Shavuot – The arrival of the Torah

I must apologize for the length of time between my last post and now.  I started this blog for 3 reasons:

  1. To help me by means of a manual outlet to express my views about God while still searching and seeking a closer understanding of the various paths.
  2. To find a path that works for me, should one exist.
  3. To share the experience with all of you.

I grew up a Christian and the tenets of that faith were what I followed for most of my childhood.  As I grew up I had a serious problem with the entire concept of the Almighty diminishing himself in human form to sacrifice himself in order to wash away all sin.  The problem to me is the whole doctrine of irresponsibility of the Christian faith.  Now, rather than go on an anti-Christian rant I will continue the story. .. I rejected all revealed religion and detested the mere concept of organized religion in general.  Then I became a Freemason and began to read some really amazing books and learn things I’d never even imagined.  A lot of Freemasonry finds its origin in the Judeo-Christian Bible and the Kabbalah.  Since I was a Christian, and went to well over a decade of Bible Study classes, I assumed I knew the Bible already and so I took an interest in the Kabbalah.  As I started my Kabbalah journey I found many references to the Torah and it became clear that in order to really grasp the true Kabbalah (not the Madonna red string nonsense) you needed to first master the Torah.  I then found out the study of the Torah in Judaism is significantly different to the “Old Testament” presented in Christianity (for my Christian friends that may not know, the Torah is the first 5 books of the Bible – Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy). 

So I  began studying Torah and after a distracting intermission where I reread The Age of Reason (which while interesting and inflammatory, completely misses the fact that much of the Torah and the rest of the Bible is allegory) I have been studying the Torah every day now for the last few months and it is without a doubt the most enlightening and rewarding experience my mind has ever had.   I am hooked.  The Torah, Talmud, the Midrash, and the rest of the Holy Scriptures of Judaism have me pretty convinced that my path is already paved and all I needed was the right map.  I continue to study the Torah every night using various rabbinic commentaries and I can honestly say that I learn something new every day and that I have never been more motivated to be a better person than when I read It.

Today starts a very critical holiday in the Jewish year.  It is Shavuot.  It should be an important day for Christians and Muslims as well as it is the celebration of the giving of the Torah.  It is a unarguable fact that the world changed when the Torah was received and while 3 faiths have derived from it, the Torah itself remains unchanged and still very relevant.

As is the custom for this day, I will write the Decalogue or 10 Commandments that sum up the Torah in the most simple yet sublime way:

  1. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. You shall not murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

The first 3 commandments can be summed into “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” and the last 7 can summed up as “Love your neighbor as yourself”.  

Using this as a foundation, can you imagine the way the world would be?   If we didn’t revolve our lives around money, there would be no greed and no poverty.  Imagine a world without broken promises, where fathers and mothers set work aside to spend with their children.  Imagine a world where everyone respects life and you never have to fear for your own safety.  Imagine a society built on trust and honor.

The Torah states that these rules were etched into stone by the hand of God.  The tablets are now lost but, the words are not and they should be written in our minds and inscribed in our hearts. 

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light

Killing in the name of God – part 1

I have heard, to almost the point of nausea, that the Quran is an evil and horrible book and that the entire Islamic faith is about nothing but, murder. The irony of course is that the majority of the people who say this have absolutely no right or authority to do so as they have never read the Quran, and I doubt if they have even read their own Bible.

The Jewish and Christian religions have their foundations in the Torah. The Torah is said to have been written by a man named Moses. Now, although many Christians ignorantly claim that the Old Testament contains the “old law” and that it is no longer relevant, they have obviously forgotten what Jesus himself says in Matthew 5: 17-19, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

So unless Jesus’ words mean nothing, Christians are to abide the “old law”. So, does the Bible contain instructions on killing people?

In the book of Exodus the following commandment is given by God to Moses:
Thou shalt not kill.– Exodus 20:13

(This conveniently follows the 10 plagues and genocide (or Passover) committed in Egypt as well as a few incidents before)
In the exact same book, in fact in the very next chapter, the following orders to kill are done with God’s approval.

Exodus Chapter 21: God orders killing:

12 – He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death
14 – But if a man acts with premeditation against his neighbor, to kill him by treachery, you shall take him from My altar, that he may die.
15 – And he who strikes his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.
16 – He who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall surely be put to death.
17 – And he who curses his father or his mother shall surely be put to death.

Now this next one may not be a command for killing but, the message here is just detestable. It is my belief that an all-loving God would never, under any circumstance, condone slavery.

Exodus 21:20 – And if a man beats his male or female servant with a rod, so that he dies under his hand, he shall surely be punished. Notwithstanding, if he remains alive a day or two, he shall not be punished; for he is his property.

OK, Now back to the permission to kill in Exodus:

Chapter 22:

18 – You shall not permit a sorceress to live.
19 – Whoever lies with an animal shall surely be put to death.
20 – He who sacrifices to any god, except to the LORD only, he shall be utterly destroyed.
22-24 – You shall not afflict any widow or fatherless child. If you afflict them in any way, and they cry at all to Me, I will surely hear their cry; and My wrath will become hot, and I will kill you with the sword; your wives shall be widows, and your children fatherless.

