Friday, July 9, 2021

Who or What Determines Your Worth?


(Originally published April 9, 2015.)

One of the fun things I do is work with couples in planning their weddings. Like many things, I use this as an opportunity to teach, observe, listen and learn about relationships. We are social creatures which means, we need others for our very survival, technology aside. Almost all of our needs -- physical, emotional, psychological -- are met through interaction with others. In Genesis, the first thing identified as not being TOV (Good) is for a human to be alone.

 

I tell each couple that, though marriages may be made in Heaven, the Maintenance needs to be done here on earth! Relationships must be maintained -- especially the one we have with ourselves. There was a recent post on FB with the following quote of Lucille Ball -- "Love yourself first and everything else falls into line." Being that this is an issue I've struggled with myself, I understand it's easier said than done.

 

When I use the term, "Love", I'm not referring to an emotion or a feeling. I'm speaking about "acceptance." Accepting of oneself requires a basic understanding that we, as human beings, have worth. Again, Genesis 1 tells us we are a reflection of the Creator. In truth, we are a bag of mud, mixed with some chemicals and minerals, but it's the "spirit reflection" that makes us unique and binds us all together.

 

Self-Love means we do concrete acts that are required to show that we care about ourselves -- not to the exclusion of others nor striving to improve and grow -- but that we accept ourselves as we are at the present time with all our flaws, warts and mistakes. It is only then that we will truly be able to "love our neighbors as ourselves."

 

We are constantly bombarded with messages that maintain one underlying theme -- self-worthlessness. These messages are the product of professional propaganda creators, aka "spin doctors", who work in the advertising industry. Central to their addictive persuasive message is a subtle appeal: We (reader, hearer or viewer) are seriously inadequate. We drive the wrong car, use the wrong deodorant, wear the wrong clothes, have less than perfect skin, drink the wrong beer and so on. We are bordering on worthless, but this can be cured by buying the "right" products. This is our "unnatural" reality. 

 

Let us stop for a moment and look at our yardstick of self-worth. My Standard of Self -Worth comes from inside me. It is the time-tested values I learned from my parents and from my Jewish tradition – it is the TOV Standard. Whatever I do is matched to thoughts, words and actions which Protect Life, Preserve Life, Make Life More Functional and Improve the Quality of Life. I do not drive the right car, wear the right clothes, have the perfect body, or perfect skin. I absolutely refuse to let someone else determine my worth by their standard.

 

One of the most important lessons I've learned is this -- my self-worth comes from my understanding of the "Spirit Reflection" I was given and how many lives I touch for TOV, for Good, for Life and for Peace. What are you Worth?

 

Choosing Life By Doing TOV!

Rabbi Jeffrey Leynor

 

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Friday, July 2, 2021

Guard Justice: Do Acts of MISHPAT

 


In my email Nations Will Guard the Way of Yahweh With Abraham’s Sons I discussed Genesis 18:19:

 

For I have noticed and observed him,

in order that he may instruct his children and his house after him,

that they guard the way of Yahweh,

to do TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT;

in order that Yahweh may bring upon Abraham

that which He has spoken concerning him.”

 

God chose Abraham because of, and because he will, do this.

 

Abraham will teach his children how to guard the way of Yahweh

by doing acts of TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT (justice).

 

That is the first time the word MISHPAT (justice) appears in the Bible. From this point on, TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT will appear together many times. The “Way of God” requires learning and doing both TZEDAQAH and MISHPAT, not just one. The prophet Jeremiah delivers a very similar message (9:23-24):

 

Thus says Yahweh:

“Do not let the wise man boast in his wisdom,
Do not let not the mighty man boast in his might,
Do not let the rich man boast in his riches;
But let him who boast boast in this,

That he understands and knows Me,
That I am Yahweh doing

CHESED, MISHPAT, TZEDAQAH in the earth.
For in these I take pleasure in,” says Yahweh.

