Gal 3:19 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions...
It is truly tragic that non-Jews have primarily learned of God from other Gentiles and not the Jews. God did not intend that the non-Jewish world learn of Him from those who were anti-Semitic but such has happened. Because of this historical fact most of what we as non-Jews have been taught concerning God has been "skewed" to say the least since what we have been taught concerning God and Israel has been removed from it's Hebraic perspective. If you have been diligent to read and study the materials on this website dealing with the "problem of Paul" then by now you have seen for yourself ample evidence that substantiates the above statement.
We continue our study of Paul by looking at his epistle to the Galatians and continue to examine parts of Chapter 3 which were written long after 150 A.D. by other "anti-Semites" who were pro-Pauline in nature. The replacement religion of the Gentiles under the influence of Paul continues. Let us look specifically at Gal. 3:19 and see if what is said there is truthful.
Gal 3:19 19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. (KJV)
We as non-Jewish followers of Jesus and Christians grow up hearing this verse over and other verses like it that give the false impression that the Law, the Torah, and the Commandments of God were given because of man's sin. If this unbalanced presentation of the Torah and the "supposed" purpose of it's giving to mankind is all you hear your whole life then it is quite understandable how you can live your whole Christian existence with "negative" impressions concerning the Law of God. As if that is not enough Christian commentators down through history have likewise been "brainwashed" but such a negative presentation of the Law and the Torah. Let me give you one example that speaks for them all. The Tyndale New Testament Commentary on The Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, commenting on Gal. 3:19 on page 105, after saying "this phrase ...is not easy to interpret," goes on to say "Paul MAY mean 'to restrain fallen human nature.'" This is correct as far as it goes but the Christian commentary continues by saying that "the Law had a temporary moral nature" and that "until Christ had come, men had neither the moral incentive nor the moral pattern...". They make it sound like there had never lived before Christ men who followed God and His Word. Such is purposeful and willful blindness of the highest degree and negates not only the great men of faith that their own Hebrews chapter 11 speaks but the testimony of righteous men in all the nations of the world down through history. This author of this commentary refers to Paul's own admission in Romans chapter 7 of his continual failures in living for God but in so doing reveals his total lack of understanding of Gnosticism and Paul's Gnostic confession in Romans 7. This is not Judaism and not Biblical faith and Christians read Romans 7 without knowing and discerning that in Paul's writings to Gentiles that he is departing drastically as a "Pharisee of Pharisees" from not only his supposed faith but what the Jewish Scriptures teach from Genesis to Malachi. If the Old Testament is part of your Bible then you need to see and understand that Paul is, by the time of writing Romans 7, become an apostate from Biblical faith and blasphemes the Scriptures and the Word of God and God's on Law page after page. It is your failure to have been taught correctly about the Law and the Jewish Scriptures, let alone being taught correctly concerning your Covenant with God correctly, that has hampered you and led you astray in your relationship with God and your proper understanding of God's Law and His purpose in giving it to mankind> And the most tragic thing of the whole matter is that as non-Jewish believers you don't know these things...and will not most likely learn of them until you die or somehow during life wise up to these "truths" before you meet God face to face and find out that you have believed "lies" most of your life because of the incorrect presentation of the Law by men like Paul and others.
This Galatians commentator makes mention that "Paul boldly says that the function of the law was not to make us holy but give us an awakened sense of sin." We as Christians and followers of Jesus have heard this our whole life. He goes on to say that "the function of the "moral sense" of the Law is to teach us our own moral bankruptcy, and the function of intellect is to teach us the intellectual bankruptcy of fallen mankind.
Answer for yourself: But is that all that the Law is supposed to do and is that the reason God gave the Law...to show us our sin?
Answer for yourself: How much do you know of Jesus the Jew and Judaism?
Answer for yourself: Could you spot a lie in the New Testament without proper background and understanding of what you are reading (Biblical Judaism and the Law from a Jewish perspective and not a Pauline perspective only)?
