with the fact that his own son had already died, this charge of influence is conflated with seeming support of a theology of resurrection, leaving him even more vulnerable to claims of false prophecy and Sabbatianism." This child-messiah is the one mentioned in the Zohar as a son of Joseph who raises the cup of salvation.

On the earthly realm at his time will appear four Messiahs who in unique ways represent the mission of the Mystical child-Messiah. The Messiah Ephraim is the world Emperor and his brother is the King who assists him Messiah Manesseh. Both these royal Messiah's are from the House of David from the Lands of Joseph (of Arimathea) (British Isles). Messiah Ephraim is represented by the Lion and Messiah Manasseh by the Eagle. They are to be descendants of Rebbe Nachman, the Alter Rebbe, Czar Paul I of Russia, King Louis XVII of France and the Stuart Kings of Britain. The Messiah Gilead will be a priestly or papal Messiah also known as Messiah Aaron or Levi. He will be a descendant of Jacob Frank (a Frankist Pope). The fourth messianic figure is Messiah Judah who is a prophet messiah also known as Messiah Nathan. He will be a Jew descended from Nathan of Nemirov and Rebbe Nachman. It is this Messiah that will reveal the full "Scroll of the Secret" to the world and work closely with the other three earthly messiahs. He will be the Rebbe of Rebbes and unite all the Chasidim. He is the Master of Prayer.

Also see The Great Monarch and Rebbe Nachman

Friday, May 21, 2010

Reincarnation and Reb Abraham Chazan: A Hebrew Catholic Understanding


Today among many Breslovers and other Haredi Jews we read in their writings about reincarnation (gilgulim). This is worrying as it suits a generation influenced by the reincarnation teachings of Eastern religions and of new Age and occult groups. I have discussed in previous blogs this issue of gilgulim and reincarnation and how it is a literalistic approach to the term gilgulim or galgalim.

One of the greats of Breslover Chasidim Reb Abraham Chazan(1849-1917)warns about this as well. Reb Abraham Chazan was the son of the leader of Brelsov Chasidim Reb Nachman Chazan of Tulchin (1813-1884) who in turn was the most intimate disciple of Reb Noson (Nathan) of Nemirov (1780-1844) who in turn was the chief follower of Rebbe Nachman of Breslov (1772-1810). The writings of Reb Abraham Chazan are some of the greats of Breslover Chasidim. His 'Biur HaLikutim' is a Breslov commentary on Rebbe Nachman's teachings. When his father died in 1884 he began recording all the Breslov stories and traditions he had received from his father. These formed the base of his books 'Kokhavei Or' and 'Sichot VeSipurim' and other writings.

Reb Abraham Chazan in his warning about the concept of reincarnation points us back to the actual teachings of Rebbe Nachman recorded in Sichot Haran by Reb Nosan (Nathan of Nemirov). When the Jewish mystics speak about gilgulim and the soul or spirit of Moses or Joseph etc being part of the soul of another later sage they are not referring to Moses or Joseph's actual soul being born into a new body. This is clear as many people living at the same time may share in the spirit of Moses. In Catholic language we would say the charism of Moses. Reb Abraham Chazan speaks of Rebbe Nachman sharing in the soul or spirit or likeness of the Messiah ben Joseph and the Messiah ben David. Kabbalah speaks of Ishmael being a gilgul of Joseph the Tzadik. This demonstrates that this is not literal reincarnation as Ishmael was born before Joseph and was in fact his great uncle.
Zvi Mark of Bar Ilan University

Zvi Mark of Bar Ilan Univeristy a leading scholar today in the writings of Rebbe Nachman and Breslov writes on this topic in his book "The Scroll of Secrets: The hidden messianic vision of R. Nachman of Breslav". He writes: "...R. Chazan himself warned against understanding the entire notion of reincarnation literally. In an answer to a question concerning a seeming contradiction between his discussion of Moses as the final messiah with a tradition that he would not return to redeem Israel, he referred his readers to one of R. Nachman's sermons which deals with the subject of reincarnation." This sermon is found in Sichot Haran 70-1. Rebbe Nachman teaches: "God does not do the same thing twice. Even with gilgul this is not an instance of the soul returning a second time. Rather, this is a case of this soul with this spirit and the likeness, as is known. Now when this soul combines with another spirit and the likeness, this is not what once was- for God does not do the same thing twice." Zvi Mark after quoting this passage from the Rebbe continues: "...R. Nathan added a note here- "This is something else, a completely new thing". It is clear, then, when one speaks of the soul of the Tzadik as the soul of the 'Moses-messiah', one is not referring to the actual return of the soul to a body that it once inhabited, nor to the return of the same spiritual object to a different body at a different time, but rather to the complicated co-mixture of spiritual entities which creates a 'completely new thing'. It is this new creation- which shares something of Moses' soul- that will eventually enact the final redemption..."

