Here is a paper I wrote for my World Literature course on Genesis. I did a close reading of the first 5 verses. A close reading is when you look at the words used, how they are used, what the text is saying versus how it is said. It was a really fun close reading. I’ve just copy-pasted it here for you to read.
So last time, I introduced the topic of Love and Torah. Basically, Love is the most important commandment. Above all else. Even if you follow Torah perfectly, if you don’t have love, it’s pointless. But what about Love with Torah? Well, what is Love? Let’s go back to Mark 12.
Last time I said I was just going to focus on the literal words that Yeshua said. But today I am going to dig deeper into context. When you see someone quoting the Old Testament, they are quoting the whole passage it comes from. So, where does this quote come from? Yeshua is quoting Deuteronomy 6, the Shema. Just before this famous passage, Moses has restated the ten commands with more details about not following idols. And so, in context, this is the whole passage.
And then Moses instructs the Israelites not to worship idols, and that YHWH and YHWH only will be their God. The command to Love YHWH your God with all your heart, soul, and strength, is in the context of His commands. So…loving Yahweh means to keep His commands.
What? Come on Genevieve. You’re just twisting that, trying to put us under law. We’re under grace! That can’t be so.
Alright, let’s look at somewhere else in Deuteronomy.And you shall love יהוה your Elohim and guard His Charge: even His laws, and His right-rulings, and His commands, always. Deut. 11:1 ISR
Could the Word of Elohim be anymore straight forward? Guarding God’s laws is in the context of loving Him. So, loving Yahweh means to keep His commands.“See, I have set before you today life and good, and death and evil, in that I am commanding you today to love יהוה your Elohim, to walk in His ways, and to guard His commands, and His laws, and His right-rulings. And you shall live and increase, and יהוה your Elohim shall bless you in the land which you go to possess.” Deut. 30:15-16 ISR
Again, to Love YHWH is to walk in His ways and to guard His commands. And YHWH shall bless you if you follow His commands!
But Genevieve, the Old Testament doesn’t apply to us anymore. We can’t be held by that.And by this we know that we know Him, if we guard His commands. The one who says, “I know Him,” and does not guard His commands, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoever guards His Word, truly the love of Elohim has been perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him. The one who says he stays in Him ought himself also to walk, even as He walked. Beloved, I write no fresh command to you, but an old command which you have had from the beginning. The old command is the Word which you heard from the beginning. 1 John 2:3-7 ISR
Okay…but John also talks about a new command. You’re taking this out of context.
Yeah, but he also doesn’t say that the old one is obsolete. He’s not talking about new and old as in new and finished. New adds on to the old. If you build a new floor onto your house, do you take out the foundation or the first floor? NO. That’s dangerous.
It is just as dangerous to live in the new commands and ignore the old commands.
I have much much more to say on the importance and meaning of Torah, but I will go into that in future entries.
Getting back to where we started, Yeshua. Yeshua says the most important commandment is to Love God, and the second is to Love your neighbor. But how do you Love God? By walking in His ways, and to guard His commands, His laws, and His right-rulings. Any Jew listening to Jesus speak would know that loving God means following His commands. They are taught that all their lives. They know, they know, they know.
So why would Jesus tell you that the most important command is Love, knowing that to Love God is to obey Him, and then approve of your blatantly breaking the law? And Deuteronomy 13 says that a prophet who adds to or takes away from the law is a false prophet. So what exactly is Jesus doing here?
He’s taking us deeper! Not into a more legalistic adherence to Torah, but into a deeper intimacy with God in our observance of Torah. HalleluYah!
More on this topic, next time.
1 (My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin.) But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous One, 2 and he himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for our sins but also for the whole world.
3 Now by this we know that we have come to know God: if we keep his commandments. 4 The one who says “I have come to know God” and yet does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in such a person. 5 But whoever obeys his word, truly in this person the love of God has been perfected. By this we know that we are in him. 6 The one who says he resides in God ought himself to walk just as Jesus walked.
7 Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word that you have already heard. 8 On the other hand, I am writing a new commandment to you which is true in him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true light is already shining. 9 The one who says he is in the light but still hates his fellow Christian is still in the darkness. 10 The one who loves his fellow Christian resides in the light, and there is no cause for stumbling in him. 11 But the one who hates his fellow Christian is in the darkness, walks in the darkness, and does not know where he is going, because the darkness has blinded his eyes. (NET)
So good. So good. Truth!
“We’ve got a False Jesus being portrayed. As seen on TV, acting cool….you see he’s changed.
A different Jesus from the Bible so…allow me to bring the real Christ on stage.
Not that whack Jesus, the one not based on fact Jesus, too often displayed.
The Christ in Glory, not the one on your chain.
Because he’s the real Jesus Peace that only dwells in the saved.
So allow me to paint the picture of Christ in the Scripture preaching faith and repentance that your too cool Jesus….never seems to mention.
It seems like he’s down with all the things that you do.
But come on, there’s only one Jesus who is true.
So which one will you let reign over you? Who?