Answer for yourself: Have you ever read or studied what the Jews like Jesus teach concerning their Law and it's purpose?
Answer for yourself: Is it remotely possible that as non-Jews we have been taught lies concerning the Law and Judaism and that Paul's perspective on the Law is absolutely wrong?
Answer for yourself: It is possible that when reading documents like Galatians chapter 3 which can be shown to have been written long after 150 A.D. by non-Jews that followed in Paul's footsteps that such writings are tainted with purposeful anti-semitic leanings and we have read them our whole lives and never knew it?
Answer for yourself: Do you want to meet God and find out that you have opposed Him your whole life in the name of "Jesus" no less because you have accepted without questions false teachings concerning His Law?
Well it is time to learn the truth concerning the Law as taught by the Jews....Jews like Jesus and not Gentiles like Paul who not only was a Gentile convert according to the Ebionites but a "bad" Jew for various reasons enumerated elsewhere on this website. History outside of the New Testament (only one book) reveals this insidious deception that we find on page after page of this New Testament. It is impossible to read the New Testament and discern "truth" from "error" without prior understanding of what we are reading that up to now has come from only "one" source...the New Testament's perspective. In the spirit of "truth" and "love for God" let us set at the feet of Jesus and other Rabbis as we learn of the Law given to them for the rest of the world..for you and me. Then and only then after fully understanding the Law and it's purpose can we judge if the writer of Galatians 3:19 is telling us the truth or lying to us.
To arrive at the correct understanding of this topic we need to investigate several things. Jesus was a Jew and if you desire to be a true follower of Jesus then it is imperative that "you let his mind be in you" like you have been taught. That is not as easy as it sounds. The problem is magnified in the milieu of so much false teaching in Christianity today.
Answer for yourself: What did Jesus believe and teach about the Law?
Answer for yourself: What did he know and understand about the Law that you have not been taught? Do you want to know?
To speak of the Jew and his faith is to focus on the quintessential dimension of that faith, Torah. It is the Torah that brought solace, inner strength, and spiritual fulfillment to the Jew during times of joy, security, and prosperity, as well as during periods of wandering, suffering, and adversity. Jesus when tempted refers to the Torah for his strength...the Law. It is the Torah that guides the Jew's path, shapes his character, and links him with ultimacy. The Torah is the lens through which the Jew perceives life and reality; it is that which unites him indissolubly with his fellow Jew. The Torah is the very lifeblood of the Jewish people. But yet the Torah is not the Jew's exclusive possession because before there were Jews many of the very same Laws found in the Torah today were given to non-Jews first.
Gen 26:5 5 Because that Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws (the word is Torah in the Hebrew and this is long before Sinai). (KJV)
The term Torah has a variety of connotations. Etymologically, it means "teachings," not "law," as it is so often mistranslated. In its broadest sense, Torah means "correct" or "properly Jewish" as in "leading a Torah way of life." More narrowly, it refers to all Jewish religious writings, including the Hebrew Scriptures, Talmud, responsa literature, rabbinic commentaries, et al. The term is most generally used, however, in reference to the Bible or written scriptures which Jews refer to as the Tanakh and Christians refer to as the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament. In its narrowest sense, the term Torah refers to the five books of Moses, or Pentateuch.
The traditional view of the Torah in its narrowest sense is that it is the embodiment of God's word par excellence; the sine qua non of our knowledge of God and of the divine will for man. Although given to the people of Israel at Sinai at a particular juncture in history, it is, nevertheless, eternally valid and authoritative. Such a statement must be conditioned by the fact mentioned above that within this Torah reiterated and elongated upon at Sinai that is the keepsake of the Jews today are Laws given to Noah and all non-Jewish believers in God long before Moses. These Laws are properly understood as Covenant stipulations and requirements respective of the different Covenants God has previously made with both non-Jews and Jews. Everything there that is to be known about life, claim the rabbis, can be derived from the Torah. "Turn it around and inside out and everything is in it." As the psalmist declared, "the Torah of God is complete; it revives the spirit" (Ps. 19:8). Without the Torah man has precious little knowledge of God and the divine intent, nor of the means by which he might be in right-standing with God.
