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Should we adere to Old Testament Law?

Posted by Teresa Jay on January 4, 2019 at 6:45 PM

I will preface this with what I believe all religious commentators should declare: Do your own research - I could be wrong or just plain lying to you ;-)


With friends of various faiths, the question has come up as to whether or not one should follow the Old Testament Law. Some Christians say the law is done away with and replaced with a new “law of love”. Other Christians say only certain parts of the law still apply while others don’t. Some Jews say the law is 100% valid today. Other Jews respect the law but choose not to observe it in its entirety. Everyone’s got an opinion, but who, if anyone at all, is right?


Before moving forward, it helps to differentiate the types of law in the Tanakh (i.e.- Hebrew Bible or Old Testament). The Torah was given at Mount Sinai after the Exodus from Egypt (think Let my people go!) around ~1476 76 BCE. Before that, there were what is commonly referred to as the 7 Noahide Laws. These common sense laws are sprinkled throughout the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible.


The 7 Noahide Laws are seen as applicable to people of various faiths, not just Jews or Christians. They are: (1) Acknowledge there is one God, (2) Do not curse your Creator, (3) Do not murder, (4) Do not torture animals, (5) Do not steal, (6) No incest / adultery / rape, and (7) Establish courts of law for handling judicial matters. With the exception of laws #1 and #2, I’d say even atheists would agree with the 7 Noahide Laws.


Now back to the Torah from Exodus. That was technically only given to the exiles at Mount Sinai, which they willingly agreed to (see Exodus 24). The Torah was not forced upon anyone. From the adage to teach the Torah to one’s children (Deuteronomy 11:19), even in most Jewish communities today, children undergo a bar or bat mitzvah when they come of age. In this tradition, there is the choice to accept the Torah.


If the Torah was only given to a choice set of people under no forceful measures, what was the point of it? If people can lead good, moral lives with the 7 Noahide Laws, why even have the Torah? Some Christians would argue that the Torah was created to show humans how much they fell short of G-d’s glory and their subsequent need for a savior (Romans 5:20-21). However, in the Tanakh, we see a different story. The Tanakh says that not only is the Torah possible to attain (Deuteronomy 30:11-14) but that it is meant to lead Gentiles to G-d (Deuteronomy 4:5-8 ).


While Bible references are great, I reject the notion held by some religious fundamentalists that everything in the Bible is the divine Word of G-d. There is no way to prove the Bible is G-d breathed (sorry monotheists) and there is no way to prove the Bible is not G-d breathed (sorry atheists). As any Bible scholar should know, there are differences amongst even the earliest manuscripts for both the Old and New Testaments. While the majority of these differences don’t detract from the writings’ overall meaning and theme, they are differences nonetheless. Even Jeremiah the prophet warns people that the holy writings have been altered by scribes (Jeremiah 8:8 )


What then? Are we left to scratch our heads in dismay or simply follow the traditions of the faith we were raised in? Do we blindly submit to our interpretations of what Rashi, Rambam, the Rebbe, Jesus, Paul, Peter, John, or even G-d may have said? Sure, that’s an option, but I prefer to use the brain G-d gave me and employ logical reasoning via the Scientific Method. When it comes to the Torah, it is stated that those who follow it will be blessed while those who transgress it will be cursed (Deuteronomy 28 ). For any and all of the laws, one may do the following...


Problem: Should I follow Torah law XYZ?

Hypothesis: If I follow Torah law XYZ, I will be blessed. If I transgress Torah law XYZ, I will be cursed.

Procedure: Follow Torah law XYZ for # days. Transgress Torah law for # days.

Observation: Following Torah law XYZ resulted in *******. Transgressing Torah law XYZ resulted in *******.

Conclusion: It is to my advantage / disadvantage / no effect to follow Torah law XYZ.


Using the Scientific Method does not prove whether or not a law is from G-d. Rather, it merely proves whether it is true and/or advantageous. While testing out the myriad of Torah laws may seem daunting, thankfully the 600+ list of laws is dramatically reduced when one realizes that not all laws are applicable to all people. For instance, since there is no temple, I need not concern myself with sacrifices. For instance, since I am not a man, I need not concern myself with circumcision (I’ve heard there are medical benefits, but boy does that sound painful!). For laws that are extreme (i.e.- murder, rape, theft, etc), I recommend using the Scientific Method to do a thought experiment / research as opposed to an actual experiment (unless you’d like to go to jail!). Just like commercial aircraft have some real tests and save the more dangerous scenarios for computer simulation, not all laws (especially the thou shall not’s) should be tested.


What are your thoughts? What laws have you tested, and what were your results? What do you base your choice of whether or not to follow Biblical laws on?

Leaving a Relationship

Posted by Teresa Jay on March 14, 2017 at 7:40 PM

In my time with friends, I've noticed a lot who've left bad relationships.  A while ago, I left a short relationship and want to share some of what I've learned back then so I could help others.