Thus it is clear that the early sages of Breslov Chasidism did not hold to the modern perverted idea of reincarnation. The term gilgulim is a mystical concept to do with sharing in the charism or 'spirit' of Tzadikim just as Elisha was granted a double portion of the 'spirit of Elijah'. As Elisha and Elijah lived at the same time this had nothing to do with reincarnation. I formerly in my youth for six years was a strong adherent to the belief in reincarnation until I received an experience of the Holy Spirit which resulted in me 'knowing' instantly that such a belief was false.

see Bahir and Reincarnation
also see Reincarnation and Judaism

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Three Heads of Divine Will and the Lost Princess: A Hebrew Catholic Perpective


Rabbi Perets Aurebach in his article "In the Wilderness" writes: "In Rabbi Nachman’s story, “The Lost Princess,” the Viceroy follows a side-path through forests, fields, and wildernesses in search of the Lost Princess. Tefilah (prayer) is a quest of searching for the Shechinah (Divine Presence), which represents the sefirah of Malchut (“Kingship”). It catapults the soul to Keter (“Crown”), the ultimate source of Malchut.“Triple-header.” Keter expresses through three heads: RaD”LA (“Unknowable Head”), Atik (“Primordial One”), and Arich Anpin (“Vast Countenance”). Arich, from which arises our deepest feeling of yearning, is called the “root of the emanated.” One connects to it through yearning – through “tree-hitbodedut” in the forest. Atik, which is the root of delight (oneg), is the “end of the Supernal Emanator.” One links to it through meditation in the delightful “field of holy apples” (another symbol for the sefirah of Malchut/Kingship). RaD”LA, which is related to bitul, remains aloof. One accesses it through hitbodedut in the wilderness–the place of complete ego-nullification."

In Chasidism one attains to Emuna by a spiritual ascent or rather a descent to the roots of the Divine Tree. There are the ten Sefirot and the three heads of the Divine Will beyond and within Keter (the Crown). These are associated in Chasidism with the 13 aspects of Divine Mercy. Rabbi Isaac Ginsburg associates the Unknowable Head with Emuna: "Emunah is the spiritual state associated with the inner experience of the highest of the three "heads" of keter, the Reisha d'lo Ityada ("the unknowable head"). Emunah is the essential connection, or "covenant," between Israel and God. In Chassidut we find the saying that the "simple faith" (emunah peshutah) of the "simple Jew" (yehudi pashut) links him to the "simple (absolute) unity" (achdut peshutah) of God's Atzmut (Essence, above the revelation of His infinite light, or en sof ). Every Jewish soul inherits its faith from the patriarchs and matriarchs of the Jewish people in general, and from Abraham, the "first believer," in particular. As an inherited trait, emunah is always present in every Jewish soul, though not necessarily conscious."

He also links Emuna to the mystery of the heavenly Manna: "It is the function of the soul of Moses (present in every generation) to sustain and reinforce the consciousness of the faith of Israel, and hence Jewish identity, through the food of Torah wisdom. In the merit of Moses, manna was given to Israel. Its first appearance in Torah reads "man hu," which permutes into the word "emunah." The Jew's innate readiness to fully devote his life to the service of God and sacrifice his life for the sake of God is the essential expression of his emunah in God."

