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A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, and Related Leadership Issues from the Preoccupied Mind of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.

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Friday, March 10, 2006

Amalek, Saul, Samuel and You

(This is a sermon for Parashat Zachor, presented March 11, 2006 at Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Beverly Hills, CA. It deals with how we may and should internalize the lessons to be found in the ancient story retold in our haftarah reading).

In today’s Haftarah (1 Samuel 15), we read of three leaders, one evil, one ineffectually weak, and one decisive. In today’s d’rash, I encourage all of us to consider the roles of evil, ineffectual weakness, and decisiveness in our own lives.

The identities the various parties in this story, and their meaning for contemporary life are the subject of extensive discussion in the Jewish world. In a fascinating posting on the web at http://headheeb.blogmosis.com/archives/020255.html, we read the following [heavily edited by myself].

Amalek, or so the story goes, was the grandson of Esau and the ancestor of the biblical Jews’ most implacable enemies. The tribe of Amalekites are mentioned in the Torah on several occasions, the most significant being their surprise attack on the Israelites soon after the departure from Egypt. It was this attack that resulted in the divine commandment to exterminate the Amalekite tribe:

17 Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way as ye came forth out of Egypt;
18 how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, all that were enfeebled in thy rear, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not G-d.
19 Therefore it shall be, when HaShem thy G-d hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which HaShem thy G-d giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget.

The duty to obliterate Amalek is regarded as a positive commandment, and Saul’s failure to comply with it cost him his kingship. Haman is likewise described as the heir of Agag king of Amalek, and the Book of Esther is the story of his attempt to exterminate the Jews of Persia - a story that ends with the Jews being given permission to defend themselves and decimating his tribe instead.

What is one to do today, though, with a positive commandment to commit genocide? The dilemma is made somewhat easier by the fact that there is no nation or ethnic group today that claims descent from Amalek, but to those Orthodox Jews for whom all 613 commandments have continuing relevance, it must retain some form of meaning. The modern-day significance given to it, however, varies widely from interpreter to interpreter.

There are three ways that the commandment to exterminate Amalek can be interpreted today. One is to regard it as a dormant duty, similar to the commandments relating to sacrifices in the Temple - one that cannot be performed today because there is no Amalekite tribe, but which will be incumbent upon Jews if Amalek returns to the world. In some variations on this theme, the identity of Amalek wil be made known upon the coming of the Messiah:

... we won’t know who the people of Amalek are until Elijah the Prophet comes and tells us. And then, we will wipe out all remembrance of Amalek from under Heaven.

Another possibility, which is sometimes advocated by Kahanist extremists, is to equate Amalek with the enemies of the Jews, and to accord the legal status of Amalek to any group that aligns itself against the Jewish nation. Under this interpretation, the term “Amalek” has been used to describe the Nazis and the latter- day enemies of the State of Israel, particularly the Palestinian Arabs. To those who follow this doctrine, a religious duty exists to make war upon the Palestinians until they cease to exist as a people or cease to threaten the Jews. Some go so far as to describe the Baruch Goldstein massacre [In Hebron some years ago] as a sort of perverse reenactment of the Purim story.

The third interpretation removes the concept of Amalek from the physical world entirely and recasts it as an idea. This could involve Amalek being equated with anti-Semitism, and the duty to exterminate it being reinterpreted as one to fight against anti-Jewish bigotry in all its forms. The battle against Amalek may also be viewed as a personal struggle against the evil within. To Rabbi Shraga Simmons, for instance, Amalek is the force of chaos and irreligion, and Jews may fight against it by embracing Torah:

In our own lives, we can gauge the extent of Amalek’s encroachment by measuring our own level of belief in God. To the extent that an individual doubts the existence of God, is the extent that Amalek’s philosophy of randomness has become a part of us. One of Amalek’s battle tactics is to create doubt about God’s presence, in an attempt to confuse and ultimately destroy the Jewish people. Appropriately, the numerical value of “Amalek” -- 240, is the same value as the Hebrew word safek, meaning “doubt.”

Reform rabbi Sylvia Rothschild prefers an Enlightenment-based interpretation, equating Amalek more generally with injustice and inhumanity:

Our tradition paints a picture of Amalek as one who will hurt for the sheer pleasure of hurting, who will destroy aimlessly, who derives no benefit from the destruction or mutilation of the other but will do so anyway. The word describes the one who is the antithesis of ‘godly’ in that they see no humanity in the other, recognise no common bond between people, care not one whit for the feelings or emotions of the stranger. The Amalakite is estranged from relationship, alienated from a sense of shared ancestry, views others as commodities or objects. It is a state of being we can all slide into on occasion - we too can be Amalek [...] as we celebrate the gory end of those who tried to murder us, as we relieve ourselves of some of the stress of a minority existence amongst people who resist our particular difference, lets spare a thought for the Amalek inside all of us, the characteristics of selfishness or conceit, of narrow mindedness or wilful ignorance of other’s pain. Our world contains violence and famine, slavery, hatred, huge discrepancy between rich and poor, warfare and oppression. If that isn’t the presence of Amalek, I don’t know what is.

Rabbi Jill Jacobs also equates the struggle against Amalek with the pursuit of justice, and applies it to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in precisely the opposite way the Kahanists do: as “our internal Jewish fight against justifying the oppression of another people, and as our attempt to guarantee that this people may live in dignity.”