1- It is never your fault when someone lies to you or treats you poorly.  It is a reflection on them, not you.  Never blame yourself for the actions of others.


2- You do not have to marry the first person who asks.  Marriage is a huge committment that involves opening up your finances, your body, and your family (possibly kids) with someone.  When it comes to your future, you NEED to be picky.


3- Just because a man is not abusive does not mean you have to stay with him.  If a man is upsetting you for any reason or you simply don't think he's the one for you, move on.  You are single until you are married.


4- Ask the tough questions early on.  Never assume ANYTHING about anyone.  Ask about education, finances, children, careers, sexual history, religion, etc.


5- Never settle for someone or keep someone as a "backup" if you know they are not the right one for you.  It is better to be alone than with the wrong person.  "It is better to live alone in the corner of an attic than with a quarrelsome person in a lovely home" (Proverbs 21:9).


6- When you do end a relationship, you do not have to keep contact.  Feel free to remove pics / statuses from social media, block people online, and ignore calls / texts.  You are free and need not answer to anyone.  "We escaped like a bird from a hunter's trap.  The trap is broken, and we are free!"  (Psalm 124:7).


7- Know that ending a relationship will be hard.  You may get lonely and entertain thoughts of getting back together.  But remind yourself of why you left.  When the Israelites left Egypt, they got anxious in the wilderness.  They wanted to go back to Egypt where there was meat to eat.  They focused on the positive aspect of food but not the negative aspect of slavery.


8- Know that not all people are bad.  Just because you had a bad experience with someone does not mean you are unloveable or doomed to be with those who do not appreciate you.  There are more fish in the sea.  "I said in my haste, 'all men are liars'" (Psalm 116:11).


9- Acknowledge the past and move on.  Do not put yourself down.  Focus on the good.  For example, maybe you spent a lot of time on someone but at least you did not have sexual relations with them.  For example, you may have broken up but at least you were not married and had to go through divorce.  I don't mean to judge people; I simply mean to emphasize how things could always be worse.


10- If someone is upset that you left them, acknowledge that you are not responsible for the happiness of others.  You are not obligated to be unhappy just to make someone else happy.  Many people will want things from us.  Just as we are not obligated to give our resources to panhandlers who ask for and really want our stuff, we are not obligated to give our time to those who want it.

Purim Cartoon

Posted by Teresa Jay on March 11, 2015 at 10:15 PM


Doggie in the Sukka

Posted by Teresa Jay on October 7, 2014 at 5:10 PM

Learning to Fly

Posted by Teresa Jay on September 30, 2014 at 7:35 PM

Quoted from http://blog.jfsseattle.org/learning-to-fly/:


 

When I was younger I used to think if I kept trying I might one day leap and hover briefly if not fly. I try less frequently these days unless I am teaching my children the art of flight. It’s hard to be human. We are at once self-doubting and confident, humble and arrogant, judgmental and empathetic, seemingly within the same moment. We often rationalize our mistakes while judging harshly the same actions in others. It is like a spiritual gravity keeps pulling us back to earth despite our best efforts to reach toward the crowded heavens and be our highest selves.


The month and days preceding the Jewish High Holidays are when we do what is called a heshbon nefesh: an accounting of the soul. We talk to the folks we may have had challenges with in the past year and we strive to make amends – to ask for forgiveness.


The tradition speaks about relational marksmanship – that while we might aim for the center of the target we occasionally miss the mark. This is the time of year to reset, refocus and redouble our efforts – to try again. The rabbis understood that even though most of us hit the target more frequently than we miss it that it’s those times when the arrow careens wildly off course that plague us most. And it is the weight of those encounters that accumulate to pull us down. A slowing down of our spiritual metabolism. An accumulation of dirt and grime that weakens our connections, short circuits our relationships and send us plummeting.


But if we take the opportunity of this time of the year and we reach out to clean up our relationships with our colleagues, friends, family and ourselves we may live lighter and help those around us do the same. Take the first step. Who do you need to talk with? Where did you miss the mark? I look forward to these conversations with the people in my life. The vulnerability brings us closer.


So start with compassion for yourself, and it may ripple out from there. Start with the belief that you are human and so are those around you. People are people first and co-workers, friends and parents second. We are doing the best we can despite our complicated, neurotic natures. Dedicate yourself to being an ambassador for civility and humanity and others may join you.

Mother and Child Giraffe

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 27, 2014 at 9:00 PM

Blessings and Curses

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 26, 2014 at 8:10 PM

African Hebrews' Health Tips

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 17, 2014 at 8:25 PM

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Polar Bear Point-of-View

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM

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Hungry Bear Steals Honey

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 12, 2014 at 3:50 PM

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POM Sues Coca-Cola

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 12, 2014 at 3:40 PM

The below article is quoted from:

Williams, Pete.  "Supreme Court Rules POM Can Sue Coca-Cola Over Labeling." NBC News. www.nbcnews.com.