Thus we see that the deepest penetration of the mystery of the Divine Will is the deepest penetration of the Eucharistic Mystery (the Divine Manna). At the level of Emuna one enters into the abyss of nullification of the self in order to attain to the Mystical Resurrection of the Dead (spoken of by Paul in Philippians 3). This is the stage of Wilderness or Vacated Space. Here is the Great Silence that Rebbe Nachman speaks about in Likutey Moharan. Rabbi Ozer Bergman writes: "There exists a stage in life where your free will is tested like never before. This is the Great Void, a "place" or stage in which you have to believe that God is there even when everything indicates that He is not. In a concentration camp, a war zone, or the deepest recesses of your own heart, no amount of knowledge or intellect can save you-only faith...In order to survive the Great Void, you have to acknowledge the testimony of your senses and experience- emptiness, complete, total and absolute-and override that testimony with faith- God's presence...It is impossible to survive the Great Void with hitbodedut. The onslaught of questions, the persistence of pain and the sense of total meaninglessness cannot be withstood without continuous knocking on the doors of a markedly abandoned, empty castle..." This is a dark night of the soul where we are reaching but not reaching, knowing and not knowing, as taught by St John of the Cross. There are many different kinds of dark nights on the mystical journey and this is the final one. It appears as a Great Void of Silence but is in reality the Ocean of the Divine Will and Light. In this Void there is the Divine Hidden Melody which we can only hear when we have total Emuna (faith) that all is for the best.

Leading up to this we attain to the level of yearning or desiring Divine Will associated with Reisha d'Arich and gulgalta (the place of the skull). This is the level of Mystical Crucifixion and ratzon (will). Rabbi Ginsburg writes: "Ratzon is the spiritual state associated with the lowest of the three heads of keter, the Reisha d'Arich ("the extended head"). With regard to the power of will, it is said "nothing stands before (the force of one's) will," and "there is nothing as forceful as will." In the partzuf of Arich Anpin...the "origin of will" is associated with its "crown" or its "skull" referred to as the gulgalta. At this level, "there is no reason (rationale) for will." However, in the intrinsic wisdom of Arich Anpin, referred to as mocha stima'ah ("concealed brain"), there exists "a hidden (unexpressible) reason for will."..." Next we enter the stage of Reisha d'Ayin (the Head of Nothingness) or Atik and Taanug (pleasure). In our nothingness we delight in the Divine Will doing our rounds. This is the level of Mystical Incarnation or Divine Indwelling. This is knowing and not knowing. This leads us to Emuna- to the Lost Princess- she who is the Grace lost at Eden by Adam and Eve.

One of St John of the Cross' Mystical Poems

I came into the unknown
and stayed there unknowing
rising beyond all science.

I did not know the door
but when I found the way,
unknowing where I was,
I learned enormous things,
but what I felt I cannot say,
for I remained unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

It was the perfect realm
of holiness and peace.
In deepest solitude
I found the narrow way:
a secret giving such release
that I was stunned and stammering,
rising beyond all science.

I was so far inside,
so dazed and far away
my senses were released
from feelings of my own.
My mind had found a surer way:
a knowledge of unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

And he who does arrive
collapses as in sleep,
for all he knew before
now seems a lowly thing,
and so his knowledge grows so deep
that he remains unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

The higher he ascends
the darker is the wood;
it is the shadowy cloud
that clarified the night,
and so the one who understood
remains always unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

This knowledge by unknowing
is such a soaring force
that scholars argue long
but never leave the ground.
Their knowledge always fails the source:
to understand unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

This knowledge is supreme
crossing a blazing height;
though formal reason tries
it crumbles in the dark,
but one who would control the night
by knowledge of unknowing
will rise beyond all science.

And if you wish to hear:
the highest science leads
to an ecstatic feeling
of the most holy Being;
and from his mercy comes his deed:
to let us stay unknowing,
rising beyond all science.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Lost Princess: A Hebrrew Catholic Reflection


According to Breslov Chasidim just before the Messiah comes the Jews will find the Lost Princess. This Lost Princess refers to one of the famous 13 tales told by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov. Most commentators such as Rabbi Nathan the chief disciple of Rebbe Nachman associate the Lost Princess with the Shekhinah in Exile. Rabbi Shalom Arush also refers to her as the Sabbath Queen and as Emuna (Faith). She is also associated with the coming Kingdom (malkhut). This Lost Princess represents the highest level of total Emuna. Thus this Princess represents the highest level of Sanctity rooted in total Emuna of dwelling in Divine Will.

Thus the Lost Princess can be read in different ways that are interconnected. The Lost Princess can represent the sanctity lost by Adam and Eve. This lost sanctity is that of living in the Divine Will on earth by faith (emuna). The Lost Princess also represents that lost or fallen daughter of Adam and Eve who has by grace regained the gift of Living in Divine Will. Israel is the one (Viceroy) who seeks and desires reunion with this Lost Princess that he searches for throughout the ages. The way to receive this ancient but new sanctity is to desire it.