I would add but one interpretation the excellent material quoted here, and that is this. We all have Amalek in our lives, and each of us, as well as each of our groups, congregations, organizations, affiliations, families, or whatever, are challenged by God as to whether we will be Saul or Samuel in dealing with them.

In such a construct, we might take Amalek to be a symbol of irremediable evil. God calls upon us to deal with such evil decisively and thoroughly, as was his commandment to the Jewish people and as was His word to Saul. Yeshua mirrors this mentality for us in the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 5, where we are told: “29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better for you to lose one of your members than for your whole body to go into hell.” This is very decisive language, reminiscent of God’s instructions about dealing with Amalek.

If Amalek is a symbol of irremediable evil, then Saul is a symbol of ineffectual weakness. At the very best, Saul’s approach to dealing with irremediable evil was a form of tokenism. But isn’t that true in our own lives as well? Are there not areas of evil, of sin, of compromise in our lives, which we know God has called us to deal with in a radical manner, which we instead deal with ineffectually, making only a token effort to deal with “our stuff”? And in our organizational or congregational lives, are there not times when we tolerate things that are intolerable, and put off dealing with them far too long? Yes, my friends, we are often Saul. And our ineffectual weakness will eventually lead to a loss of authority, power and opportunity.

In the context of the Purim story, it is Saul’s failure to deal decisively with Agag the King of the Amalekites, that accorded him the chance to procreate before being dispatched, becoming the ancestor of Haman, the Agagite, who almost wiped out all the Jews of Persia. Similarly, we can never know the long-range consequences of our ineffectual weakness and indecisivenes in dealing with the Agags and Amaleks in our lives.

Finally there is Samuel. Notice how decisive he is in dealing with matters here, first in confronting the waffling Saul, and then in dealing with Agag.

25 Saul said to Samuel, "I have sinned; for I have transgressed the commandment of the LORD and your words, because I feared the people and obeyed their voice. 25Now therefore, I pray, pardon my sin, and return with me, so that I may worship the LORD." 26 Samuel said to Saul, "I will not return with you; for you have rejected the word of the LORD, and the LORD has rejected you from being king over Israel."
32 Samuel said, “Bring forward to me King Agag of Amalek.” Agag approached him with faltering steps; and Agag said, “Ah, bitter death is at hand!”
33 Samuel said:
“As your sword has bereaved women,
So shall your mother be bereaved among women.”
And Samuel cut Agag down before the Lord at Gilgal.

There are and always will be Agags/Amaleks in our own lives, in our own contexts, irremediable evils God has called us to cut down. The only question is this: Will we be Saul or will we be Samuel?

Deuteronomy 25:19 tells us what we must do: “you shall blot out the memory of Amalek from under heaven. Do not forget!”

What Agags/Amaleks are you letting live which should be cut down in your life? And what might be the long range consequences of your indecisiveness?

At 3/12/2006 2:11 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow. These are tough words, don't you think?
Father Abraham appealed for mercy to be had on a wicked community, if a righteous minyan could be found.
Saul did not appeal at all, haven't rabbis pointed out that Saul's disobedience to a direct commandment from HaShem had selfish motivations?
In each case HaShem knew the hearts of the condemned.
How can we presume to have such knowledge? If we err on the side of "smoting," are we not subject to harsh judgment ourselves?
Would it not be better to err on the side of mercy and compassion, at least until we have incontrovertible evidence of evil intentions? And even then, aren't we risking our own error in taking matters into our own hands rather than bearing with the problem?
I have seen that you place emphasis on community, and perhaps some of these problems could be assuaged in a communal context. However you raise issues of family, and that is personal. This comes down to individual responsibility, and some of us need guidance. How do you go about handling such personal issues? Your help is appreciated.

At 3/12/2006 3:35 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Thank you for your response and for reading here.

The issues I had in mind were those of the evil we find in ourselves--the things we tolerate in our lives which ought not to be tolerated, hence the quotation from the Newer Testament. This was my main focus.

However, to go beyond that, as you do in your query, as indicated in my posting, in the case of Agag/Amalek we are dealing with irremediable evil. By definition, and as the concept has developed in Jewish discussion, Amalek is pure sadistic evil--like the demonic. One is always apt to seek some residue of the milk of humankindness in people, but "Amalek" refers to individuals., systems, forces without that milk.

How one knows one is dealing with Amalek is a major discussion in Jewish space, and the Jewish community largely errs on the side of being relieved to have NOT discovered a given situation or context to be Amalek, thus relieving the community of the responsibility to deal with others so harshly,

But I would return to your response. We must realize that there are evils that call for decisive action. There are those who err, yes, but there are also those who are evil. In the former case, caution and mercy are called for: in the latter case, hard realistic action. To fail to be decisive in dealing with the latter case is to become responsible for horrific consequences down the road, as is the lesson of leaving Agag alive that he might become the ancestor of Haman.

I fear that in our culture we have lost the category "evil." Evil deeds are explained away as the consequences of pathology or of having been pressured or somehow left without an alternative, so that someone, for example, posted a note on the Board of Declaration at Fuller Seminary about the hi-jackers of the planes used in 9-11, asking "What kind of frustration and distress must these people have been under to cause them to do such a thing?" I posted my response and poiinted out that the rise of Hitler could similarly be excused as an understandable reaction to the humiliations inherent in the Treaty of Versailles.

