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Shemot/Exodus 21:1 These are the rulings that you are to present to them (CJB)
In the Talmud (Eruvin 54b) the Sages debate the meaning of the word . While its possible meanings start from to put, set or place, they extend to establish, stand erect or appoint. But the Sages go further and suggest that here it means teach: G-d was telling Moshe to teach His rulings/judgements to the people. The Sages add that it is not be rote learning, just so that the words can be repeated, but learned with understanding so that they can be applied. The analogy is made between raw and cooked food: if the food is raw then it is unpalatable and difficult to digest, whereas properly cooked, it is not only pleasant to eat but can be easily digested and used by the body.
The prophet Jeremiah talks about the new covenant that G-d is to make with the house of Isra'el and the house of Y'hudah, "For this is the covenant I will make with the house of Isra'el after those days ... I will put My Torah within them and write it on their hearts" (Jeremiah 31:32, CJB). At that time, G-d is saying, the nature of the covenant will change so that instead of being an external thing, learned and explained, the Torah will be inside our hearts. "No longer will any of them teach his fellow community member or his brother, 'Know Adonai'; for all will know Me, from the least of them to the greatest" (Jeremiah 31:33, CJB). We will not need a teacher like Moshe, for each of us will know G-d personally.
Rav Sha'ul picks up the same theme, "you are a letter ... written not with ink but by the Spirit of the Living G-d, not on stone tablets but on human hearts" (2 Cor 3:3, CJB), when he tells the believers at Corinth that they and their lives are much more than ink on stone - an external representation - they they are the embodiment of Jeremiah's prophecy. He goes on to describe the new covenant, "the essence of which is not a written text but the Spirit. For the written text brings death, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 2:6, CJB). Is he saying that the Torah brings death? No, the Torah brings life; it is the medium and our attitude to it that causes the problem! Torah is for living, not for beating up others. When we see it as a set of fixed rules to be meticulously obeyed to win G-d's favour, rather than a worked example of how believers live holy lives, truly 'in the Spirit', then we kill our relationship with G-d because we become focused on our observance of the Torah rather than Him.
This is why Yeshua said, "The time is coming ... when the true worshippers will worship the Father spiritually and truly" (John 4:23, CJB). Yeshua is not condemning the sacrificial system itself, for that was ordained by G-d in the Torah; He is lifting the focus from legalistic mechanical rule-keeping to seeing that the things we do are to worship G-d and must be done in the Ruach HaKodesh.
Further Study: Isaiah 12:2-4; John 4:13-24
Application: It is easy to slip into mechanical learning and study so that we become focussed on the acquisition of knowledge and techniques rather that using them as guides to a personal relationship with G-d. Ask G-d today where the focus of your spiritual eyes is.
© Jonathan Allen, 2004
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