Answer for yourself: How did God reveal his word through the Torah? Did he "dictate" it verbatim to Moses on Sinai? Was Moses "inspired" to write it down? Was it all written by man and then sanctioned retroactively by God? These and many other explanations are offered as to how God actually communicated His will to man. In whatever way traditionalists understand the mechanics of the Sinai theophany, however, they all regard the Torah as we have it today as the primary source of our knowledge of God's word to man, and indeed, of God himself. It is, in the words of the Jewish liturgy, "given to the children of Israel from the mouth of God through the hand of Moses." Again this needs to be understood in it's correct perspective; at Sinai stood a mixed multitude of Jews and non-Jews who accepted God's Laws and Torah and such acceptance made them His "bride" and they were BOTH known as Israel. The Christian has no recognized standing outside the Israel of God and the Covenants that God made with man; a covenant of their own making as is done today is a poor substitute for those ordained by God and is not sanctioned by God since He never gave it!
God is not a physical being mortal man can ever come to fully know, nor can we expect to completely comprehend his immutable ways. Even Moses, the greatest of all prophets who talked with God "face to face" (Exod. 33:11) was only allowed to "see" God's "back" (Exod. 33:20, 23). (These, as well as other instances in which the Torah describes God's physical attributes, were considered by the rabbis to be anthropomorphisms, written in that manner since "the Torah speaks in language man can understand.") But if the Torah is, in a very real sense, God's word, we can come as close as humanly possible to "knowing" God himself by studying its content. The term "to know" in biblical Hebrew-ladaat-is often used in the Greek sense connoting not only cognitive and speculative knowledge, but unification and attachment as well, as in the verse, "Now Adam knew Eve his wife." This principle guided Maimonides (1135-1204), whose opening words in his magnum opus, Mishneh Torah, are, "The foundation of foundations and pillar of wisdom is to know that there is a God. . . ." it is the Torah that enables us to truly know God and to unite with Him as much as humanly possible.
By immersing ourselves in the sacred act of Torah study, we can come to better understand both the content and source of that divine word. For this reason Jewish education, and particularly Talmud Torah, or "study of the Torah," is one of the most important mitzvot, "religious duties," in all of Judaism. The Talmud states that good deeds such as honoring parents, acting kindly toward strangers, visiting the sick, attending the dead, devotion in prayer, and bringing peace among people are all important, but that "the study of Torah excels them all." (See B. T., Shab. 127a.) We must understand that the study of the Torah is the study of our Covenant with God! Its supreme importance lies in the fact that, in the words of the rabbis, "an ignorant person cannot be pious." Daily, the Jew links his love for God with his love for God's Torah. He prays, "With an eternal love hast thou loved thy people, the house of Israel; Torah, commandments, good deeds, and laws hast thou imparted to us. Therefore, 0 Lord our God, when we lie down and when we rise up, we will ponder thy laws and rejoice in the words of thy Torah and commandments. For they are our lives and the length of our days and upon them will we meditate day and night" (from the Jewish prayer book). The study of the Torah is the Jew's loftiest spiritual pursuit. It should be the same for Christians but sadly it is not!
Biblical authority, which serves as the foundation for traditional Jewish authority as a whole, is premised on the belief that the Torah was "revealed"- however one understands that term - by God. The Sinai theophany was a unique moment in human history.
