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 The Power of Your Words

How important is it to G-d when you make a promise?  What's the difference to G-d between a promise and a vow you make?  What are the consequences of broken promises?  Rabbi Jim answers these questions in this teaching from Joshua 9:10 given on October 17, 2015.

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Weekly Torah Portion


 November 15 - November 21, 2015  

Kislev 3 - Kislev 9, 5776

Torah  Genesis 28:10-32:2

Haftorah  Hosea 12:12-14:10

B’rith Hadoshah  Matthew 3:13-4:11

(Click the links above to read Passage)


« The Law is abolished! Really? Part 4 | Main | The Law is abolished! Really? Part 2 »

The Law is abolished! Really? Part 3

Some of the Jewish laws that affected Jewish-Gentile relations were those dealing with food, skin diseases, bodily discharges and fungus in the house (Leviticus 11-15). If a Jewish person had any of these conditions, touched anyone with these conditions or entered a “diseased” house, they became unclean and had to go through an expensive one-day or seven-day purification process before they could enter the Temple.

As Gentiles did not follow the same cleanliness and food laws, Jewish people hesitated to interact with Gentiles. One could touch a Gentile who had a skin disease or recent bodily discharge and become unclean. Or a Gentile could offer his Jewish guest unclean food or a chair that the Gentile had sat on and was now unclean. Since a Jewish person never knew whether his host was clean or unclean, every time a Jewish person left a Gentile’s house, he would have to go through the purification process.

As time when on, the rabbis created additional laws as protective “fences” around God’s laws to help ensure that they would not break God’s laws written in the Torah. These became part of the Oral Law, and eventually were written down in the Talmud. While nothing in the Torah said Gentiles themselves were unclean, the Oral Law eventually said Gentile’s homes were ritually unclean (Ohalot 18:7). As a result, Jewish people refused to enter their homes.

If Jewish law made Gentile products and practices unclean, it would have been only human, all too human, for people to have extended the description, ‘unclean,’ to Gentiles themselves,” says David Stern in his Jewish New Testament Commentary” (pg. 259). “Such attitudes would have not been so much taught as caught, absorbed from the total milieu; and the influence of these attitudes would have quickly become pervasive.”

It was these provisions of the Oral Law that brought enmity, or a hatred, between Jews and Gentiles. But God wanted to bring atonement and salvation to the Gentiles too (Romans 1:16, Luke 2:32). His plan all along was to bring it through the Jews (Isaiah 49:6). While he created the cleanliness laws for the Jewish people to protect them, to teach them about sin and holiness, and to set them apart as a holy nation, man added to those laws. And true to man’s sinful nature, the Oral Law became elevated above God’s Law.

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