What is this thing called love? — Union of Messianic Jewish Congregations (2023)

Parashat Acharei Mot-Kedoshim,利未记 16:1–20:27

Rabbi Stuart Dorman, Ahavat Zion Messianic Synagogue, Los Angeles

Many people skip Leviticus, thinking that these stale chapters have nothing to do with our lives. This week's parasha proves these people wrong. Read coherently and take it seriously, even two verses in today's parasha can change our lives in the service of God and humanity.

Rabbi Jonathan Sacks opens up our understanding:

At first glance, these laws seem to have nothing to do with each other: some are about conscience, others about politics and economics, still others about purity and taboo. Clearly, however, the Torah tells us otherwise. They do have some things in common.They are all about order, limits and boundaries.They tell us that reality has a certain underlying structure, the integrity of which must be respected. If you hate or revenge, you destroy relationships. If you act unrighteously, you destroy the trust on which society depends. If you don't respect the integrity of nature (different seeds, species, etc.), you're on a path that ends in environmental disaster. (https://rabbisacks.org/love-not-enough-acharei-mot-kedoshim-5778/)

Two verses in Leviticus/Vayikra 19 turn us around and propel us forward.

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Vayikra 19:18Remind us how the good life includes loving our neighbor as ourselves. In the historical context of the Torah, one's neighbors would be members of our community, joining us by covenant, expressed or implied. This is still true today, whether speaking of religious covenants shared by Jews, or secular covenants like the U.S. Constitution, or contractual arrangements with members of housing cooperatives.

In Luke 10:25-37, a scribe questioned Jesus about our obligation to love our neighbor as ourselves, asking, "Who is my neighbor?" The scribe probably wanted to limit the term to himself Among the crowd, compatriots or cronies. Jesus' response is the parable of the Good Samaritan, insisting that our neighbor is anyone we treat as a neighbor. Jesus' point of view? The responsibility to treat others with love always falls on our shoulders, and godly people are those who use the word "neighbor" in a liberal rather than restrictive way.

The second verse of Leviticus makes this clear.

Vayikra 19:34Tell us that we must not only love our neighbor as ourselves, but also "Treat the foreigner who lives with you as you would the native-born among you - you shall love him (the foreigner, the stranger) as you love yourself. ".. I am Adonai your God.

If we pay attention, we may protest God's meddling in politics. he is. He is messing with our categories of obligations, just as Jesus did with the inquiring scribes. Obligations extend beyond our preferences, prejudices and comfort zones.

We've been talking about loving neighbors and strangers alike. But what is this thing called love?

The meaning of the Torah for this love is best expressed in Hebrewhe hesitated, a concept so rich that it cannot be simply translated verbatim into any other language. You'll see it translated as mercy; other times, as kindness, love, goodness, and faithfulness to the covenant. But even so, the dynamic nature of hesed breaks the scope of our choice as an equivalent word. They are not equivalent, as none of these words help us feel the warmth and range of the Hebrew language.

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Rabbi Sacks warms our cold and narrow definitions:

Hesed is about emotional support, loving kindness, compassionate love. This is what we mean in Psalm 147 when we say that God "heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds." It includes entertaining the lonely, visiting the sick, comforting the bereaved, lifting the spirits of the depressed, helping people through life's crises, and making the marginalized feel part of the community. (https://media.rabbisacks.org/20210706224059/Unit-6-Advanced-Level-Student.pdf?_gl=1).

Hesed is always on the move and actively involved in meeting the needs of others. This is just one biblical example of what Abraham did in Genesis 18 when he went to meet three traveling strangers and fed them generously.

We can define hesed as "family responsiveness," that is, responding to others and their needs as if they were our family members and we should be involved and caring for them.

Scholar Catherine Doob Sakenfeld takes us deeper. The following is a list of characteristics of hesed, adapted from her work,Response in Action: Loyalty from a Biblical Perspective:

  1. Hesed/Family Response is reflected in concrete actions.

  2. Hesed/Family Responsiveness is a relationship to another person (or persons) to the person taking action; it is more than a commitment to an idea or cause.

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  3. Hesed/Family Response is provided by those seeking to meet needs to those in need. Narrative texts in the Bible tend to focus on dramatic needs, but even the smallest needs in the most everyday situations can become occasions for manifesting his needs.

  4. This need places the potential recipient in a position of dependence on someone who can prove his acceptance.

  5. There is no proof that hesed has no social legal sanction; thus, the actor is in a situation of free decision.

  6. Thus, hesed appears as the free fulfillment of an existing commitment to another person who is now in a situation of need.

Sakenfeld's first point talks about manifesting hesed by exhibiting the behavior of hesed.

