והיה עקב תשׁמעון את המשׁפטים האלה ושׁמרתם ועשׂיתם אתם ושׁמר יהוה אלהיך לך את־הברית ואת־החסד אשׁר נשׁבע לאבתיך׃
"Because you are listening to these rulings, keeping and obeying them, Adonai your God will keep with you the covenant and mercy that he swore to your ancestors. (Deu 7:12 CJB)
There are three attributes that should distinguish Israel from the nations.
- A sense of shame
- Bestowing kindness.
“If you do not forgive others their offenses, your heavenly Father will not forgive yours.” (Mat 6:15)
A sense of shame: There is something wrong with us if we cannot blush and hang our heads low at the mention of our sins. Ezra mentions "blushing" for the sins of the nation. Jeremiah, on the other hand, is appalled that the people of Jerusalem do not even blush because of their sins (Ezra 9:6; Jer 6:15, 8:12). We stop blushing for our sins when we rationalise our wrong-doing. Modern psychology even teaches that shaming a child for wrong-doing, or even an adult for that matter, is a form of psychological abuse, like putting a guilt-trip on someone. But there is such a thing as wrong-doing and blushing/feeling ashamed of ourselves, which is the natural reaction of HaShem's spirit within us. As citizens of the Kingdom of God, if we naturally rationalise our actions and cannot be ashamed of ourselves for our sins/mistakes, the problem may be that we lack the Spirit of HaShem within us. Even the great King David felt shame for his actions. We can read his repentant prayers in the Psalms.
For I know my crimes, my sin confronts me all the time. (51:6) Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil from your perspective; so that you are right in accusing me and justified in passing sentence. (Psa 51:3-4)
Bestowing Kindness: The Hebrew word for kindness is. ”Chesed/ חסד.” Rabbi Boruch Epstein explains that HaShem deals with a person as that person deals with others (sotah 9b). Therefore, if the Torah mentions that HaShem will bestow kindness/mercy on Israel, it is implied that Israel must bestow mercy/kindness upon others.
Discipleship is the idea of imitating the lifestyle of a teacher. If therefore HaShem shows kindness to His people and never forgets His covenant with them, so should we if we call ourselves disciples. Paul, the faithful shaliach (emissary/apostle)who imitated his Master Yeshua also exhorted us to imitate HaShem by walking in love and kindness. He said,
So imitate God, as his dear children; and live a life of love, just as also the Messiah loved us, indeed, on our behalf gave himself up as an offering, as a slaughtered sacrifice to God with a pleasing fragrance. (Eph 5:1-2 CJB)
... try to imitate me, even as I myself try to imitate the Messiah. (1Co 11:1 CJB)
HOW DO WE SHOW KINDNESS
Here are some ideas.
- Thinking of others' needs - maybe even ahead of time.
- Being considerate of people's time, resources,
- And as the apostle says, “Regarding others better than ourselves.”
There is a woman whom Luke, the disciple of Paul, mentions in his accounts of the Acts of the Emissaries. The whole world today can read about her kindness throughout all generations. Her name was Tavitha.
Now in Yafo there was a talmidah named Tavita (which means "gazelle"); she was always doing tzedakah and other good deeds. It happened that just at that time, she took sick and died. After washing her, they laid her in a room upstairs. Lud is near Yafo, and the talmidim had heard that Kefa was there, so they sent two men to him and urged him, "Please come to us without delay." Kefa got up and went with them. When he arrived, they led him into the upstairs room. All the widows stood by him, sobbing and showing all the dresses and coats Tavita had made them while she was still with them. But Kefa put them all outside, kneeled down and prayed. Then, turning to the body, he said, "Tavita! Get up!" She opened her eyes; and on seeing Kefa, she sat up. He offered her his hand and helped her to her feet; then, calling the believers and the widows, he presented her to them alive. (Act 9:35-41 CJB)
I know that at the risk of sounding redundant I have written a lot about this subject and I want to explain why. I have been studying the lifestyle of the early Israeli messianic Jews, the life of the first heroes of our confession, of the trail blazers of our movement, the brothers and sisters of the first-century CE. For many years, from the time of the miraculous Shavuot 50 days after the resurrection, though the disciples were persecuted by the Sadducee priesthood, they overall enjoyed the favor of the people, even in Israel. They were known for their unswerving dedication to the Torah, to prayer, and to Rabbi Yeshua. They were also known for their beautiful "easy yoke" Torah-observance style and their compassion, their charity, their love, their abnegation, and over all altruism. Using a personal experience, I'd like to share an example of how I feel it might have looked like. This is of course my humble opinion.