If we begin thinking this way, the category "evil" disappears. I think it is disappearing in our society--but not in God''s purview nor in reality. There are evils that must be dispatched. And it was not without reason that Karl Menninger wrote a book titled, "What Ever Became of Sin?" He was asking the same question about evil and responsibility as I am raising here.

A more contemporary example: it is my conviction that through the Amalek-ish gratuitious cruelties they perpetrated, Saddam and his sons forfeited the right to breathe the air of God's good Earth. Grinding people up in wood-chippers feet first as an instrument of state policy, raping rooms where Udai could have his way with any woman he desired, cutting out tongues and cutting off ears as a means of inspiring terror and enforcing order, dropping people on their heads off of three story buildings----these measures were a matter of day to day routine. These bastards reeked of Amalek.

I am reminded of an article that appeared in Time Magazine perhaps twenty years ago, reporting on the funeral of a little girl who had been kidnapped, raped and murdered. The priest officiating at the funeral said, "Some people will ask, 'What kind of sick person could do such a thing?' It is not a question of sickness: it is a question of evil.'"

Yes, we must be cautious before labeling something as Amalek and taking harsh measures. But we must also be careful not to blot out Amalek by pretending that the category does not exist.

I hope this helps.

At 3/12/2006 4:40 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

To comment further on the good questions by "Anonymous". . .

I want to emphasize that erring on the side of mercy is a very Jewish and proper thing to do. And by all means, incontrovertible evidence should be required. On the other hand, to refuse to deal with irremediable evil is not merciful toward society, and we must balance the issue of mercy toward the accused with that of mercy toward his/her/their victims and potential victims.

I am in principle in favor of the death penalty, which I would prefer to call "the death consequence." In all five books of Torah, this consequence is mentioned. I do not believe that society kills murderers. Rather society administers the consequence which the murderer brought upon him/herself. When the murder kills, he/she also kills him/herself. Society merely delivers the package the murder(s) addressed and for which he/she/they paid the postage.

In the family or congregational context, of course we are not speaking of capital crimes. However, there are times when even these contexts call for decisive and harsh dealings. When someone has proven to be a danger to the well-being of the family or the community, measures must be taken to protect the family members or the congregation from them. In a person to person context, and in the absence of credible evidence for a complete amendment of life, it is appropriate for family members and social system members to distance themselves from the guilty party by either through witdrawal or expulsion. Although this need not be permanent, it IS very serious, and can only be renegotiated after a detailed and appropriate process of investigation and restoration.

In the case of personal issues, when one is in an intimate relationship of sorts with someone who has proven to be destructive to one's well-being, and when the guilty party/parties seem unable or unwilling to amend these destructive patterns of behavior in a verifiable manner, it is altogther right and proper to establish a distance from the person in question and to deny him/her access.

In this sense too, one must deal decisively with Amalek, in the expectation that amdenment of life might result, while being willing and able to spot occasions when changes have not occurred, with appropriate consequences.

At 3/12/2006 4:53 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for your response.
I guess my confusion stems from the bulk of your words focusing on externalities such as the Hamans, Hitlers, and Husseins, while the title and a few lines of your sermon focus on internal issues of faith. The externalities are easier for me to envision than the words about entertaining philosophies that can lead to doubt.
My religious education did not address the issue of doubt in philosophical terms, but evidenced itself more in failing to keep mitzvot or live as a good example of my people.
Could it be that moving "faith" from the external to the internal is an Amalek-like action? Imagine if the Church had not changed faith from a category of action to a category of thought. How much harm would we have avoided if the focus had been on repair of the world rather than getting us to think different?

At 3/14/2006 1:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steward, I agree with you that there is something called evil that evil needs to be dealt with decisively and that in an effort to justify our own sin, the idea that mankind sins is being attacked.

However, I feel you have over stated you case by identifying the Amalekites as "evil." For if you identify them as evil, then why did you failed to identify yourself as evil and the rest of us as evil. Why were only the Amalekite's identified as evil?

Only G-d is good. Who is faithful except His Son?

If you scroll up a couple of verses from what you quoted, you will see that the Lord was going to punish the Amalekites for waylaying the Israelites when they came up from Egypt. Since G-d is Holy and just, the key word is “punish.” Since it was G-d’s instruction, the punishment was earned and the punishment was just. By being obedient, Saul would God’s hand disciplining the Amalekites.

As Samuel said, Saul rejected the word of the L-rd and therefore Saul’s punishment was also fair and just.

If you wanted to bring that message to the present day, you could talk about Saul trying to tell the L-rd to show more compassion. Letting Agag live could be interpreted that Saul was more compassionate than G-d. And so today we have those who believe that G-d is looking for man to fail so He can punish them. It is man that is gracious! How backwards is that!

If that is a bit of a stretch for you, understand that verse 24 is where Saul qualified that feared his people more than he feared the L-rd. (15:24) However, this sermon is done regularly.

The great thing about the newer covenant is that we know that we CAN’T be the “Good Samaritan” …because the Good Sam fulfilled the Law. By fulfilling what it meant to be a neighbor we could live. If we could fulfill the Law….But we can’t.