This behavior is called "g'milut hasadim" (literally "the bestowal of love"), the most comprehensive and fundamental of all Jewish social virtues, it encompasses the entire duty of sympathy for one's fellow man.(https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/gemilut-hasadim)

We see a group of such g'milut hasadim in the account of the ministry of Koffa in Acts. Immediately afterwards, Kefa heals a paralyzed man named Aeneas (9:33-34), and then the scene shifts to Yafo, where a woman named Tavita prays with her tzedakah (a gift for the needy). financial help) and other good deeds (9:35–36). She becomes sick and dies, and the women of the community wash her body for burial (9:37). The two men invite Kefa to come to Yafo, where the women show him clothes that Tavita has made for other people in the community, most likely poor women she is helping (9:39). Kefa prays for Tavita and raises her (9:40-42). All these acts are g'milut hasadim, the act of family reaction, showing hesed. By bringing these examples together, the Bible emphasizes the importance of attention in action.

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For us, as far as asking about Jesus' scribe, perhaps the most difficult thing about him is welcoming and serving strangers. The more strangers differ from us in appearance, status, and opinions, the harder it is to reach their needs with our provision and care.

But can we be true children of Abraham in Genesis 18 if we don’t welcome and serve strangers through acts of hesed?

Pastor and author Henri Nouwen in his bookReaching Out: Three Actions for a Spiritual Life,Let's go deeper.

While many, we might even say the most, strangers in this world are easy victims of terrible hostility, it is true. . . We have an obligation [as God's people] to provide an open and hospitable space where strangers can escape their strangeness and become our fellow man. The transition from hostility to hospitality is difficult and fraught with difficulties. Our society seems to be increasingly full of fearful, defensive, aggressive people who anxiously clutch to their possessions, tend to view the world around them with suspicion, always expecting the enemy to pop up, break in and cause harm.

These are strangers, foreigners, and the Torah asks us to love them as ourselves, as we love our own family members.

Hesed treats others, whether close relatives or distant strangers, with a family attitude.

What is this thing called love? It follows in the footsteps of Abraham. It mimics the kind of familial response we see Kefa and the community display in Act 9. It even treats strangers like family and proactively seeks to meet their needs.

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Hesed-love makes demands on others while demanding less of them.

Of all the fruits of the Spirit this is the sweetest.


What does the Messianic Jewish Alliance of Israel believe? ›

They are convinced that the Bible in its entirety is inspired by God. They further believe that one day all Jews will be Messianic Jews and that they will lead all of Israel, the Jews, and the gentile Christian world in worship of the one true God, understanding this to be the Messianic Age.

What is the Jewish messianic thought? ›

Orthodox Judaism

Orthodox Jews strictly believe in a Messiah, life after death, and restoration of the Promised Land: I believe with full faith in the coming of the Messiah. And even though he tarries, with all that, I await his arrival with every day.

What is the biblical meaning of messianic? ›

of or relating to the Messiah, his awaited deliverance of the Jews, or the new age of peace expected to follow this. of or relating to Jesus Christ or the salvation believed to have been brought by him.

What religions are messianic? ›

Religions with a messiah concept include Judaism (Mashiach), Christianity (Christ), Islam (Isa Masih), Druze faith (Jesus and Hamza ibn Ali), Zoroastrianism (Saoshyant), Buddhism (Maitreya), Taoism (Li Hong), and Bábism (He whom God shall make manifest).

What version of the Bible do messianic Jews read? ›

The Tree of Life Version (abbreviated as "TLV"), first published in 2011, is a Messianic Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible (or TA-NA-KH) and the New Testament (or New Covenant) sponsored by the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society and The King's University.

What is the Messianic secret Christianity? ›

What is the Messianic Secret? The Messianic Secret is the idea that Jesus purposefully hid his identity as the Messiah during his lifetime. Throughout the Gospel of Mark, Jesus performs miracles but admonishes demons, disciples, and witnesses not to tell anyone about them.

What are the three features of the Messianic idea in Judaism? ›

The Messianic idea is thus real- ized in the threefold appellation, Jesus Christ the Lord; the first being his human name among men, the second his historical and official designation, and the last his personal divine title as Son of God, King of kings and King of Zion.

What religion calls Jesus Yeshua? ›

In English, the name Yeshua is extensively used by followers of Messianic Judaism, whereas East Syriac Christian denominations use the name ʿIsho in order to preserve the Syriac name of Jesus.

What is another word for messianic? ›

On this page you'll find 71 synonyms, antonyms, and words related to messianic, such as: divine, hallowed, humble, pure, revered, and righteous.

Is there a Bible that uses Yahweh and Yeshua? ›

Transliterated Sacred Name Bibles

These Bibles systematically transliterate the tetragrammaton (usually as Yahweh) in both the Old and New Testaments, as well as a Semitic form of the name of Jesus such as Yahshua or Yeshua. They consider the names of both God the Father, and God the Son, to be sacred.

Which version of the Bible is closest to the original Hebrew? ›

However, the Geneva Bible was the first English version in which all of the Old Testament was translated directly from the Hebrew (cf. Coverdale Bible, Matthew Bible).