There is a small break where (according to the author) God describes how to decorate the tabernacle, which of course has a primary function of slaughtering, I mean sacrificing, animals for God. Then the orders to kill return again:

Exodus 31:14, 15 – You shall keep the Sabbath, therefore, for it is holy to you. Everyone who profanes it shall surely be put to death; for whoever does any work on it, that person shall be cut off from among his people. Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh is the Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day, he shall surely be put to death.

Here is an order by Moses given after he returned from his meeting with God in the mountain. Why Moses was not immediately struck down for giving this genocidal order is beyond my comprehension:

Exodus 32:27 – And he said to them, “Thus says the LORD God of Israel: ‘Let every man put his sword on his side, and go in and out from entrance to entrance throughout the camp, and let every man kill his brother, every man his companion, and every man his neighbor.

Remember, no working on Saturday:

Exodus 34:2 – Work shall be done for six days, but the seventh day shall be a holy day for you, a Sabbath of rest to the LORD. Whoever does any work on it shall be put to death.

That wraps up the orders to kill in just the book of Exodus alone. There hundreds of instances in the Bible where God gives the command to kill, kills, or someone invokes the “will of God” to either kill or order killings.

So the hypocrisy is pretty clear to me. Jews and Christians condemn the Quran for being violent and they either haven’t read their own Bibles or feel for some hypocritical reason that there is some viable explanation for what is written in the Bible in regards to killing in the name of God.

More to come on this subject…

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light (All Bible quotations were taken from the NKJV)

Etched in stone; inscribed in the heart…

I’ve been struggling with what to write because the last few weeks I have been getting questions from a lot of you on my posts.  I am so glad most of you find my blog enlightening.  For those of you who are fearful of the fate of my soul, I am not worried.  I don’t believe in the existence of a hell or a devil.  I view hell as a scare tactic and the devil as a mere cop-out for being responsible for your own actions.

In my last blog post I discussed that I respected the character of Jesus and was going to write about his teachings.  However, before any discussion can be had on anything Jesus may have said it is important to know the most widely accepted beliefs of who Jesus was and the climate he is said to have lived in.  (I say beliefs because we have no way of proving any of this so we cannot say these are facts.)

  • Jesus was Jewish.
  • There were multiple denominations and sects of Judaism during the time he is said to have lived.
  • Some sects observed the Talmud and some observed other unwritten laws but, all of them observed the 10 Commandments.
  • For the most part all of Jesus’ teachings were based on the 10 Commandments.
  • There are 2 versions of the 10 Commandments, one in the book of Exodus (Exodus 20:2–17) and the other in the book of Deuteronomy (Deuteronomy 5:6–21).

According to Jewish Scripture the 10 Commandments found in the book of Exodus were actually carved into stone tablets by God and given to Moses on a mountain in the Sinai peninsula (some say Mt. Horeb others Mt. Sinai).  Whether it actually happened that way or not is not important, as the 10 commandments are a relevant and powerful code of ethics.

There are multiple ways of dividing them but, generally the 10 commandments are as follows:

  1. I am the Lord your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
  2. You shall not make for yourself an idol.
  3. Do not take the name of the Lord in vain.
  4. Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy.
  5. Honor your father and mother.
  6. You shall not kill/murder.
  7. You shall not commit adultery.
  8. You shall not steal.
  9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
  10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.

For the most part these are relatively self-explanatory but,  Jesus simplified the first 3 commandments into “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and strength” and the last 7 he summed up as “Love your neighbor as yourself”.   This universal law of love Jesus is said to have taught, should be enough for man to build a sense of morality.  The flaw in this approach is that it leads to an element of subjectivity that can vary by one’s interpretation of the meaning of love and how much they may or may not love themself.   Therefore I think it is necessary to clarify some of them without the corruption of centuries of translation, editing, modifications, and unnecessary dogma.

Here is my translation of the 10 Commandments:

  1. Respect the Creator and all Creation/Nature.
  2. Do not put your faith in objects (like money) or people.
  3. Do not break promises.
  4. Remember to balance your time and always set time aside to rest.
  5. Respect your parents.
  6. Do not murder.
  7. Do not commit adultery.
  8. Do not steal.
  9. Do not lie.
  10. Be grateful for what you have and not envious of what others have.

Using this as a foundation, can you imagine the way the world would be?   If we respected our creator and nature, we would not pollute or take things like the air we breathe for granted.  If we didn’t revolve our lives around money, there would be no greed and no poverty.  Imagine a world without broken promises, where fathers and mothers set work aside to spend with their children.  Imagine a world where everyone respects life and you never have to fear for your own safety.  Imagine a society built on trust and honor.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel
    after that time,” declares the Lord.
“I will put my law in their minds
    and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
    and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach their neighbor,
    or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
    from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
    and will remember their sins no more.  (Jeremiah 31:33-34)

Jesus is essentially reiterating a message from Jeremiah that was centuries old.  The overall theme of all of the teachings of Jesus was that these commandments are useless if they are only etched in stone. They should be written in our minds and inscribed in our hearts.  Our intentions are just as important as our actions.  To act without conscious is empty and shallow. To love with conditions is not love.  To give for the sake of giving and not a reward is true charity and true charity is the highest expression of love.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light