The U.S. Supreme Court has green-lighted a lawsuit by the makers of POM Wonderful pomegranate juice against Coca-Cola over the soft-drink giant's labeling on one of its products.


Minute Maid, which is a division of Coca-Cola, sells a juice that features the words "pomegranate blueberry" on its label, even though it contains just a few drops of each of those.


That didn't sit well with POM, which makes a pomegranate-blueberry blend and wanted to sue its rival for deceptive trade practice. Coca-Cola said the suit should be tossed because the label met Food and Drug Administration standards.


After lower courts sided with Coca-Cola, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed course and said the suit could go forward.


POM, meanwhile, is in court on another matter — fighting an order from the Federal Trade Commission that barred it from making certain health claims in its advertising.


The FTC said that if POM wants to say its juice and supplements protect against heart disease, prostate cancer or erectile dysfunction, it needs to prove it with clinical trials.

Moonbow in Yosemite National Park

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 5, 2014 at 9:35 AM

The Whirlpool Galaxy

Posted by Teresa Jay on June 5, 2014 at 9:30 AM

Tornado Touching Down in North Dakota

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 27, 2014 at 9:35 PM

Cleaning Up

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 26, 2014 at 9:45 AM

Despite the jokes in the picture below, do you know that Deuteronomy says to dig and hole and cover up excrement after you go to the bathroom?  It makes total sense.  I went horseback riding yesterday and the horses just poo anywhere.  Their feces are left on the ground, and it's not pretty.  Not only does it smell, but you have to be very careful not to step in it.  Before toilets were invented, the Hebrews were one step ahead of other peoples in terms of cleanliness.

 

Selective Quoting

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 25, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Countless Christians quote Psalms 51 where David says he was "sinful from birth."  They use this verse to say all humans are born sinful and damned to hell unless they worship Jesus.  However, I think it's a bit extreme to put ordinary people in a hell-state.  Rapists, murderers, pedophiles, thieves, sure...but not regular people.  The context of Psalms 51 is that it is spoken by David (note it says "I" and not "we" or "everybody").  This psalm was written after David's incident with Bathsheba.  For those that don't know, David slept with Bathsheba (a MARRIED woman) and then MURDERED her husband.  That's pretty darn bad.  I can see why David said what he said.  But I in no way think this verse applies to everybody.  As stated before, the verse itself does not even suggest that.


In terms of selective quoting, there are other Pslams that speak of following the Torah and being blameless when one follows it.  Why don't Christians quote these verses?  Why do they not celebrate Passover?  Why do they eat pork?  Many things are done out of ignorance.  However, know that I do not think you are born "sinful from birth."  I do not think I am righteous (stay humble!), but I admit there are those who are.  If not, then who in the world is the verse below talking about?



Amazing Resonance Experiment

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 25, 2014 at 10:55 AM

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Man Almost Gets Swallowed like Jonah

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 21, 2014 at 6:05 PM

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Manuscript Accuracy

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 18, 2014 at 12:00 AM

The information below is quoted from this site (www.simpletoremember.com/articles/a/torahaccuracy/).

TORAH COMPARED TO OTHER TEXTS

Other scholars report there are some 200,000 variants in the existing manuscripts of the New Testament, representing about 400 variant readings which cause doubt about textual meaning; 50 of these are of great significance.


The meticulous process of hand-copying a scroll takes about 2,000 hours (a full-time job for one year). Throughout the centuries, Jewish scribes have adhered to the following guidelines:


  • A Torah Scroll is disqualified if even a single letter is added.
  • A Torah Scroll is disqualified if even a single letter is deleted.
  • The scribe must be a learned, pious Jew, who has undergone special training and certification.
  • All materials (parchment, ink, quill) must conform to strict specifications, and be prepared specifically for the purpose of writing a Torah Scroll.
  • The scribe may not write even one letter into a Torah Scroll by heart. Rather, he must have a second, kosher scroll opened before him at all times.
  • The scribe must pronounce every word out loud before copying it from the correct text.
  • Every letter must have sufficient white space surrounding it. If one letter touched another in any spot, it invalidates the entire scroll.
  • If a single letter was so marred that it cannot be read at all, or resembles another letter (whether the defect is in the writing, or is due to a hole, tear or smudge), this invalidates the entire scroll. Each letter must be sufficiently legible so that even an ordinary schoolchild could distinguish it from other, similar letters.
  • The scribe must put precise space between words, so that one word will not look like two words, or two words look like one word.
  • The scribe must not alter the design of the sections, and must conform to particular line-lengths and paragraph configurations.
  • A Torah Scroll in which any mistake has been found cannot be used, and a decision regarding its restoration must be made within 30 days, or it must be buried.

Animals on the Conan Show

Posted by Teresa Jay on May 14, 2014 at 9:05 PM

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