Therefore, if we are liberal in our view of ourselves, we will view ourselves as the priest or Levite. On a more honest day, we will also identify with the robber …. Knowing that judgment will be pronounced on us as it was the Amalekites. As righteous as the Law is in its verdict….is as hopelessness that we are of escaping G-d’s judgment.

If we, like the Prodigal son, come to our senses as he did, we would realize that G-d is generous and merciful as well as just. He loved us so much He sent His only Son to die in our place that we might live. His Son paid a debt He did not owe that I might live.

So when you want to conceptualize the most hideous of all the Amalekites, look in the mirror. Put yourself in the camp with the Nazi’s and Haman’s because your righteousness is but menstrual rages compared to what the Law requires of you. Only the second Adam has the capacity to fulfill the Law. So on what grounds could you be better Hitlar or Haman?

If you are stinking like a pig wishing you could eat what the pigs eat because nothing satisfies the hunger inside, come to your senses and know how generous that G-d is. G-d doesn’t have to put up a fence to keep you. Your Creator is the only one who can give you life and the life He gives is life abundantly.

Compared with what you are able to do on your own, G-d’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. Light is a relative term since you couldn’t live up to the standard of the Law on your own. G-d will never test you beyond your limits but since He made you, He knows better than you what those limits are. It is only when you give everything to Him….it is only when you lose your life that you find it.

At 3/14/2006 4:13 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

With all due respect, I am afraid your process of reasoning, which sounds pious and sensible to some, is problematical and sub-biblical.

For example, by your process of reasoning, since all of us have sinned, then all of us are equally evil. In terms of behavior then, Billy Graham and Adolph Eichmann are equally evil, as are Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler. It is one thing to say that none of us are perfectly righteous in our behavior, and that all need the mercy of God: it is quite another to say that we are all evil and equally so.

Luke chapter one speaks of Zechariah and Elizabeth, parents of John the Baptist, as “walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless” [Luke 1:6]. Paul speaks of himself as having been “blameless” by the standards of God’s Law [Philippians 3:6].

You are doing theology with a meat-axe, when a scalpel is what is needed. Since, in your thinking, no one is righteous but Jesus Christ, then Billy Graham and Adolph Eichmann are equally evil, as neither is perfect, and only perfect counts.

Your argument that we cannot fulfill the law is greatly overdrawn. And the purpose of the Good Samaritan parable was to extol the righteousness, the goodness of the Good Samaritan, NOT to say that no one in the story—robber, priest, Levite, Samaritan was righteous, and certainly not that all were equally evil. You are letting your presuppositions deafen you to the voice of Scripture.

Or course I know that Yeshua died and rose again for our sins, and that we all need the benefits of his atonement. But Scripture does not at all support your philosophy of moral equivalence, and in fact teaches the opposite on every page.

When the Bible says that all our righteousness is as menstrual rags, the context is that of disputing the attitude and way of thinking that presumes that we can use our righteous living to obligate or manipulate God. It is then that God says to us that all our righteousness is worthless. This kind of manipulative presumption is decried in both Testaments. But the Bible is a book that extols and admires righteous living—it is the last place to look for the kind of moral equivalence argument you give. Pardon me, but this makes for sloppy living, sloppy thinking, and sloppy theology.

And please don’t preach the gospel to me as you do in your posting. Do you think I do not know the gospel? Do you think I do not believe in the Redeemer? Do you think that a person must despise and denigrate him/herself, in order to experience God’s mercy? God does not need me to wallow in the mud in order for His glory to be seen and known! My friend, this kind of theologizing sounds pious, but is neither true to life or Scripture nor healthy! It is deplorable!

A final example. In Acts 10, before he ever heard the good news of Yeshua, Cornelius the centurion, is characterized as “a devout man who feared God with all his household; he gave alms generously to the people and prayed constantly to God.” In addition, when the angel visits him, the angel says this to him, “Your prayers and your alms have ascended as a memorial before God.” This man was already righteous: he had a reputation in heaven. Did he need the gospel? Yes! But was he nothing but menstrual rags until he accepted that message? The Scripture says “No!” And so do I. And so should you.

The Prodigal Son had a long journey to travel to get back to his father. You, I am afraid, have a long journey to get to healthy biblical thinking. Please. . . start moving.

At 3/14/2006 9:25 PM, Blogger Israel Benjamin said...

I am glad to have happened upon your blog.
As we have just celebrated Chag Purim, with its festivities and schpiels, I find it helpful to be reminded of what is arguably the precursor to the holiday.
Within that context it would seem to me that to keep the reins in on fanciful applications might be best served by emphasizing those who seek to destroy us; first those who do it intentionally and then those who do it unintentionally.
Your observation about Saul being a symbol of ineffectual weakness may appear clear in light of Amalek, but if one looks at the life of Saul, he was no passive schlemiel.
This man who had the ability and power to do good and promote good became consumed with his power and blinded by jealousy. Without the protection and intervention by HaShem, Saul would have destroyed David. Can we wrap our heads around the evil in that intention?

Those in power ought to take their position of privilege with great sobriety. If they do not bear their authority with utmost care and seek to do good, their hearts may become infected with a Saul-like virus. Then those subject to their whims can only hope that HaShem would render them ineffectual.