Rebbe Nachman says that desire is of central important in attaining Emuna. If we feed our desire to receive the gift of Dwelling in the Divine Will we are doing what we should be doing. All our actions become a form of reparation (tikkun). If we are desiring the divine Will then we need not be concerned while we are in the process of going up and down, in and out of Divine Will. Even if we fall we need only refocus our desire and God will do the rest. Rabbi Shalom Arush states: "Even if we fall or fail over and over again- and its clear that we won't change overnight- we should never abandon our desires. As long as the flame of desire to get closer to Hashem flickers in our hearts, Hashem continues to regard us as righteous. Hashem judges us not so much according to where we are, but according to where we want to go. The desire in our hearts overrules our actions."

Thus we see that just before the manifestation of the Messiah the Jewish people will find the Lost Princess which will usher in the Kingdom known as the World to Come in time and the era of the Messianic Sabbath Rest. Rabbi Shalom Arush in his book "The Garden of Yearning: The Lost Princess" states: "This explanation can also serve as an explanation for the entire Torah, namely, that transgression results from a lack of emuna. Every sin led to a free-fall into the darkness of concealment that necessitates even more effort in finding the lost emuna. This is a template for people's setbacks and failures since the beginning of time. Therefore, if you feel that you're in a state of darkness, and emuna seems to be light years away, don't lose heart! Just like the viceroy, as soon we renew the search for emuna- and never give up- this in itself rectifes the blemish of our misdeeds that caused the disappearance of emuna. Hashem wants us to strive for emuna, and we should want what Hashem wants. When we do, each of us will succeed in finding his or her own individual princess while correcting all the blemishes of our past, and everything will fall into place. With emuna, there's always a happy ending."

This week in Fatima we see myriads of people seeking Faith (Emuna) through the intercession of the Lady of Fatima-longing for the coming of the Kingdom and the era of peace promised by the Lady in 1917 in Portugal. The immaculate Mother (Binah) points us to her Daughter the Lost Princess who will led us into the Kingdom of the third Fiat (yehi). At a time of great materialism the viceroy Israel will find the abode of the Lost Princess and set her free. Rebbe Nachman's tale of the Master of Prayer describes this period in greater symbolic detail. By means of the Lost Princess the light of the 36 hours will lead man into a new Garden where the Divine Will shall be done on earth as it is in Heaven.

See this song about the Lost Princess

St Thomas Aquinas and New Law: A Hebrew Catholic Opinion


According to St Thomas Aquinas it would also seem that the use of the terms Old Law and New Law are referring to St Paul's references to those who live at the level of the letter of the law and those who live at the level of the spirit of the law and is not really directly referring to the Old and New Covenants as such. In the Summa he writes: "Nevertheless there were some in the state of the Old Testament who, having charity and the grace of the Holy Ghost, looked chiefly to spiritual and eternal promises: and in this respect they belonged to the New Law. In like manner in the New Testament there are some carnal men who have not yet attained to the perfection of the New Law; and these it was necessary, even under the New Testament, to lead to virtuous action by the fear of punishment and by temporal promises."

The level of Old Law which is based on fear, reward and punishment can be appropriate for preparation and children but those who move on to the deeper way of love are those of the level of New Law revealed by Jesus in the Beatitudes and in his Life and Passion. Thus those such as Abraham and Moses who lived at the level of love in their obedience to God's Will can be said, in a mystical sense, to have lived the New Law. Just as many Catholics who respond to God out of fear of punishment live in the Old Law, so many Jews live at the level of doing the Will of God out of love. They are thus mystically living in the New Law in the Messiah.

This insight of St Thomas Aquinas helps one to understand St Paul's comment about the Law. Paul was a great mystic and one makes a mistake when his mystical understanding of the Law is not taken into account. The Rabbis of Judaism, such as Rebbe Nachman, also stress this double way of observing the Torah. They refer to those who are only looking for the rewards they will get in the World to Come as the lower level and those who observe out of pure love of God, not looking for any reward in the World to Come for their obedience, as the higher level. Rebbe Nachman taught: "And this is specially when a person performs the mitzvot with such joy, that he has no desire for any reward in the World to Come...Moses spoke ...saying 'Zeh hadavar'[This is the Word]...Rashi explains: all the prophets prophesied with 'Koh' (thus)says God. Moses achieved more than they in that he prophesied with 'Zeh hadavar. For 'koh' corresponds to a dull looking-glass, whereas 'zeh hadavar' corresponds to a clear looking glass. These two aspects of prophecy are also found in our service of the Creator. There is the person who does the mitzvah for the reward of the World to Come- he has no enjoyment from the mitzvah itself. If he were not given the World to Come as a reward, he would not do it. This corresponds to 'koh', a dull looking-glass... But the prophet who prohesies with 'zeh hadavar' does not desire the reward of the mitzvot. Rather, he desires the mitzvah itself. He rejoices so much in its performance that he rejects any kind of reward. We see, then, that his world to Come is in the mitzvah itself."