What does Adonai mean? ›

At the same time, the divine name was increasingly regarded as too sacred to be uttered; it was thus replaced vocally in the synagogue ritual by the Hebrew word Adonai (“My Lord”), which was translated as Kyrios (“Lord”) in the Septuagint, the Greek version of the Hebrew Scriptures.

Is King James Bible Hebrew? ›

In common with most other translations of the period, the New Testament was translated from Greek, the Old Testament from Hebrew and Aramaic, and the Apocrypha from Greek and Latin.
King James Version
Religious affiliationAnglican
9 more rows

Who wrote the messianic secret? ›

William Wrede

Which gospel was written first? ›

The tradition handed down by the Church Fathers regarded Matthew as the first Gospel written in Hebrew, which was later used as a source by Mark and Luke.

What is Messianic revelation? ›

Messianic Revelation in the Old Testament represents the most thorough, conservative analysis of the century. Van Groningen traces the messianic expectation as it is progressively revealed in the Hebrew Scriptures. He first introduces the messianic concept, defining its terms and uncovering its source.

Has anyone claimed to be the Messiah? ›

Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, India (1835–1908), proclaimed himself to be both the expected Mahdi and Messiah, being the only person in Islamic history who claimed to be both.

What is the Messianic Age in the Bible? ›

In Abrahamic religions, the Messianic Age (Hebrew: עוֹלָם הַבָּא ʿŌlām haBāʿ, “the World to Come”; Arabic: الآخِرَة al-ʿĀḵira, “the Hereafter”) is the future period of time on Earth in which the messiah will reign and bring universal peace and brotherhood, without any evil.

What is the Hebrew word for Messiah? ›

In Hebrew, the Messiah is often referred to as melekh mashiach (מלך המשיח; Tiberian: Meleḵ ha-Mašīaḥ, pronounced [ˈmeleχ hamaˈʃiaħ]), literally meaning 'the Anointed King'. The Greek Septuagint version of the Old Testament renders all 39 instances of the Hebrew mašíaḥ as Khristós (Χριστός).

What is a tree of life in the Bible? ›

Jesus even claimed to be a tree of life, a vine that offers God's life to the world (John 15). But in a sad inversion, the leaders of Abraham's family kill Jesus on what they think is a tree of death. But because of God's love, which is stronger than human evil, God transformed the cross into a tree of life.

What is Shabbat when does it begin and end? ›

Shabbat is the Jewish Day of Rest. Shabbat happens each week from sunset on Friday to sunset on Saturday. During Shabbat, Jewish people remember the story of creation from the Torah where God created the world in 6 days and rested on the 7th day.

What do the Jews believe? ›

Jewish people believe there's only one God who has established a covenant—or special agreement—with them. Their God communicates to believers through prophets and rewards good deeds while also punishing evil. Most Jews (with the exception of a few groups) believe that their Messiah hasn't yet come—but will one day.

Which tree did Adam and Eve eat from? ›

In the biblical story, Adam and Eve eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and are exiled from Eden.

Is Jesus the tree of life in the Garden of Eden? ›

The work of Jesus—the ultimate source of life—has healed their natural bent to disobey God and reconciled them to the Creator. The new tree of life (and the rivers flowing from the throne of God) certainly mirrors the original tree in the garden of Eden, providing hope of sustained life with Yahweh.

What does a tree represent spiritually? ›

Trees offer us mystical connection to our spirituality and play an important role in many mythologies and religions. In ancient traditions all over the world, the tree is a symbol of life itself, representing the totality of a universe in which everything is imbued with spirit.

Can you flush a toilet on Shabbat? ›

It goes without saying that flushing a toilet is permitted on Shabbat. There is some discussion, however, whether it is permissible to flush a toilet that is equipped with a disinfectant device that colors the water as it is flushed.

What not to do on the Sabbath? ›

Six days you shall labor, and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall not do any work, you, or your son, or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates.

What not to do on Shabbat? ›

No work is to be done on Shabbat. This includes tasks such as cooking and driving. Orthodox Jews stick closely to tradition and try to observe Shabbat wherever they are in the world by not working and not lighting candles after sunset on Friday.

What are the 3 basic beliefs of Judaism? ›

Basic Elements of Jewish Belief:
  • There is a God.
  • There is one God.
  • God has no physical body.
  • God is eternal.
  • Only God may be worshipped.
  • Prophecy--God communicates with humans.
  • Moses was the greatest of the prophets.
  • The Torah came from God.

Who do Jews pray to? ›

Traditionally, Judaism holds that Yahweh, the god of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and the national god of the Israelites, delivered the Israelites from slavery in Egypt, and gave them the Law of Moses at Mount Sinai as described in the Torah.

What religion believes in Yahweh? ›

Yahweh is the name of the God of Israel in both the Jewish scriptures and Old Testament. While much of the Jewish and Christian scriptures are the same, the Christian Bible contains the New Testament, which introduces Jesus.


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