 

MISHPAT is one of the three core values in the Jewish Scriptures. Doing acts of MISHPAT is one of the ways humans imitate God and reveal His image to the world.

 

MISHPAT is a very ancient word, and it is one of those Hebrew words that using one English word to translate it doesn’t accurately reveal its meaning. Two English words, however, lay the foundation for understanding it – judge and govern. MISHPAT is used to describe “a justly ordered society,” which is also one of the foundational values of Judaism. The prophets railed against the absence of MISHPAT in the days of kings who abused their power.[1]

 

The rabbis repeatedly extol the society whose courts insist on justice and whose officials enforce justice to protect human rights. Imperfect justice was preferred to no justice at all. Jews were exhorted to accept the overly harsh laws of the Romans rather than to live under a government without laws.

 

And you have made men as the fishes of the sea,

as the creeping things that have no ruler over them.

(Habakkuk 1:14)

 

Why were people compared to the fishes of the sea?

Because in the case of the fishes of the sea,

the larger one swallows the smaller one;

so, too, in the case of men:

were it not for the fear of government,

the stronger would swallow the weaker.

(Avodah Zarah 46)

 

When a judge renders a decision in accordance with the law of the Torah he is imitating one of God’s attributes -- God is just. Therefore, the judge should not waver in his execution of justice, especially when two litigants come before him.

 

An act of mercy to one party may be an act of injustice to the other.

 

Those who come before the judge are expected to imitate the other attribute of God — His mercy. People are required to go beyond the line of strict justice and to live in accordance with those greater ideals that the court cannot enforceCHESED and TZEDAQAH.

 

In his relations with his fellow man,

a person should be guided by compassion and trust

rather than by the literalness of justice.

 

Exodus 21:1-24:8 is called “Mishpatim” and it lays down basic civil law, including rules of damages, torts and ethical obligations to help the needy, and includes agricultural laws and rules about festivals. It represents the transition from the Tribes of Israel into the Nation of Israel in the Jewish Scriptures.  

 

Today, mishpat is the modern Hebrew word for law. A mishpatan is a lawyer. The Israeli civil courts are called batei mishpat lshalom – “courts for making peace between people.” Mishpat Ivri is the name for those areas of traditional Jewish law that can be applied to the areas usually covered by secular legal systems. Mishpat Ivri has standing in Israeli courts today.[2]

 

CHESED, TZEDAQAH and MISPHAT are the pillars of the message and movement of the Jewish Jesus. They are primary belief models and core values of our Biblical Heritages. I will discuss CHESED in the next email.

 

Choosing Lives 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

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[2] The Language of Judaism by Simon Glustrom © 1988; Jason Aronson, Inc. Northvale, NJ; p. 399.

 


Thursday, June 24, 2021

The Greatest Commandment in the Bible

 


My previous email was about “Laying Up Treasures With God.” Jesus ended the parable with these words:

 

No one can serve two masters;

for either he will hate one and love the other,

or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

 

This is written in a form called a “parallelism,” which Jesus used to highlight specific points. The following words are highlighted -- “love // loyal” and “hate // despise.” They are sandwiched between “serve and serve.”

 

Those who serve God, love God and are loyal to God.

 

Those who serve mammon, hate and despise God.

 

The Hebrew word “AHAVAH” is translated “love.” In Hebrew, “to love is to give.” This brings us to one of the most important teachings of Jesus. It is found in Matthew 22:34-40.

_______________________________________

 

Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together.  One of them, an expert in the Torah, tested him with this question: 

 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Torah?”

 

Jesus replied: 

 

“‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

_______________________________________

 

The answer Jesus gave as the first and greatest commandment is found in Deuteronomy 6:4-5:

 

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one!

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,

with all your soul, and with all your strength.

 

Instead of stopping there, Jesus connected another commandment to it, which is found in Leviticus 19:17-18.

 

You shall not hate your brother in your heart.

You shall surely correct your neighbor,

and not bear sin because of him.