From 1995 to 2005 my wife and I have been involved in a work to help the many street kids of the Portland area. We used to bring them to our house, feed them, talk to them, counsel them, pray for them, and even teach them. Every year we also set up camp at the Rainbow Gathering, which is a yearly hippy/street kids gathering somewhere far away in a national forest. There we would do the same thing along with nightly singing by the campfire. My wife would organise and man a first aid station. There were many other camps of believers there. There was even a camp called “Jerusalem Camp.” I'd like to tell you about a couple of times (and there were many others) when I felt very honored.
One of those times was during the night, a young girl had arrived at the camp. She had struggled through mud, rain, and cold in her wheelchair in order to come to the camp. It was early July high on a mountain in Utah and it had just snowed. This poor hippy girl needed help and care. The organizers (as if there was any organization) decided that the best place she would be taken care of was ours. They felt that we would take care of her unselfishly without judgment, just showing her love, respect, and consideration. Here we had these young and less young people who were dabbling in all sorts of drugs and what I would call deviant spirituality, but when it came to love care and kindness, they knew that we were the ones to go to. It was an honor!
A couple of days later in the middle of a snowy cold and muddy night, a diabetic young man desperately needed to go down the mountain and go to the hospital. This required us to take him on a stretcher to the parking lot 3 miles away walking on a muddy-near-freezing mountain trail. Again, when the organizers needed someone, they came to get us. We had a whole camp of young people working with us. I personally consider it the greatest of all honors that these people came to us for these difficult assignments knowing for sure that we would come through.
I am not writing this in order to brag, but in order to give an example of what we, HaShem's people and congregation should be known for in this world. According to the teachings Yeshua's disciples left us, compassion and kindness are more important than letting people know what we eat or don't eat, how we dress, on what day we rest, how we worship. Also, civil disobedience is not part of what Yeshua asked us to do. Our testimony to the world consists of love and kindness of the type Paul wrote about,
Love is patient and kind, not jealous, not boastful, not proud, 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, always trusts, always hopes, always endures. Love never ends.(1Co 13:4-8)
James also tells us that,
Where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work. But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. (Jas 3:16-17 KJV)
A PERTINENT MESSAGE FOR TODAY
That kind of love is really the most potent sign of our discipleship (John 13:35). Just as it was desperately needed in the days of Yeshua as the message that could have prevented the destruction of the Temple and the shutting down of the country by the Romans, it is what the world desperately needs today to counteract the current dynamics that absurdly pit us against each other in a spirit of political and religious zealotry, and threaten to tear us apart. In His own days, Yeshua Himself tried to tell the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the zealots that compassion, forgiveness, and altruism in the Torah were what would bring the Kingdom of God on earth, not the religious ritualistic sacrifices of the priests, nor the political activism and civil combativeness of the zealots.
LOVE, OR ANIMAL SACRIFICES?
One day, Yeshua’s loving and compassionate ways towards people were challenged by hypocritical Sadducees, so He answered,
"The ones who need a doctor aren't the healthy but the sick. As for you, go and learn what this means: 'I want compassion rather than animal-sacrifices.' For I didn't come to call the 'righteous,' but sinners!" (Mat 9:12-13 CJB)
In that instance,Yeshua in fact used the words of Hoseah the prophet as he reminded the people the people of his days that if their religious observance is not performed out of a spirit of love of HaShem and His people, rst does not cancel the second, but even the prophet Hoseah was reminding his audience that if the second is not done in the spirit of the first, it is invalid.
For what I desire is mercy, not sacrifices; knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. (Hos 6:6 CJB)
MAY WE GO AND LEARN THE SAME!
R' Gabriel Lumbroso