At 3/14/2006 10:49 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Dear Israel Benjamin,

Welcome! And thank you for your intelligent contribution!

Yes indeed, Saul was no mere schlemeil, but he seemed to be a bit of a narcissist with tragic flaws, including pride and pathologiical jealousy. And then of course, his character weaknesses became a nesting place for the occult. . . not a pretty picture.

One of my community members asked me last shabbat why Saul kept Agag alive for a while. The answer I believe is that it appea;ed tp his pride to have a conquered king as something of a royal lapdog. It was this prideful tragic flaw that resulted in the ruin of a gifted but flawed man.

And being gifted and flawed is something we see in the newspapers every week, isn't it?

Thanks again for sharing with us your very good mind.

At 3/15/2006 5:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steward: For example, by your process of reasoning, since all of us have sinned, then all of us are equally evil. In terms of behavior then, Billy Graham and Adolph Eichmann are equally evil, as are Mother Theresa and Adolph Hitler.

Steward, if that was the way I thought, you would be correct. What you failed to consider was the standard of measure by which all things are judged, Yeshua. And should one put Yeshua, Billy Graham, and Hitler on a bar graph and looked at it, the difference between the Graham and Hitler would be microscopic in comparison to Yeshua. So while you are correct in stating that what we do matters and from our small and warped view the differences seem large, when you bring Yeshua into focus of what a man can do as the standard, then we have nothing to boast about and I believe Billy Graham would say his righteousness was that of menstrual rages in comparison to Messiah.

Mankind has no righteousness of his own. It is Yeshua’s working in Graham that separates him from Hitler. If this was not true, a person would not have to die to self and be born again.

I am glad you mentioned Paul. Paul considered himself the worse sinner because he persecuted the Way. Don’t forget in Phil, after saying he was faultless to the law, that he now considers was he did as the Pharisee of the Pharisees, rubbish (menstrual rags.) As Paul stated to Peter “We who are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners know that a man is not justified by observing the law.”

Steward: And the purpose of the Good Samaritan parable was to extol the righteousness, the goodness of the Good Samaritan, NOT to say that no one in the story—robber, priest, Levite, Samaritan was righteous, and certainly not that all were equally evil. You are letting your presuppositions deafen you to the voice of Scripture.

Steward, your reading of the scriptures is flawed. The Parable of the Good Samaritan came as an answer to the question about how to receive eternal life. The teacher of the Law, WANTING TO JUSTIFY HIMSELF, asked who his neighbor was. Therefore, if one reads the Good Sam. in context, the parable was the definition of “neighbor” in the context of how to love your neighbor to fulfill the Law and obtain eternal life.

Since the one asking the question was identified as a teacher of the Law, one has to assume Yeshua’s answer was given at the doctorate level and not at the elementary version you gave. While the teacher of the Law wanted to constrict the definition of neighbor, Jesus defined the fulfilling of the law as proving yourself neighborly to everyone. In other words, to fulfill the Law you are to prove yourself neighborly 24/7 all the days of your life.

While Yeshua could have stopped there, he didn’t. In the parable, the Good Sam. bandaged the wounds, got the man to the Inn, paid for the care at the Inn, and put any future care the man MIGHT require on his bill. If you believe as I do that Yeshua wasn’t just telling a good story but actually answering the other teacher’s question, then you have to conclude that each thing the Good Samaritan did was to demonstrate how much care the Law required us in proving ourselves neighborly.

Now I ask you Steward, how many people can you care for with the Good Samaritan as your measuring stick. One. Two. Three. We have 6 billion neighbors in the world today all waiting for you to prove yourself a neighbor. How do you get off thinking you come close to measuring up to fulfilling the Law?

Only the second Adam can fulfill the Law. That is why Yeshua said that no man comes to the F-th-r except through Him. If you could fulfill the Law on your own, then why did G-d send His only Son? Why would Nick need to understand the second birth?

Please note that I am a frail creature of dust. The liberating piece of this theology you have yet to catch. While you fully admit you sin and want G-d’s forgiveness of sin, you want to hold others to live up to the Law like the Jews did in Galatians.

Steward, what is it that you want more than to be forgiven of your many, many, many sins? Good deeds do not balance out the bad so you are right to cancel any of the righteous acts that Hitler and Haman did. Only realize that Satan who has no power of his own accuses you before God by your sins and not by your acts of righteousness. As with any just system, it is the crimes (sins) that are trail and nothing else. The righteous acts don’t negate the sin. According to the Law, only blood sacrifice can cover a sin.

So when you pray as Yeshua prays, do you alter the “forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors” part? As a follower of Yeshua, do you pick up your cross and forgive for the ungodly as Yeshua did. (Ro 5) If you don’t follow Yeshua at this most basic of points, how is it that you follow Yeshua?

You would be right to call down fire from heaven and wipe out entire towns but that isn’t what Yeshua did. You are right to point out how bad Hitler and Haman were so why don’t you agree with John when he said that the Messiah came to his own and his own knew him not.

He died for your sins, in your place so that your could forgive others when they sinned against you. If you can’t understand this from the perspective of your own need and your conversion, then I didn’t see a way of explaining it to you. I apologize if you thought my intent was anything else.