Deut 4:32-33 32 For ask now of the days that are past, which were before thee, since the day that God created man upon the earth, and ask from the one side of heaven unto the other, whether there hath been any such thing as this great thing is, or hath been heard like it? 33 Did ever people hear the voice of God speaking out of the midst of the fire, as thou hast heard, and live? (KJV)
Deut 4:6 6 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the nations, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. (KJV)
Unlike most other faiths that are founded upon the revelatory experiences of an individual (like Paul), Judaism was born out of a divine revelation to a collective peoplehood that numbered in the millions all at one time. For while the Torah was written by Moses, the Sinai theophany was experienced by the entire Jewish people (Exod. 20:19). There is a midrash that suggests that the whole world, including all the animals and birds, heard God speaking the Ten Commandments, and another claiming that the souls of all Jews not yet born at the time were also present then at Sinai (Deut. 5:3 upon which this idea is based).
The partnership of God and man as revealer-receiver of His Law and Covenants is exemplified by two verses in the Torah's account of revelation, "And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai" (Exod. 19:20) and "And Moses went up to God" (Exod. 19:2, 25). It is at the point of encounter between God and man when, in Martin Buber's terminology, the "I" meets the eternal "Thou" that genuine revelation takes place. God makes himself immanent by moving "down the mountain" and meeting man halfway. In Christian terms, this is his act of grace. On the other hand, man, his copartner, elevates himself and spiritually goes "up the mountain" to greet the Lord. The midrash states that if man initiates even a slight movement toward God and creates an opening in his heart the size of a needle, God will respond magnanimously by enlarging it so that even chariots could pass through.
While affirming man's need for divine grace, the rabbis insisted that the initiative for this turning and reconciliation must come from man who is eminently capable of uplifting himself and initiating such a return. Man must open up his heart to God, repent of his sins, and observe the laws of the Torah. The Hasidic expression "Where is God? Wherever we let him in" is a reflection of the Jewish conviction that man possesses the ability to initiate a movement toward God who, through His love and grace, responds a thousandfold. For Judaism maintains that man is a dignified being, created with free will and an innately pure soul.
In contrast, the predominant Christian view is that man is shackled by his sinfulness and incapable of self-regeneration. It is God, through an act of love and grace, who initiates the movement toward man. While Judaism and Christianity indeed differ on this matter, their differences are often grossly exaggerated and very much misunderstood. Certainly, Judaism professes that it is not man's works, observance of the law, or merit alone that bring him closer to God, but God's love and act of grace in response to man's initiative, despite man's unworthiness, as well. Daily, the Jew recites in his morning prayers, "Not out of our righteousness do we appeal to you, but because we rely on your mercy. What are we? What value are our lives? Our righteousness?..." And while Christianity, indeed, emphasizes God's initiative of grace in spite of man's sinfulness, it, too, regards man's deeds and works as essential.
"Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 7:21).
Clearly, while traditional Jews and conservative Christians may share much in common on the fundamental question of the divinity and inerrancy of Scripture (at least, the Old Testament or Hebrew Bible portion of it), differences abound regarding how man exegetically interprets that divine message and relates it to his life of faith. The differences become especially pronounced when we consider the question of the oral tradition.
Christians at times speak of the "burden" of the law upon the Jews, particularly how it places them in bondage and blinds them to the true message of Christ and how their obedience to it petrifies and perverts both the word and will of God (Acts 15:10). Judaism, however, understands the love of and "for" God as the willingness to accept upon oneself the "yoke of the kingdom of God." For when seen from within, this yoke or burden is one that the observant Jew and non-Jew accepts willingly, out of abiding love and immeasurable joy. He regards the Torah and its laws as God's precious gift to Israel (both Jew and non-Jew), as the concrete manifestation of God's goodness and love for His people. The law purifies mankind, ennobles his spirit, and sanctifies his daily life. It gives form to his quest for moral living. Observing God's law is mankind's way of responding to the divine revelatory initiative that imparted that law. The non-Jew should feel the same way but sadly has been taught in error. Far from the negative impressions Christians have of Jewish law, often stemming from the way it was depicted and contrasted with Christian love and grace over the centuries, the observant Jew regards it as a way of life linking him with the divine, a vehicle enabling him to fulfill God's will, and a means for bringing him ever closer to the spiritual realm. Instead of bondage, the law represents true freedom. Rather than a burden, it is the Jew's greatest delight. It should be the same for non-Jews as well!