St Thomas opposes those who see the levels of Old Law and the New Law as two totally separate entities. He writes: "Now things may be distinguished in two ways. First, as those things that are altogether specifically different, e.g., a horse and an ox. Secondly, as perfect and imperfect in the same species, e.g., a boy and a man: and in this way the Divine law is divided into Old and New. Hence the Apostle (Gal. 3:24,25) compares the state of man under the Old Law to that of a child "under a pedagogue"; but the state under the New Law, to that of a full grown man, who is "no longer under a pedagogue."..." Thomas associates Old Law with the literal observance of the Ten Commandments for a earthly reward whereas the New Law is the the law of the Gospel which is the inner heart response to the Divine Law (Torah). The level of Old Law is thus essential (not something that is abrogated)and the level of New Law in a sense encompasses the Old Law just as the adult encompasses the child.

For example the Torah forbids Adultery- at the level of Old Law this means that one cannot have intercourse with anothers wife and there are physical penalties for such an action and one must take care of his wife financially. At the level of New Law one is forbidden to even think of his neigbour's wife in a lustful manner and he must not only care for his wife but love her as the Messiah loves his bride the Church. One does this out of love for the Messiah. The level of Old Law is not abolished but the one who lives at the level of the New Law will already be obedient to the demands of the outward level of the Old Law. One can keep the level of the Old Law with his own effort and will power, whereas the level of the new Law can only be achieved and received as a grace of God.

It is interesting that St Thomas still, in some ways, is locked into the Old Law approach based on rewards. He sees that one who lives at the level of New Law as one who is not motivated by earthly or physical rewards but by the rewards of Heaven. Whereas Rebbe Nachman sees even the desire for heavenly rewards as a lower level than doing God's Will in Joy out of pure love for God. Thus we might say that there are different levels even in the New Law, with a higher and lower level of sanctity.

In Judaism this is seen by the difference in the level of sanctity of those referred to as Tzaddikim (righteous ones) and Kadoshim (holy or sanctified ones). All Kadoshim are Tzaddikim but all Tzaddikim have not reached the level of Kadoshim (see Ramchal). Thus those who live at the level of Old Law live in the effects of the Fiat of Creation. Those who attain to the lower level of the New Law live in the effects of the fiats of the Creation and Redemption. Those who attain to the higher level of the New Law live in the effects of the fiats of Creation, Redemption and Sacntification. Beyond this are those who are so conformed to the Divine Will that they do not just live in the effects but the reality of the three fiats of the Divine Will. At such a level was Jesus, Mary and Joseph and certain other saints. The Divine Will within the Godhead is the Eternal Law. This Eternal Law manifests as the Divine Law.

Sunday, May 09, 2010

Old Law and New Law: A Hebrew Catholic Perspective



Recently in response to my blog "Open Questions on Jewish Observances" this discussion was begun.

Mike wrote: "Jesus Christ ended 'an eye for an eye' for Christians with the New Covenant. How can a Catholic follow both the Old and New Laws and still call themselves a Catholic? The Church does not need to extricate itself from supersessionism when you consider Galatians 3:7, Galatians 3:16, Galatians 3:29 and Galatians 6:12-18."

I responded: I think you miss the point. There is only One Law of God but an old and new way of relating to it. Galatians was written to and for Gentiles- I suggest you read up on the new perspectives of Paul taking into account his Jewishness. You also seem to miss the point about an eye for a eye. Jesus is challenging those who take the law into their own hands and use this verse as a reason for personal vendetta. The original context was as a justice principal for the justice laws of the Israel state. Jesus is not attacking the Law recorded in the Old Testament- which is the Word of God- but is challenging those who misuse it for their own selfish ends.