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge

against the children of your people,

but you shall love your neighbor as yourself:

I am the Lord.

 

His Jewish audience knew the full contexts in which both commandments are found. They were, and still are, two of the most important commandments in Judaism. The point Jesus made was this:

 

The only way you can love God is to give to your neighbor as yourself.

 

In order to understand the last point Jesus made, one must be familiar with the Hebrew Scriptures and language.

 

All the Torah and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.

 

The Torah and the Prophets are two sections of the Jewish Scriptures and Hebrew letters “hang from a line” (see graphic above). English letters sit on a line. The point is, if the line is taken away nothing will be supporting them. The line is the foundation that is required for the words to exist.

 

Loving God and loving people

are the foundation that supports all Scriptures.”

 

God’s vision for all people is that they experience SHALOM -- “a social environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.”

 

God blessed and empowered people to make His vision a reality!

 

Bookmark our Bible Study Vocabulary Page.

 

Choose Lives 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

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Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Another Salvation Parable by Jesus

 


This salvation parable is found in Matthew 6:19-24. Below is the first part of the parable.

 

Do not store up treasures for yourselves upon earth,

where moths and rust consume,

and where thieves break through and steal.

 

Store up treasures for yourselves in Heaven,

where neither moths nor rust consume,

and where thieves do not break through nor steal.

 

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

 

This parable is about storing up treasures for yourself. This is about your treasures. That makes it personal! There are only two options you have for storing your treasures. For those of us with Christian biblical heritages, we assume earth and heaven are two places – one is we where we live now and the other is where we will spend eternity. But, that was not what Jesus had in mind.

 

His Jewish audience knew exactly what “Heaven” meant. It is a euphemism for the “unspoken name of God,” “YHVH.” Jewish people used euphemisms to “avoid profaning the name of God.” Jesus was referring to God -- not a place. This is what his Jewish audience heard – “You can store your treasures on earth or with God!

 

Very few people view this parable as a “salvation parable.” But it is important to remember Jesus was an expert teacher of the Jewish Scriptures (Old Testament) and that almost everything he taught was a commentary on specific Jewish Scriptures. Once we identify that Scripture, we will understand this parable. It is Malachi 3:16b-4:1.

 

And a Book of Remembrance was written before Yahweh

for those who stand in awe of Yahweh and who value His name.

 

They shall be Mine,” says Yahweh of hosts.

“On the day I make up My treasure, I will have compassion on them

as a man has compassion on his own son who serves him.”


And you shall return and see the difference

between the innocent and the guilty,

between one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.

 

“For behold, the day is coming, burning like a fire-pot;

and all the arrogant and everyone doing wickedness will be stubble.

And on the day which is coming, I will set them ablaze,” says Yahweh of hosts,

“and will not leave them a root or branches.”

 

On that day, “the treasures you laid up with God” will be “the only thing protecting you from being set ablaze by God!” Now you know what the audience knew as they listened to Jesus teach. It is clear that by this time, he had the audience’s attention! So, what kind of treasures does God want? Now let’s continue with the parable in Matthew.

 

The lamp of the body is the eye.

If therefore you have a good eye,

your whole body will be full of light.

But if you have an evil eye,

your whole body will be full of darkness.

If therefore the light that is in you is darkness,

how great is that darkness!

 

Good eye” and “evil eye” are idioms and their words cannot be taken literally.  This is an English idiom -- “You really put your foot in your mouth this time!” If its words were taken literally, someone would have actually put their own foot in their mouth. But most Americans know that it means – “you said or did something that you should not have said or done.”

 

The way we discover the meanings of idioms Jesus used is find verses in the Jewish Scriptures in which they appear. “Good eye” is found in Proverbs 22:9.

 

He that has a good eye shall be blessed;

for he gives his bread to the poor.