The Millionaire Jesus who just wants to make you rich?
Give you some ice, fame, money, to prove that you are blessed?
The Black Panther Jesus who…
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This is a passage we are familiar with, at least I hope we are familiar with this passage. And I don’t want to disagree with Jesus here. No if, ands, or buts. The greatest command is to love YHWH, and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. All the other commands rest on these two commands (Mt 24:40).
Jesus is quoting the Shema in Deuteronomy 6, and the laws of Deuteronomy expand upon the 10 Principles which tell us how to love God and man. (Bithiah has a really awesome summary of Deut. here.) So I could go into how the law fulfills loving your neighbor, and about how by following the law we are walking in love. That is certainly true, but I want to focus on what Jesus is saying here.
One of the pharisees replies, “That is true, Teacher; you are right to say that he is one, and there is no one else besides him. And to love him with all your heart, with all your mind, and with all your strength and to love your neighbor as yourself is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” Wait, what? Did you see that last part? Loving your neighbor is more important than burnt offerings and sacrifices. And Jesus tells him, “You are not far from the Kingdom of God.” But wait, aren’t the sacrifices and such part of the law?
When Jesus quotes this passage in Hosea, He says, “I delight in compassion”. And when we look in Isaiah, He does not want sacrifices.
God is not looking for an outward appearance. He is not looking for religion. He is not looking for people who follow all the rules. He is looking for love. He is looking for love. Love YHWH your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your strength. In other words,
Thus: If I follow all 613 commands, but do not have love, my obedience is worthless. If I set-aside Yah’s Sabbath but do not love Him, my time is wasted. If I pray the most beautiful prayer but do not desire to connect with the Father, my prayer goes unheard. If I abstain from unclean animals but do not love YHWH, my effort goes unrewarded.
Paul says, “do not let what you consider good be spoken of as evil” (Romans 14:16). That verse in Romans really stuck out to me. If your practicing of Torah gives you a self-righteous attitude, that you know how to follow Yah better than our brothers and sisters, how will that be seen? We must endeavor to love God and our neighbor in all things, especially in our practice of Torah.
My dear brothers and sisters, I believe that Torah is extremely important. But love is first and foremost the greatest commandment. However, if your obedience to Torah is not rooted in a deep love of God the Father, what is the point? If we do not practice Torah with joy, what is the point? It becomes empty and ceremonial. If our neighbors see us laboring in Torah, it loses its strength. Jesus says,
In the Semitic mindset, yoke refers to your interpretation of the Torah. Yeshua is saying “My interpretation of the Torah is easier than the load you are putting upon yourselves. Come, try mine. It’s easier. Trust me.” What is His yoke? Love, Love, Love, LOVE!
YHWH resides in us! That is so insanely awesome! He loved us first, so we must love one another. We’ve got the love of God inside of us, and we’re not going to share it? Come on! You’ve got the Almighty Creator of the universe dwelling within you, and you’re going to waste it on being awesome at scripture?
What does Jesus say?
It does not matter if you have perfect theology. It does not matter if you know exactly how the scriptures should be translated and applied. We must go to Jesus. He has the answers. He is love. Yahweh sent His son. Yahweh has given us His spirit. Love is the proof of God’s work, and it is perfected in us! Isn’t that exciting? His love is perfected in us.
This is a message that I need. I am easily tempted to be prideful and self-righteous of my Torah-adherence. But it doesn’t make me any better if I am not acting in love. If I am following rules because they are rules, and not because of a desire in my heart to love God out of following Torah, then it is pointless.
However, I do not approve of using love, using grace, as a reason for not following Torah. That is not love, but selfishness. That is something I will continue on in the next entry. Please look forward to the next entry. Shalom!
My sister is moving to Harrisburg, PA, tomorrow to train at Georgian and Winnie Banov’s school of ministry there. Her walk with Yahweh is so incredible, and her blog is an amazing testimony of the love of God. It is so encouraging. Enjoy~
I just finished my paper on Genesis! I did an intense close reading of the first five verses. I spent a lot of time thinking about the Hebrew words used and such. I talk about how YHWH created light specially for organization and order, and made it to be set-apart, HOLY, set-above the darkness. And this is something I wrote for a grade. HalleluYah!
Once I receive the graded paper, I’ll edit it and post it here. Yay!
Ask for more. Are you ready?
On further reflection, a person might also become disheartened, G‑d forbid, wondering how is one to fulfill adequately one’s real purpose in life on this earth, which is, to quote our Sages, “I was created to serve my Creator” — seeing that most of one’s time is necessarily taken up with materialistic things, such as eating and drinking, sleeping, earning a livelihood, etc. What with the fact that the earliest years of a human being, before reaching maturity and knowledgeability, are spent in an entirely materialistic mode of living.
-Translation of a letter from the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson
“Is Most of My Life a Waste?”
Some people feel discouraged. They then assume that these feelings are facts: since they feel discouraged that is a “proof” there is no hope. But feelings only represent a person’s present state of mind, they cannot predict the future.
They can ask…
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