Judaism is a spiritual and moral system rooted in law, a "covenantal nomism," as E. P. Sanders has described it. And within this "Judaism" we find an Israel of God comprised of both Jews and non-Jews in Covenant with God. As in any legal system, however, the danger exists that man might become so engrossed in obeying the detail and minutiae of the law as to lose perspective of its overall primary purpose. Similarly, he might confuse the means by which he tries to reach God with the transcendent, infinite God himself. The repeated practice of law or ritual can, admittedly, also lead to its trivialization, mechanization, and routinization. Jewish observance of the law has often been denigrated for these and other such reasons and contrasted with Christianity which, it is suggested, supplanted law with love, man's merit with God's grace, and works with faith. But even if such a condition existed it was always the "minority" and not the "majority" who lost their way.
Such pat dichotomies are actually by products of the historic polemic between Judaism and Christianity. In reality, there will always exist a creative tension in both traditions between man's actions and God's grace, between human merit and God's gift of love, between obedience to law and spontaneity, between righteousness through faith and righteousness through works. Indeed, the phenomenon of law is quite evident in Christianity, while that of love is most central in Judaism. Jesus, in the Book of Matthew, for example, clearly states that he did not come to abolish even one iota of the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17- 21). And of course, Jesus' primary command to love one's neighbor as oneself (Matt. 22:37-40) was taken from the Hebrew Bible (Lev. 19:18) and reaffirmed as the quintessence of Judaism by the Talmud later on (B. T., Shab. 31a).
Judaism maintains that the dangers inherent in an ethical legal system that concretizes and directs human emotions toward God are far less threatening than those present in a subjective, open-ended system calling for "love" but not objectifying or systematizing those human emotions into a legal framework. Only when we have defined "absolutes" understood as the highest "love" defined in conducts and behaviors that are legislated through Divine Laws as we find in the Torah and Law of God can we be certain our actions are "love" and not "selfishness" as the issues of the heart can and are only known correctly by God! Such is the great need for Law and its correct understanding and obedience by a true follower of God and Jesus.
For this reason, the rabbis state, "Greater is he who is commanded and observes [the law] than he who is not commanded and observes." Mankind has and will continue to rationalize his actions but only when he adheres to and patterns his life around Divine Mandates and Laws can he be assured that his actions are the highest forms of "love." Additionally, while mankind is called upon to observe the law, he is also obligated to go "beyond the letter of the law" and to observe its "spirit" as well.
Jewish halakhah, or "law," is the code of Jewish religious life applied to daily life. It is similar to the American jurisprudence system in that both base themselves on a core constitution, supplemented by dockets of legal discussion that developed through the years, which interpreted and applied the words of the basic constitution to the varying circumstances of life.
The midrash tells that before giving the Torah to the people of Israel, God first offered it to all of the other nations of the world who invariably asked what was contained in it. When they heard of the many laws that would be required of them should they accept the Torah, they all decided to reject it. But, when God finally offered the Torah to Israel, suggests the midrash, their response was "everything God tells us, we shall do and we shall listen" (Exod. 24:7). The rabbis note that the order should have been reversed-first one listens, then one acts. Rather, the Jewish people (both Jews and non-Jews at Sinai) loved God so dearly and trusted in Him so completely that they were willing to accept His Torah and observe its laws even before learning what that commitment entailed.
At Sinai the Israel had a revelatory experience wherein they encountered a commanding God who unfolded His will for man. That was itself sufficient reason to accept his word unquestioningly. Such is the Jewish love for God's word and commitment to it. Such love should be expressed by Christians as well but is not because of the New Testament and it's false depiction of the Law and Torah of God. The Torah is a tree of life, an eternal heritage to be passed on from generation to generation. It is that which gives depth and meaning to man's life (Deut. 6:1-4). The Torah is God's precious gift to Israel, both Jew and non-Jew, so that she might truly live (Deut. 5:30).