 

The person with a “good eye” is the one that “gave bread to the poor.” “Evil eye” is found in Deuteronomy 15:9:

 

"Beware that there be not a thought in your wicked heart, saying,

`The seventh year, the year of release, is at hand; and you have an

evil eye against your poor brother, and you give him nothing;

and he cries unto Yahweh against you, and it be sin unto you.’"

 

The person with a “evil eye” is the one “who gave his poor brother nothing.” I bet some of you recognized that this parable teaches the same lessons the Parable of the Great Day of Judgment Jesus taught in Matthew 25:31-46. If you have already started building a Jewish Jesus vocabulary (click here to see) you already know this:

 

The person with a “good eye” did “acts of TZEDAQAH.”

The person with an “evil eye” did “acts of RAH.”

 

Now let’s see how Jesus ends the parable in Matthew:

 

No one can serve two masters;

for either he will hate one and love the other,

or else he will be loyal to one and despise the other.

You cannot serve God and mammon.

 

Now we know what Malachi meant by “one who serves God and one who does not serve Him.” The only “treasures” people can layup with God are “acts of TZEDAQAH.” This is the core message Jesus repeated throughout his teachings:

 

Do acts of TZEDAQAH and be the Kingdom of God!

 

Choosing Lives 1st by Doing TOV,

Jim Myers

 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

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Saturday, June 19, 2021

Salvation and Eternal Life According to the Jewish Jesus

 


When I became a minister, everything I preached had one purpose – save unbelievers! I believed we (all Christians) had been commissioned by Jesus to do this – “Go into all the world and preach the Gospel to everyone!

 

Saved people go to Heaven and unbelievers go to Hell!

 

That was the message we took to the world. It was not just a belief system – it was our reality. We believed there were only two kinds of humans -- believers and unbelievers. It was as simple as that! Now let’s see what Jesus said about salvation.

 

The Great Day of Judgment

Matthew 25:31-46

 

31 When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

 

Be sure to note that all the nations of the earth are being judged and everyone is standing with members of their own nation. Everyone with be placed in either the group on the right or the group on the left. Now pay close attention to the criteria that determined in which group people were placed.

 

34 Then the King will say to those on his right: “Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

 

Did you recognize that the things the people did were acts of TZEDAQAH (tze-doc-kah)? They were acts that protected lives, preserved lives, made lives more functional and restored the SHALOM of the community. What Jesus said next confirms that conclusion.

 

37 Then those who did acts of TZEDAQAH will ask him: “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? 38 When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? 39 When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?”

 

They had no doubt they would done those things, but they didn’t remember him.

 

40 The King will reply: “Amen! Let me explain! Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me!”

 

This was a reference to “all humans being part of the Creator’s family” in Genesis 1. Every member was made in “image of God.” His vision for all members of His family is that they experience life in a SHALOM communityan environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.

 

41 Then the King will say to those on his left: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the adversary and his messengers. 42 For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, 43 I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.”

 

44 They also asked: “Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?”

 

45 The King will reply: “Amen! Let me explain! Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.”

 

46 Then those who did not do acts of TZEDAQAH will go away to eternal punishment, but those who did acts of TZEDAQAH will go to eternal life.

 

Who will be saved? Those who did acts of TZEDAQAH will be saved!  That is the only answer Jesus gave. But, be sure to remember, this is a parable teaching wisdom, not a commandment or a law. Jesus was teaching people how to walk with God in this life.

 

Chances are good that you now realize your beliefs about salvation didn’t come from Jesus. I had the same experience. It changed my beliefs about what my future would be like, what God wanted me to do, and what Jesus wanted me to do. It also changed my salvation message to this -- Choose Life 1st by Doing Things that are Good (TOV)!

 

May your SHALOM increase,

Jim Myers

 

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Thursday, June 17, 2021

Words that Transform Our Understanding of Jesus and His Movement

 


The Jesus Movement” was the original group of Jews that followed Yeshua, the Jewish Jesus of history, in the early first century CE. His movement can only be understood through the meanings of a handful of Hebrew words that were the foundation of his message. Once the Greek translations of the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke began to circulate among Gentile churches, the message of Jesus changed.

