Book Reviews and Miscellaneous

Book Reviews, Commentaries of Torah and Talmud, Medieval Rabbis and Modern Rabbis and Scholars

We encourage Christians to study the moral lessons of the Torah, we do not hold to the dual-covenant belief that the laws in the Torah have been superseded. St Irenaeus in his influential work, On Heresies, teaches us that the moral laws of the Torah are still binding on Christians, and that the dietary and festival laws that have been superseded can be read as teaching moral lessons allegorically. […]

Command 8 Do Not Bear False Witness

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 6, Do Not Bear False Witness Against Your Neighbor

A common misconception is that this Commandment only forbids us to lie. However, this Mitzvah goes deeper. Not only should we not destroy the reputation of our neighbor, we should also guard the reputation of our neighbor like we should build a parapet on our roof. Not only does this Mitzvah forbid us to lie, it also forbids us from telling the truth in a mean and heartless and cruel manner. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 5, Coveting Tempts You To Harm Your Neighbor

Why does Rambam list these Mitzvoth thus? Is it because Exodus precedes Deuteronomy? This is not a good answer, for when studying Torah we should always favor the interpretation that draws us to Love Adonoy more intensely. Maybe Rambam is suggesting that coveting followed quickly by trying to buy your neighbor’s possessions is bad enough, but laying awake at night desiring and dreaming of your neighbor’s property is far worse. Coveting is perverse idolatry. Coveting counts here for coveting, the looking and the desiring, always precedes adultery. […]

Command 9&10 Do Not Envy

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 4, Coveting: The Sin That Leads To Many Other Sins

The Mitzvah against coveting appears in slightly different form in Exodus and Deuteronomy. In Exodus you are forbidden to covet your neighbor’s house, and you are forbidden to covet his wife. In Deuteronomy you are forbidden to covet your neighbor’s wife, and are forbidden to desire his house. In Deuteronomy you cannot covet his field, and in both versions you cannot covet or desire his slaves, his ox, his donkey, or anything else that is his neighbor. If the tablets were written today, your neighbor’s car would probably be on the list. Ramban suggests that coveting your neighbor’s wife is listed first in Deuteronomy because it is the greatest sin of all. Coveting your neighbor’s husband is just as much a sin. […]

Command 6 Do Not Adulter

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 3: Does the Torah Condone Divorce?

The attitude of the Torah towards divorce can be gleaned from the very words the Torah uses to describe G_d, blessed is He, whose Name is so holy usually it is rendered in the Torah as either Adonoy the merciful, or Elohim the just. Elohim may get angry, but Elohim rarely speaks to judge, it is always Adonoy the merciful who speaks. Elohim the just may visit justice to the third and fourth generations of those who hate Him, but Adonoy the merciful remembers those who Love him for thousands of generations. If Adonoy is so quick to be merciful to us, why should would not be as quick to be merciful to those whose lives we affect, particularly those close to us, our loved ones, our family? […]

Morality

The Decalogue in the Torah, Blog 1, We are Invited to a Curious Bar Mitzvah

When the son of a close friend who was divorced invited me to his Bar Mitzvah I eagerly accepted. What a treat! Often those who are born into the faith do not realize what treasures they possess. We will watch as the great Torah scrolls were reverently, ceremoniously removed from the Ark and unrolled. We will then listen as the young man reads the ancient liturgy in English and also in G_d’s language, where the rhymes are more in thoughts than words, so by repetition the words are burned in your heart. We will pray the beautiful prayers in the prayer book. We will all participate in his initiation into the life of the Torah. […]

AntiSemitism

John Chrysostom, Justin Martyr, and the Church Fathers Preach Against the Judaizers and the Jews

John Chrysostom is the most strident of the early Church writers in his writings opposing the Judaizers where he warned his flock that Christians should not adopt Jewish customs and practices, that Christians needed to celebrate the Church festivals rather than the Jewish festivals, that Christians should not attend services at the synagogue. His work “Against the Judaizers” is so polemic that it is far more anti-Semitic than the writings of Barnabas and St Justin Martyr and many other church fathers, it is painful for us modern readers to read, we who remember the horrific events of the Holocaust. This work is not in the standard collection of the works of the Nicene and Anti-Nicene Fathers, but it was widely read in medieval times and afterward, and unfortunately was used to justify the European and Russian pogroms and persecutions against the Jews.[2]

One scholar who has pondered the problems posed polemic stands against the Judaizers by St John Chrysostom and also St Cyril is Robert Wilken. In this book “John Chrysostom and the Jews,” he explores the history of the early church to better understand the world of the early Church Fathers. We cannot totally excuse the errors in the teachings of the early Church Fathers, but neither can we blindly judge and condemn them for not knowing the lessons of the Holocaust. There is nothing wrong with reading the Church Fathers as they apply to our modern world, but particularly in this case we should also let the Church Fathers in their ancient historical context, we need to do both lest we have a distorted understanding of the history of our faith. […]