Judaism rests upon the fundamental proposition that Israel and God are eternally linked covenantally.
Deut 29:10-12 10 Ye stand this day all of you before the LORD your God; your captains of your tribes, your elders, and your officers, with all the men of Israel, 11 Your little ones, your wives, and thy stranger that is in thy camp, from the hewer of thy wood unto the drawer of thy water: 12 That thou shouldest enter into covenant with the LORD thy God, and into his oath, which the LORD thy God maketh with thee this day: (KJV)
This berit, or "covenant," is an everlasting one, binding God with all future generations of Israel, as well.
Deut 29:14-15 14 Neither with you only do I make this covenant and this oath; 15 But with him that standeth here with us this day before the LORD our God, and also with him that is not here with us this day: (KJV)
Covenants were commonly made in the ancient Near East. They served as contracts or formal agreements between two parties, usually among kings or between a king and his subjects. The Jews transformed this concept entirely, however, by insisting that "covenants" also represented the modality of the relationship between God and his people, Israel. The specific format of covenantal agreements, such as the need for witnesses (in the biblical scheme, heaven and earth), the means by which they are sealed (e.g., the rainbow or circumcision), as well as the nature of the stipulations of the agreements themselves (e.g., if one party to the agreement acts properly then the other will reward him accordingly), remained essentially the same.
"And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. And I will give to you, and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Gen. 17:7-9).
Abraham, as part of his agreement, promised to believe in God and to act justly and righteously before him (Gen. 17:11). In contrast with the Noahite covenant, the Abrahamic one is particularistic in nature; it applies only to Abraham and his descendants, the Jews.
"See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments. . . then. . . the Lord your God will bless you.. . . But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, I declare to you this day, that you shall perish. . . . I call heaven and earth to witness against you this day, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse; therefore choose life, that you and your descendants may live" (Deut. 30:15-20).
The symbol of the Sinaitic covenant is the Torah, which is also the repository of our knowledge of the content and stipulations of that eternal agreement made between God and Israel.
The Abrahamic-Sinaitic covenantal agreement presumes both God's reaching out to Israel as well as Israel's acceptance of Him. For if Israel is "the chosen" people, she is also "the choosing" people in that she chose to accept God as Lord. Revelation, God's movement toward man, represents only one part of the covenantal foundation. The act of mitzvah (i.e., Israel's commitment to obey God's commandments,) represents the human response to God's revelatory initiative and constitutes the other part to that Covenant agreement. As the prophet Ezekiel described God's relationship with his children, Israel, "You shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Exod. 19:6). They are to be a "light to the nations" (Isa. 42:6), a source of blessing to the world (Gen. 3:2-3).
It is essential to point out that Jewish chosenness does not imply Jewish superiority. God has a special relationship with Israel deriving from Abraham and Sinai, but He remains the God of the universe and of all people. His covenant with the descendants of Noah remains in force:
"You shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine" (Exod. 19:5).
As a result of that special relationship, however, Jews and Israel (non-Jews grafted into Israel) are also called upon to act especially ethically and responsibly. They are to serve as God's witnesses in the world through their testimony and actions which are their response to the Laws and Commandments of God in their respective Covenants. Furthermore, in the end of days this special covenant will be extended to all people (Isa. 2:1-5, 56:1-9). God is Lord of the universe, not just of Israel. He seeks out all His creatures so that they might follow Him and obey His word.
It should also be noted that although one is born into the covenanted Jewish community, Gentiles can enter this particularistic Abrahamic-Sinaitic covenant, too, through conversion.