 

In my previous email I discussed three things people who participate in our Bible studies bring to the meeting with them -- beliefs about the Bible, an English vocabulary, and life experiences. People reading the Greek Gospels brought with them -- beliefs about the Gospels, a Greek vocabulary, and life experiences from a variety of Gentile cultures. For over 1,800 years Christians did not have access to the Hebrew message of Jesus.

 

Science changed everything, beginning with archaeology. At the end of the 19th century CE, there were only about 20 ancient Greek manuscripts of books in the New Testament. Today, as the result of the work of archaeologists, we have access to over 6,000 Greek manuscripts. Science-based linguistic models were not part of the translating process before the 20th century. Until then, authority of religious institutions determined how words were translated. Reconstructing the Hebrew words behind the Greek words was unknow to church members until the late 20th century – and with that many things began to change.

 

There are a few Hebrew words that cannot be translated by using one English word. The way to solve this problem is to use transliterations of those Hebrew words and memorize their definitions. Add those transliterations to your vocabulary. Doing this with three key Hebrew words Jesus used many times in his teachings will transform your vision of him and his movement. Today I demonstrate the impact three words can have on a Bible study. Our study today focusing on three blessings in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5).

 

1. SHALOMA social environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.

 

2. TOV (toe-v) – Acts that protect lives, preserve lives, make lives more functional, and increase the quality of life.

 

3. TZEDAQAH (tzeh-doc-kah) – Acts that are TOV and restore the SHALOM of a community by eliminating things that are breaking the SHALOM.

 

If I left out the transliterations in the definition of TZEDAQAH and included their meanings, this is how I would have to translate it!

_________________________________

 

“Acts that protect lives, preserve lives, make lives more functional, and increase the quality of life; restore the social environment in which lives are complete, healthy, wholesome; relationships are harmonious and mutually beneficial; homes are safe; places are secure and restful; members are loyal and committed to each other and the community.

 

Acts that eliminate things that make lives incomplete, unhealthy, unwholesome; things that create conflicts in relationships and benefit only one person at the expense of the others; make homes unsafe; make places insecure and chaotic; cause members to be unfaithful and uncommitted to each other and the community.”

_________________________________

 

When Jesus said “TZEDAQAH;” he meant all of those things! So, what English word do we find in our Bibles instead of TZEDAQAH? It is the translation of a Greek word that is translated either “righteous or “righteousness.” Do those words mean what Jesus taught? Apply the information about to the blessings Jesus opened the Sermon on the Mount with.

 

5:6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for acts of TZEDAQAH.
They shall be filled.

 

What are those people thirsting for? Read the long definition of TZEDAQAH above. The people blessed here are not only “hungry and thirsty for food and water;” they are hungering and thirsty “for the people doing acts of TZEDAQAH to come forward.” They are the poor and oppressed, but they were also Jews who knew about TZEDAQAH and SHALOM. This blessing was a promise from Jesus to them and a call to action for his followers.

 

5:10 Blessed are those who pursue opportunities to do acts of TZEDAQAH.
They are the Kingdom of God.

 

This blessing sums up what Jesus and his movement were about. His vision was masses of people bursting forth and becoming actively engaged in pursuing opportunities to do acts of TZEDAQAH. Wow! What a powerful vision!

 

5:9 Blessed are the SHALOM Makers,
They shall be called Sons of God.

                                                                                                           

SHALOM Makers are actively engaged in guarding and restoring the SHALOM of the community. This is a team effort! Now, take another look at the blessings, and then consider the answers for the questions below:

 

1. Do they describe what Christians what are taught to do today?

 

2. What would societies be like if groups of people were constantly engaged in doing those things?

 

My next email will be about what Jesus taught about salvation and the afterlife.

 

May you increase SHALOM,

Jim Myers 

Helping People Examine Their Beliefs

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