... and you are to love Adonai your God with all your heart, all your being and all your resources. (Deu 6:5 CJB)
Our Torah to the World: An Exemplary Behavior.
Everybody likes to receive love, and some of us even apply ourselves to be loving persons. Playing on a famous saying, we may need to remember that love is a multi-faceted diamond. Some things that some people call "love" may make us feel like, "With this kind of love, who needs hatred!"
Here are some questions to ask ourselves.
Can love be defined by certain parameters of conduct? If the answer to this question is "no," is love therefore a free-for-all expression? But if the answer is "yes," how is love defined?
How do we love HaShem? Does HaShem need our "gooey-shmooey-marshmallow-sugar-and-whipped-cream" type of emotional expression? Does He need to be constantly reminded about it like an unsecured lover as if He had memory loss issues? Does He even need to see spiritual manifestations of our faith in Him in order to know it? As usual, I'd like to start this midrash by looking at what the sages have gleaned from Deuteronomy 6:5.
Some of the sages of Israel teach the words in Deut 6:5 to tell us that we must behave in a manner that will cause the Name of Heaven to be beloved. Here is what they say.
"One should study Torah, serve Torah scholars, be honest in his business dealings, and speak pleasantly to others. Then people will say about him, 'Fortunate is his father who taught him Torah. Fortunate is his teacher who taught him Torah. Woe to those who have not learned Torah. See how pleasant are the ways and how pleasant are the actions of one who has learned Torah.'
If however, someone studies Torah and serves Torah scholars, but is not honest in his business dealings and does not speak pleasantly to others, what do people say about him? "Woe to that person who learned Torah. Woe to hos father who taught him Torah. Woe to his teacher who taught him Torah. See how corrupt are the actions and how ugly are the ways of this person who learned Torah." (Yomah 86a)
As I read this passage, I was pleased with what it considered our 'witness' to the world;
- To be honest in business
- To speak pleasantly to others.
And what do we learn from this?
We all have our own ideas of how to express our love and obedience to HaShem; how to make it manifest to others. The problem is that most of us rely on outward external signs of obedience such as open public displays of tzitzits, head coverings, a certain type of clothing, diet restrictions, holiday schedules, and even an 'hebraicised' lingo. I noticed that the less one is secure in his messianic identity, the more outward signs he feels they has to manifest. Having been raised in Judaism, I know that while not denying, and even while being proud of who we are, we always keep a certain discreet profile. This attitude comes from our history which tells us that being Jewish is like having a target on our chest.
On the overall, outsiders do not really care about what we eat or don't eat; how, why and when we take a day of rest, and how we dress. All religions express themselves through particular diets, schedules, and clothing preferences. For secular folks, one is as good as the other.
So, we should ask ourselves, 'Are these today the things that are important as far as our witness to the word concerning the greatness of HaShem?' This talmudic passage gives us other ideas to consider. It tells us that in order to show an exemplary behavior one should "be honest in his business dealings, and speak pleasantly to others."
I'd like to bring another passage to light as the typical reactions people who do not know Torah should have
Therefore, observe them [the commandments]; and follow them; for thenall peoples will see you as having wisdom and understanding. When they hear of all these laws, they will say, 'This great nation is surely a wise and understanding people.' For what great nation is there that has God as close to them as Adonai our God is, whenever we call on him? What great nation is there that has laws and rulings as just as this entire Torah which I am setting before you today?
(Deu 4:6-8 CJB)
...If instead of this, our Torah lifestyle comes out as abrasive, argumentative, arrogant, harsh, inconsiderate and provokes division, awkwardness, hatred, and anger; or if rationalizes dishonesty, selfishness, cheating, or murder, maybe we should consider re-calibrating our Modus Operandi.
Some then may wonder about Jeremiah, and even about Yeshua who sometimes did otherwise. The difference is that Yeshua and the prophets had their mandates from HaShem and we have ours. Theirs is not our mandate. Our mandate concerning the fruits of our witness in the world has been given to us by Moshe in Deut 4:6-8 as well as by our Rabbi and Master Yeshua in,
"You are light for the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. Likewise, when people light a lamp, they don't cover it with a bowl but put it on a lampstand, so that it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way,
let your light shine before people, so that they may see the good things you do and praise your Father in heaven. (Mat 5:14-16 CJB)
He also told mandated us with,
Everyone will know that you are my talmidim by the fact that you have love for each other."
(Joh 13:35 CJB)
I started this midrash by trying to define the proper expression of love. Our love for each other is defined in the Torah. A synopsis of it can be found in Ex 20:1-14 commandments which are further elaborated upon in the rest of the Torah. I'd like to suggest that the proper expression of our love for HaShem is to live in a way that impresses other people to love Him. Paul had much to say about this. Here are some of his teachings about love to the Corinthians' congregation, and to us:
I may speak in the tongues of men, even angels; but if I lack love, I have become merely blaring brass or a cymbal clanging.
I may have the gift of prophecy, I may fathom all mysteries, know all things, have all faith -- enough to move mountains; but if I lack love, I am nothing.
I may give away everything that I own, I may even hand over my body to be burned; but if I lack love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient
rude or selfish,
not easily angered,
and it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not gloat over other people's sins
but takes its delight in the truth.
Love always bears up,
Love never ends;
for now, three things last -- trust, hope, love; and the greatest of these is love. (1Co 13:1-13 CJB)
To Timothy, a congregational leader he admonishes,
... and a slave of the Lord shouldn't fight. On the contrary, he should be kind to everyone, a good teacher, and not resentful when mistreated. Also he should be gentle as he corrects his opponents. For God may perhaps grant them the opportunity to turn from their sins, acquire full knowledge of the truth, come to their senses and escape the trap of the Adversary, after having been captured alive by him to do his will. (2Ti 2:24-26 CJB)
There are many other passages like these that you can probably find yourself. I'd like to conclude this midrash with the idea that if our Torah observance in the world does not produce the 'fruits of the spirit in our lives and in that of others, we need to 're-calibrate our perspective.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, humility, self control. Nothing in the Torah stands against such things. Moreover, those who belong to the Messiah Yeshua have put their old nature to death on the stake, along with its passions and desires. Since it is through the Spirit that we have Life, let it also be through the Spirit that we order our lives day by day. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:22-26 CJB)
For you used to be darkness; but now, united with the Lord, you are light. Live like children of light, for the fruit of the light is in every kind of goodness, rightness and truth --(Eph 5:8-9 CJB)