BenYachov said:
>"How can a Catholic follow both the Old and New Laws and still call themselves a Catholic? I reply: This way QUOTE"it cannot be absolutely asserted that that man judaizes who does something in the Church which corresponds to the ceremonies of the old Law. "If a man should perform acts for a different end and purpose (even with the intention of worship and as religious ceremonies), not in the spirit of that Law nor on the basis of it, but either from personal decision, from human custom, or on the instruction of the Church, he would not sin, nor could he be said to judaize. So when a man does something in the Church which resembles the ceremonies of the old Law, he must not always be said to judaize"."

"4. But others remarked wisely that some, surely, of the ceremonial rites of the old Law could be observed under the new Law if only they were not done as obligations of the old Law, which was abrogated, but as a custom, or lawful tradition, or as a new precept issued by one enjoying the recognized and competent authority to make laws and to enforce them, as Vasquez observes (vol. 3, in the 3rd part of the Summa, disp. 210, quest. 80, art. 7)."END QUOTE

Ex Quo- Pope Benedict XIV March 1, 1756J"


I respond: In the Catholic Church we have the belief as expressed by Cardinal Newman of the development of doctrine. We also do not read statements or documents out of context but interpret them in accord with Scripture and the whole Tradition of the Church. For example we have the doctrine of 'there is no salvation outside the Church'. In the past many Catholics in a extremely literal manner interpreted that to mean that everyone who was not a formal Catholic within the visible structures of the Church were damned and go to hell. However over the centuries the Church deepened its understanding of what this meant. When Father Feeney in the 1950's taught this interpretation he was excommunicated and told his idea was heretical. The Church through theological reflection and development had come to a deeper understanding of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ that was not limited to the visible hierarchical Church on earth. Vatican II clearly clarified this interpretation.

As for this statement (quoted above) by Benedict XIV we need to know how to read this in the light of the development of doctrine as renewed in its biblical roots in the original deposit of Faith. Firstly we need to understand what a Judaiser is- there are two kinds of Judaisers. The Gentile kind of Judiser is one who believes and teaches that the particular Torah observances appropriate for Jews are obligatory for Gentiles and are a means of salvation. The Jewish kind of Judaiser is those Jews that also teach that the particular Torah observances appropriate for Jews are obligatory for Gentiles as a means of salvation. Benedict XIV is here not addressing Jewish Catholics but Gentile Catholics. It is thus interesting that he should say that Gentiles may keep those ceremonies of the Law appropriate for Jews for three reasons- 1. for a personal decision (ie as a personal spiritual devotion)2. from human custom and 3.instructed by the Church. If then a Gentile may observe a Jewish ceremonial such as Passover out of a personal devotion or because it is a custom of his community- then how much more the Jews in the Church. If one may observe them as a human custom then how much more the Jews for whom these are the customs of their own people and culture. Of course both Jew and Gentile in the Church observe with a New Covenant intention and not as a means to salvation. We Hebrew Catholics also await the day when we can observe our tradition in the Church with the specific permission and instruction of the Church at the highest level.

We also need to know what the Church means by the Old Law and the New Law- with this Cardinal Lustiger helps us stating that there is only One Law of God but the newess is the deeper penetration of the Law in the Messiah. Thus the Old Law ( a term commonly used in Church documents) refers to the intention of observing the Law before the coming of the Messiah as Promise and the new Law refers to the deeper messianic interpretation and intention of observing the Law as reality of the Promise. Thus the old intention based on Promise alone passes away and is subsumed into its mystical fulfilment and reality. How one does this in the practical differs depending on whether one is a Jew or Gentile, male of female, child or adult, Roman or Byzantine,priest or lay. However in the realm of salvation there are no distinctions- we are all one in the Messiah and all saved by Grace working through Faith and manifesting in good works. Even Judaism teaches of the coming of a New Torah with the revelation of the Messiah. By this they do not mean a new novelty but a new way of understanding and relating to Torah that is revealed by the Messiah.