Jewish chosenness, in other words, does not imply absolute exclusivity. However, Judaism does not proselytize or seek out such conversions since Gentiles are already linked covenantally with God through the Noahite covenant. The Talmud even claims that a Gentile who acts according to the ethics of the Torah is as holy as the high priest (B.T., A.Z. 3a). Thus, a Gentile who abides by the seven Noahite commandments merits salvation and "a place in the world to come" without having to accept Judaism, while Jews are called upon to observe the laws emanating from the Abrahamic-Sinaitic covenant in order to attain that same salvation.
While the covenant is essentially a formalized, legal agreement, the relationship between God and Israel is rooted in love and cannot be reduced to mere legalisms. God so loved Israel that he gave them His Torah, while Israel's love for God was so overwhelming they blindly agreed to follow His law. Jewish tradition often portrayed the covenantal relationship between God and Israel as analogous to the institution of marriage which, likewise, is established through vows and legalities but whose underpinnings are love and commitment. The prophet Hosea described God as saying to Israel,
"I will betroth you to me for ever; I will betroth you to me in righteousness and in justice, in steadfast love, and in mercy. I will betroth you to me in faithfulness; and you shall know the Lord" (Hos. 2:19-20).
Jeremiah, too, affirmed this link of love, "Thus says the Lord. . . 'I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to youµ'" (Jer. 31:2-3).
Daily the Jew affirms in his prayers, "With an everlasting love thou hast loved the House of Israel-thou has taught us Torah, Mitzvot.. . . Blessed are thou, 0 Lord, who lovest thy people, Israel." This prayer is then immediately followed by the shema:
"Hear, 0 Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One. Thou shalt love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your might. . ." (i.e., Deut. 6:4-10).
The links between God and Israel may have indeed been formalized through a covenant that demanded loyalty and commitment from the parties. They remain rooted, however, in a mutually abiding love.
As mentioned earlier, the covenant is an eternal, everlasting pact, binding God with all future generations of Israel, too:
"Nor is it with you only that I make this sworn covenant, but with him who is not here with us this day as well as with him who stands here with us this day before the Lord your God" (Deut. 29:14-15).
The rabbis deduced from this verse that the souls of all Jews who ever lived and who would ever live stood at that moment at Sinai and heard the resounding voice of God speaking to them (see B. T., Shev. 39a).
Preserving the generational links on the chain of Jewish tradition is one of the most powerful driving forces for Jews and a key mandate for their survival. The covenant is not a marginal aspect of the Jews' lives; it is embodied in their very flesh and being. This is symbolized by the rite of circumcision which marks their entrance into the covenant. The Jew and non-Jew renews his commitment to the covenant daily by observing God's mitzvot, and linking himself to the chain of Jewish life and tradition. He reaffirms it constantly through covenantal living. And while God's covenant with Israel can undergo strain and tension, it can never be broken. It is an eternal covenant rooted in mutual love and commitment, and remaining in effect for all times, all generations, and under all conditions. On Sinai, infinity met finitude, God encountered man, and the Divine Revealer entered into a covenant with a willing receiver, Israel. From then on they are bonded together eternally.
"For this commandment[mitzvah] which I command you this day is not too hard for you, neither is it far off. . . . But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it" (Deut. 30:11-14).
"Then he [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient'" (Exod. 24:1).
Israel as well as the non-Jew in the Covenant of Noah responds to God's covenantal love and imparted will through mitzvah. The Hebrew term mitzvah (plural, mitzvot) means much more than just law, commandment, or good deed. By performing an act of mitzvah the Jew and non-Jew attests to the continued vitality and force of their respective covenant as a whole on his life. Their very acceptance of the Lordship of God necessarily involves one's adherence to God's mitzvah, as well. For inherent in mankind's obligation to abide by the word of God is his duty to observe the responsibilities and commitments put forth therein respective of each's unique Covenant with God. The mitzvot are concretized and applied to everyday life situations through the system of halakhah, or Jewish law, literally meaning "the way to walk." Halakhah transforms the sublime concepts of covenant and encounter with God into daily realities by regulating virtually every aspect of both the Jew's and non-Jew's life. God has an abiding love for all His people, Israel and the non-Jew, and because of that love, He gave them Torah and mitzvot. One must not fail to realize that the Sinai Covenant was an elaboration of the prior Covenants of Noah and Abraham which involved at that time only non-Jews. Abraham might have been the father of the Jewish nation but he was a non-Jew.