Please don’t mix the messages of the parable. Remember that it was the Pharisees and teachers of the Law that spoke exactly like you are. They threw people out of the synagogue for following Yeshua before plotting to kill him. They believed that Yeshua failed to follow the Law when He heal on the Sabbath wanted to killed Him for claiming to be the one before Abraham or had the ability to forgive sins. So in addition to attempting to trap Him so they might kill him, they were critical of Yeshua’s eating with sinners and prostitutes as well as calling him a glutton and drunkard.

Now I am not sure of the righteousness that these sinners and prostitutes had that earned His attention as you might think. In my way of thinking, they had no righteousness of their own. Since you would not appreciate it if someone cut up your sermon into pieces and then interpreted your sermons by their divisions, I would ask you not to do the same with Yeshua’s.

The Parable of the Lost Sheep, Parable of the Lost Coin, Parable of the Lost Son, and the rest were the answer to the Jewish leader’s question of why Jesus ate with sinners. One would have to assume that Jesus’ answer was given at the level of the Pharisee asking the question so the Parables were given at the Doctorate level and not the elementary level.

Please note that the sheep was valuable to the Shepherd because it was a sheep and not because of its righteousness. The coin was valuable to the woman because it was a coin and not because of its righteousness. The son was valuable to the Father because he was the father’s son and not because of his righteousness. And Hosea
(representing G-d) bought back his prostitute wife (representing Israel) because G-d loved her and not because she was faithful. The Jewish laying beaten on the side of the road had nothing to earn the compassion of the Samaritan dog (or at least that is what the teachers of the Jewish law listening to Yeshua would have called the Good Samaritan.)

If you don’t start with G-d’s compassion and generosity and man’s need and inability to help himself, then , I am afraid your process of reasoning, which sounds pious and sensible to some, is problematical and sub-biblical. You can’t say G-d is compassionate and generous because He saves those who fulfill the law on their own from their sins. Those who are healthy do not need a doctor and because you claim you have eyes to see, you are truly blind.

Please note, that in context, Yeshua was in the house partying with the younger brother (sinners) who had returned. It was the older brother (Pharisees) outside the house arguing with the F-th-r.

Please listen to the F-th-r’s answer once after you realize that the F-th-r divided His property in half. Since the younger brother took his half and wasted it (sinned,) what was left over was the older brother’s (Pharisee’s).

Therefore, not only had the F-th-r given the older brother (Pharisees) the fattened calf he was now coveting (sin), the goat and the rest of the farm had been given to him as well. So the F-th-r had to go out of the house to woo said righteous older brother (Pharisee) to make the right judgment and party with those “who were once dead but are now alive (2nd birth).”

The older brother (Pharisee) refused to forgive his younger brother on his own (sin) or after the F-th-r asked him to (sin). He has the gall to argue about his righteousness while accusing his F-th-r (sinful behavior) of failing to be generous with him and failing to make the wise decisions about his younger brother (sinful behavior.) So how is it that the older brother is righteous except in his own eyes?

The older brother (Pharisee) had been given the gift he wanted and so much more as a free gift (like eternal life) but the older brother (Pharisee) had not received it ….because he was still trying to earn it.

In His Name because I am nothing and can do nothing without the wisdom and power of the HS,


At 3/15/2006 5:59 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Steward: One of my community members asked me last shabbat why Saul kept Agag alive for a while. The answer I believe is that it appealed tp his pride to have a conquered king as something of a royal lapdog.

Clearly the scriptures say that Agag "believe the bitterness of death is past" so Agag believed "a while" was till his natural death.

This issue being described in scripture is about obedience to God, hence the quote, "to obey is better than sacrifice." Pride is a secondary issue to obedience.

At 3/15/2006 9:00 AM, Blogger Israel Benjamin said...

Dr. Dauermann,
Having not had the opportunity to read through many of your posts and comments thereto, I am not sure if your current critic is representative of all your readers or an exception. If you are willing, I would appreciate your help in understanding some of these issues.
I will do my best to choose my words carefully so as not to create an emotional response. If I fail in this endeavor, please accept my apology in advance and then point out what words I have used that connote something other than my intention (if discernable).
It seems to me that there exist profound differences in how Scripture is viewed in Jewish experience vs. Christian experience. Let me explain. Over the past 2000 years or so, Judaism has wrestled with the Torah as a living document. The "livingness" of the document exists in the "body" of the people. The people have chosen to view the document as in some sense "binding" but in need of interpretation in order for it to be useful for day to day living. This is especially true for those who hold it to be given by a divine author, but even those who see it as human literature give it special status if for nothing else to call us to better living. The key in what we may consider a "Jewish approach" is in helping us live our lives to the fullest: doing justly, loving mercy, and keeping HaShem in mind as we go about our daily lives.
This seems to be different than what I observe in many Christian approaches to their Scriptures. Rather than a "living" document in the sense of it having life as it helps shape lives, it is, for lack of a better term, a "rock" document. Instead of having malleability, it is "set in stone." The approach to this stone is to chip away in order to build a type of edifice. Once the stone structure is hewn, the inhabitant has a sense of security that they are safe from harm.
If these greatly simplified models are accepted, there seem to me to be some results. Perhaps you can share your thoughts on these:

In the first instance, where the Torah is "living in situ" (as it were), there exists a sense of humility when seeking guidance for life. There can be different meanings. Each community must determine how they will choose to interpret and apply Torah in their lives, giving plenty of leeway to other communities to interpret and apply Torah in their own situation. The attitude is generally one of a collaboration in discovering how we can get the most out of Torah.