Benedict XIV states: "...the ceremonial rites of the old Law could be observed under the new Law if only they were not done as obligations of the old Law, which was abrogated, but as a custom, or lawful tradition, or as a new precept issued by one enjoying the recognized and competent authority to make laws and to enforce them..." What does the word 'abrogate' refer to here. It is not the abrogation of the Law but the abrogation of the need for Gentiles who enter the Church to be obligated to observe the Law as Jews. This is the abrogation for Gentiles discussed in Acts 15. We can be assured that Pope Benedict XIV was not speaking of the abrogation of the Sinai Covenant but of the need for Gentiles to be obligated to the specifically Jewish observances by the words of Benedict XVI when he was the Cardinal in charge of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. He wrote: “With regard to the issue of the nature of the covenant, it is important to note that the Last Supper sees itself as making a covenant: it is the prolongation of the Sinai covenant, which is not abrogated, but renewed” (Many Religions, One Covenant, p. 62). Even for the Jewish Catholic one is not obligated to the old way but observes the customs and ceremonies in the light of the New Covenant with a Messianic, Eucharistic and Marian intention. We do this to more fully adhere to the Will of God and to grow in intimacy with God according to our Election and calling as physical Israelites in the Mystical Body of Christ. Many Hebrew Catholics are drawn to observe as Our Lady and the Apostles and all the first Jewish Catholics of Jerusalem did after Penecost with zealousness for the Torah (see Acts 21) which we wish to pass to our children and grandchildren.

There is some theological discussion about exactly what the term used in the Church of Old Law refers to. Some say it means the Law or Covenant of Moses others the Covenant with Abraham and others that includes all the covenants made with Israel. It would seem the term is usually not actually referring to the Torah as such but the terms Old Law and New Law may be the equivalent to the terms Old Covenant and New Covenant according to others. Once again some believe the term Old Covenant refers to the one made at Sinai and others that it refers to all the covenants made with Abraham and the Patriarchs. Pope John Paul II taught that the Old Covenant is irrevocable so the question of what exactly the term Old Covenant refers to becomes a question of debate. Eventhough most in the past assumed the Old Covenant referred to the one made at Sinai, now some try to see it as the Covenant with Abraham that is irrevocable. This is because many Catholics have assumed that the Covenant at Sinai was revoked or abolished but now a Pope was saying that it is irrevocable. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (121) also teaches this: "The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value, for the Old Covenant has never been revoked."

The USCCB Catechism stated: “Thus the covenant that God made with the Jewish people through Moses remains eternally valid for them.” Recently it was proposed to remove this sentence from the Catechism due to the Catholic faithful misunderstanding of what this statement meant. Some were using it to say that there are two equal and independent ways to salvation. The phrase is referring to sanctification not salvation and to the unique call of the Jews in salvation history. The Bishops' spokesman assured us that it was not being removed because it was wrong but because of the misunderstanding that it could cause which wasn't appropriate in a Catechism for common use. It would need greater explanation that wasn't able to be done in the Catechism. However the antisemites in the Church saw this as a victory for their opposition to this phrase.

Of course there are those in both the Catholic and Jewish communities that are opposed to Jewishly Torah observant Hebrew Catholics. Many on the Catholic side feel it might upset the Jewish and Catholic dialogue. However one of the most interesting and brilliant Orthodox Jewish philosophers and theologians of the last century Michael Wyschogrod puts forth a case for just such Jewish observance by Jews in the Church. He also wrote a letter to Cardinal Lustiger on this very point.

It is time that Gentile Catholics encouraged the Catholics of Jewish background and ancestry to embrace their Jewish heritage and spirituality. It is also time that the Jewish community accept those Jews who follow their Rebbe Yeshua who they believe is the Mashiach ben Joseph and God just as they accept the Lubavitch Chabad Chasidim who believe that their Rebbe Menachem is Mashiach ben Joseph and God. The Messiahship and divinity of Jesus should not be the problem in accepting Jewish believers in Jesus as part of Orthodox Judaism but Torah observance. When I was in a Yeshivah in Jerusalem I was taught that the four main signs of whether someone is an Orthodox Jew is belief in the One God, belief in the Written Torah as given by God to Moses on Sinai, belief in the oral Torah and belief in the observance of the mitzvot by Israel. As I believe in all four of these by this definition I am closer to orthodox Judaism than those in the Conservative or Reform synagogues.

However we need to be patient and form an observant Chasidic Jewish Catholic Community and maybe after a hundred years or so the rest of the Jewish community may accept that we are here to stay just as they did with the original Chasidim. Of course with the Holy Spirit on the job things could also be resolved at a more rapid pace. Of course we believe that in the fullness of time all Jews will one future day be part of our observant Chasidic Jewish Catholic community- however we leave the details up to God. Some old Catholic prophecies state that the Jews will one day all be Catholics without ceasing to be Jews- and I for one pray for that day but I will be happy to see just a small observant Chasidic Catholic community established. The Association of Hebrew Catholics has been an important part of this growing awareness of Jewish Identity in the Church as a signpost to the future dream.