The mitzvot sanctify the Jew's and non-Jew's life and imbue it with transcendent meaning and content. Daily the Jew prays, "For they [the mitzvot] are our lives and the length of our days and upon them we will meditate day and night." The same should be taught to and observed by the non-Jewish Christians but false teachings and the spirit of anti-Semitism from Rome has robbed the non-Jew of such a grand legacy. The mitzvot are the vehicles by which Israel and those non-Jews "grafted into it" though the Covenant of Noah (and not the Christians who are outside the Covenants of God since they practice a false and replacement religion never sanctioned or given by God) is transformed into a kingdom of priests and a holy nation; these mitzvoth are the divinely ordained tools enabling both Jews and non-Jews to emulate God's ways (imitatio dei) and to become holy - "You shall be holy for I the Lord your God am holy." Through them we become cleansed and purified before our God. As the Jew recites in his weekly Sabbath prayers, "Our God and God of our fathers, sanctify us in thy commandments [mitzvot] and make thy Torah our portion, satisfy us with thy goodness and bring us to rejoice with thy salvation; and purify our hearts so that we might worship thee in truth. . . ." All blessings, therefore, begin with the words, "Blessed are you, 0 Lord our God, King of the universe who has sanctified us with your mitzvot and commanded us to. . ." (the specific mitzvah is mentioned). The mitzvot elevate, sanctify, and ennoble mankind. Indeed, the only reason the Torah was revealed, claim the rabbis, was "for the purpose of purifying human beings" (Gen. Rab. 44). The mitzvot shape the human character, mold his personality, and color his worldview.
The concept of mitzvah is not foreign to man but "is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it" (Deut. 30:14).
In the words of the blessing recited over the public reading of the Torah, "Blessed art thou, O Lord our God, King of the universe who has given us his Torah which is truth and who has planted eternal life within us thereby. Blessed art thou, 0 Lord, giver of the Torah."
On Sinai, Israel, a mixed multitude of Jews and non-Jews, encountered a loving, commanding God who, out of His profound concern for man, revealed His will to him through His Mitzvoth and His Law. Mitzvot provide man with the opportunity to transform his every action into a means of relating with transcendence and ultimacy.
The concept of mitzvah flows logically from the belief in a Supreme Being who loves man and is concerned for his welfare. The mitzvot are God's blueprints of how man ought to lead his life and imbue it with divine purpose and content. They enable man to sanctify life and to advance the dawning of the malkhut shamayim, or "heavenly kingdom," on earth. Man, through his performance of mitzvot, can actually help bring the Messiah! The Jewish mystical tradition, in fact, claims that mitzvot even metaphysically "fix" the world and affect the spiritual composition of the universe as a whole. Man's observance of even the smallest and most trivial mitzvah-when performed with the proper intent and commitment-advances the redemption of the world.
The significance of the concepts of Torah, law, covenant, and mitzvah cannot be overestimated. They constitute the very building blocks of Biblical faith, the fundamentals of Biblical living. They are the means through which God imparts His will to His children, Israel (comprising both Jews and non-Jews who recognize their Covenant with God and not one of their own making that does away with them), and the ways in which Israel responds in love to His beckoning call.
Answer for yourself: After reading this and understanding what you read...that Law is the highest reflection of God's love for His children and man's love for his God....then do you feel now that the Galatians 3 writer was fair in his presentation of the Law as given only because of man's transgressions?