When the "livingness" of the document is understood in a way other than "life within community," there seems to me to be a sense of combativeness rather than collaboration. If one is building a house out of stone, and one's safety derives from the structure, one has to defend the structure and can't allow for any defects in the structure for then one's safety is in question.

In other contexts I have observed that some think the "livingness" of the holy writ stems from some divine energy embodying the very words themselves. Or maybe that the words are in service to one's Creator with a power stemming from the way HaShem uses the words to effect HaShem's purposes. In either of these cases, there is an ultimate authority, interpretation, meaning, etc. to the text that precludes alternatives. The attitude of one community towards another by nature has to be who is correct in ascertaining that one rightness, thus leading to competition rather than collaboration.

This is highly simplistic and no doubt there are those among the Jewish community who don't see Torah as I have described, and there are those in Christian community who exude humility in their dogma. But if my general observations are correct, then when interacting with critics such as you seem to attract, wouldn't it more advisable to determine how they view Torah (Bible), rather than dive in and enter debate? If one lives in a stone house, perhaps there are no windows through which light can enter. Even attempting to provide warmth to a stone house is challenging.

At 3/15/2006 11:02 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Over the past 2000 years or so, Judaism has wrestled with the Torah as a living document."

Yes, please define which of God's prophets ordained this change or why, about 2,000 years ago, the Messiah would say, "Oh Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord."

At 3/15/2006 6:31 PM, Blogger Israel Benjamin said...

To the anonymous poster:
While some blog services provide threads that readily allow for discussion between commentators, blogger doesn't, and unless we are invited by Dr. Dauermann to do so, I suggest we move to another site.
My blog is located at www.belzyce.blogspot.com.

At 3/16/2006 11:48 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

When manufacturers leave instructions and guidelines, do you read them and debate the limits their product can go? Does one look through the list of warnings and say, I see this was made in 2,000 and this is 2006 so this warning no longer applies?

Is G-d not the potter and are we not the clay? So then, how is it that your struggle is with what G-d created you to do?

Since the Cr--t-r of the universe spoke His creation into existence, one has to conclude that G-d has both the knowledge and the power to speak ….but that we, His creation, can hear and understand what He said. A serious student of the Torah would be force to examine why there was such a large gap between the prophets and the sages as well as the clarity of G-d's message of those speaking on G-d's behalf.

How is it that the Creator was once said to kill any prophet who's prophesy didn't come true, but now He says, “Whatever Rabbi you follow is OK with Me.”

Does the failure to believe in gravity cause some to float or are the believers and the non-believers under its power?

Once to every man and nation comes a moment to decide…

The second point is this: From the beginning, Yeshua and His Jewish followers were offensive to the other Jewish leadership and their followers. And the other Jewish leader and followers were offensive the Yeshua and His Jewish followers. Let’s be honest. They never got along.

After His first sermon,

even though there was no alter call...,
He didn't ask anyone pray to accept Himself,
There was no one ringing doorbells or standing on street corners,

they still tried to throw him off the cliff. So a serious student would have to ask if the Gentile congregations stopped doing these things, would those that tried to throw Yeshua off a cliff accept His message any better?

The non-believing Jews called Yeshua demonic, a blasphemer, a drunkard, and a glutton. They physically attempted to kill him on several occasions. They set traps for Him to get Him in trouble with either His followers or the government. Before being hung on the tree, the Jewish leaders threw followers of Yeshua out of the synagogue. Not once is it recorded that these other Jewish leaders left their warm and comfortable homes to visit Jesus by His campfire to ask how the two sides could better get along. And when believing in Yeshua has non-believing Jews consider family members dead, has anything changed?

When Yeshua spoke to the crowds, He referred to the Pharisees, Sadducees, teachers of the Law and the like as vipers. He charged them with not being Abraham’s children. For killing the prophets, Yeshua said G-d was going to make them responsible for the blood of all the prophets from Abel to Zechariah. The Sermon on the Mount and the overturning the money changer’s table in the Temple also highlight these differences. Yes, Yeshua was intolerant and offensive and didn't pretend to enjoy what they stood for.

And history records indicate that this relationship has never gotten better. The stoning of Stephen, Paul’s and other’s persecution of the church, and the bands of Jews that followed believers went to cause trouble and not to work out differences.

As Yeshua says, “I wish you were hot or cold.” You can’t believe that Judaism and Yeshua ever were compatible while Yeshua walked the earth or immediately afterward without making some radical changes in the basic components that separated the two.

And 2,000 years later, this will continue to be annoying …which is normal….but true and on topic.

At 3/16/2006 12:27 PM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...


Very early this morning I wrote the following to you but thought not to post it. However, your most recent diatribe requires that I do so chiefly because of your contemptible attitudes toward the Jewish peole, their leaders, and their Law. You are blind, and cannot see that Yeshua, in the very same chapter as you quote concerning "blind guides" also says the followiing: "The Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, therefore do whatever they tell you to do." You also miss, later in the same chapter the full implications of the following . ""Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law, justice and mercy and faith; these you ought to have done, without neglecting the others." You miss that he tells them not to neglect the tithing of mint, dill and cummin, which were "only" rabbinic laws, and not mentioned in the written Torah. Thus he affirmed the Jewish way of life--and rabbinic practice--which you despise.

Here is the posting I wroted which becomes effective immediately.

"Ah, David, you have reduced thinking of God and Christ to a zero sum game: in order for Christ to be great, man must be garbage. This is not my religion: it is what is known as “worm theology,” based on the line from a hymn by Isaac Watts, “O Sacred Head,” “Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I.”

We benighted Jews, and not us alone, prefer to remember that we are made in the image of God. The moral engine for Jewish ethics is to live up to one's potential as a child of God. I know that this form of thought is anathema to you. I return the compliment.

You refer to yourself as “but dust,” and yet you preach at me and scold me in public. Interesting dust, no?

I am not “but dust” and neither are you. You have a problem with your “but.” True, the Bible says “Dust thou art and to dust thou shalt return.” However, humankind is made in the image of God, a little lower than the angels. Claiming to be “but dust” smacks of the kind of false humility that looks good on a bumper sticker and lousy in heaven. You need a spiritual proctological exam and therapy for your but.

I sense a hostility in your postings, David, as if I am some sort of heretic who needs to be exposed and corrected. I am not such, and not only do I not need to be exposed, I don’t appreciate the effort. Your comments are a form of “flaming,” and I regret to say that, perhaps due to my own congenital oversensitivity, I will erase further postings from you which I deem intended to insult me from your superior point of view. After all, this is my blog. Blogger.com is a wonderful site, and I suggest that if you want to expose me as a heretic, get your own blog! Others are doing just that and having fun doing so! Join them.

Most of all, I find your disparagement of the Law of God, of the effort of Jews like myself to obey it, and of the Jewish people and their leaders to be very sad. It leaves me feeling hopeless, for I feel myself to be in the presence of invincible prejudice. Just for the record, I don’t claim to be able to “fulfil” the law, but that doesn’t keep me from seeking to honor God by obeying it. It is about honoring God, not about earning Brownie Points or earning salvation. Your view of Jewish culture, the Jews, Judaism, and Messianic Judaism, is monstrously distorted through a misshaped lens of bigoted and outmoded thinking. It is a lens forged in ignorance and tempered with unknowing pride. But this kind of lens, like the magnifying glasses of our youth, has started many fires in which the Jewish people have suffered far too long. May God forgive you, and may he protect you from people as sure of their theology as you are.

I plead with you to restrain yourself. Any further theological flaming from you will be trashed and removed from my blog. [And today's posting is that futher flaming].

May you find someone close to you whose critique of your manner you will hear, if you will not hear mine."

Your comments are off my blog until further notice. Any which I receive I will trash.

[And yes, you will feel like you are a prophet who has been silenced. And that is part of the problem].

At 3/16/2006 12:50 PM, Blogger Israel Benjamin said...

Dr. Dauermann,
I am disappointed in David/anonymous who seems to have responded to my request to move this discussion to my blog by posting his latest here. You ought not feel bad if you delete his comments for my invitation stands.

We do, however, receive a glimpse of this commentator's view of his bible: it is a technical manual. I am familiar with persons who take such a view and have, with few exceptions, found them to be quite rigid in their dogma, stunted in relational skills, and lacking in mercy, compassion, and humility. Even their sense of justice suffers from a harshness that lends itself more to vengeance.

I do not have the reference readily available, but an observation has been made that any great man or woman of HaShem (as recognized by their peers or by history) has come to the conclusion that what matters most is how we get along with each other. If my memory serves me right, isn't it recorded that even the one considered the Christian God pleaded for mercy and forgiveness on the ones who put him to death?

I apologize that you have had to be subjected to such arrogance and meanness, and for my part in encouraging this behavior. Please continue your very fine postings. If I ever offend you in my remarks, please let me know and feel free to delete them without warning.

At 3/16/2006 1:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ah, David, you have reduced thinking of God and Christ to a zero sum game: in order for Christ to be great, man must be garbage.

Your attitude should be the same as that of Yeshua:

"Who, being the very nature of God, did not consider equality of with God something to be grasped, but made himself NOTHING, taking the very nature of a servant...humbled himself and became obedient to death--even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Yeshua is Lord, to the glory of G-d the F-th-r.

At 3/20/2006 6:23 AM, Blogger Stuart Dauermann said...

Anonymnous, a.k.a. David,

It is one thing for a person to humble himself, "taking the form of a servant." This is good. I was not critiquing this!

But it another thing to speak of people or of oneself as "but dust" and leave it at that.

Scripture, and the Jewish religious/liturgical tradition, include statements both of man's comparative "nothingness," and of his grandeur. The former statements are there to keep us from illegitimately exalting ourselves, the latter, to keep us from forgetting and neglecting or contradicting our creational and covenantal majesty, calling us to live up to the latter and to ever be grateful for our creational and covenantal glorious status.

I find the balance between the two sorely lacking in your postings, and in certain brands of Christian theologizing--something which Christians realize to be a problem as well.


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