Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Holiness

During societal injustice, is Believer silence violence?

Photo by Jessica Felicio on Unsplash

What does it mean to be holy? Does being holy mean staring into the sun whilst sitting cross-legged? Does being holy mean wearing all white clothing? Does being holy mean retiring profanity and derogatory colloquialisms, from our everyday speech? Does being holy mean engaging in asceticism?

Does being holy mean using VidAngel, or watching Pureflix in exclusivity? Does being holy involve posting Bible info-graphics and Scriptural memes on the socials, for the world to see? Does being holy mean that I must engage in acts of altruism? Does being holy mean that I have to be extraordinarily nice to everyone I meet, even if their worldview is diametrically opposed to my own? Does being holy mean being blissfully oblivious to episodes of police brutality?

Does being holy mean I stay silent during societal injustices?

Let’s define what true holiness is, and subsequently examine The Rabbi who is the quintessential example of holiness. To the Torah!

It is to be a tsitsit for you to look at and thereby remember all of Adonai’s [commandments] and obey them, so that you won’t go around wherever your own heart and eyes lead you to prostitute yourselves: but it will help you remember and obey all My [commandments] and be holy for your God. (Numbers 15:39–40, CJB)

Yahweh spoke these words to Mosheh, who later put Yah’s Laws in codified form. Yah says we become holy when we obey all of His Commandments, which are perennially enshrined in His Torah.

Notice also what Shaul says:

(I am using popular language because your human nature is so weak.) For just as you used to offer your various parts as slaves to impurity and lawlessness, which led to more lawlessness; so now offer your various parts as slaves to righteousness, which leads to being made holy, set apart for God.
(Romans 6:19, CJB)

The antithesis of being a slave to impurity and lawlessness, is being a slave to purity and law-abiding. Righteousness is defined as practicing Torah, per Debarim (Deuteronomy) 6:25 and Yeshayah (Isaiah)48:18, respectively.

Rabbi Yahshua is holiness personified. He is The Word made flesh. The Living Torah. While we face the two pandemics of Covid-19 and racism concurrently, As one of his students, I wanted to see my Rabbi’s commentary on the latter. Okay, I’ll be honest. I couldn’t find a verse that says: “Thou shall not be racist.” However, while the following Bible passages that I will submit may not address racism in a super explicit manner, I believe they will help us, tremendously.

Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue. A man there had a shriveled hand. Looking for a reason to accuse him of something they asked him, “Is healing permitted on Shabbat?” But he answered, “If you have a sheep that falls into a pit on Shabbat, which of you won’t take hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore, what is permitted on Shabbat is to do good. (Matthew/Mattityah 12:9, CJB)

Let’s engage this verse one line at a time, no? So, my Rabbi Yahshua went into their synagogue. This was a custom of my Rabbi, because he was a Jew like me. Yet, I want to highlight that our Lord and Savior takes care to meet broken people where they are. There was a man with a shriveled hand. Was this divine coincidence? Was he a first time visitor to this synagogue? Did this man with the shriveled hand habitually attend this particular synagogue every Shabbat? Or did he just hear about the fame of Rabbi Yahshua, and sojourned to that specific synagogue? I don’t know; yet I do know that Rabbi Yahshua saw this man and his malady.

My Rabbi ensured that this man and his malady, was not rendered invisible.

Is healing permitted on Shabbat? Depends on who you ask, no? According to the synagogue leader in Luke 13:14, curing people on Shabbat was a big no-no. My Rabbi however, has a different answer. The best answer. If you had a sheep, that fell into a pit, on Shabbat, what would you do? Would you say, “I’ll let the sheep stay in the pit. Helping the sheep out of the pit would be too inconvenient. Too time consuming. Too laborious. After all, it’s a holy day. All sheep matter.”

My Rabbi asked which of the congregants in the synagogue would not take hold of the sheep, and lift it out of the pit. How much more valuable is a man, a human being, made in the image of Yahweh, than a sheep? You know, I wonder if more Believers would have been more vocal, if the police officer had his knee on the neck of a puppy, for 8 minutes and 46 seconds? Chalilah! Heaven forbid! May that hypothetical scenario not ever materialize.

My Rabbi says that it is lawful to do good on Shabbat. It’s lawful to heal on Shabbat. It’s lawful to experience healing on Shabbat. It’s lawful to see a human being, acknowledge their plight, and heal them, on Shabbat.

[Yahshua] went again into a synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse him of something, people watched him carefully to see if he would heal him on Shabbat. He said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Come up where we can see you!” Then to them he said, “What is permitted on Shabbat? Doing good or doing evil? Saving life or killing?” But they said nothing. Then, looking at them over and feeling both anger with them and sympathy for them at the stoniness of their hearts, he said to the man, “Hold out your hand.” As he held it out, it became restored.” (Mark 3:1–5, CJB)

They. Said. Nothing. Silence perpetuated the problem. Their “holy” silence didn’t bring about any healing. Rabbi Yahshua felt both anger and sympathy for them, due to the stoniness of their heart. I too, have felt a rainbow of emotions these past weeks. More than anything, I have been wonder-struck, at the silence of some Believers in The Body of Messiah. Concurrently, I ask myself: “Yoel, what would you want them to say? Would you want them to eulogize Ahmaud Arbery? Breonna Taylor? George Floyd?

I love how my Rabbi brings the man with the shriveled hand into plain sight, where everyone can see him. Perhaps all congregants saw him on previous Sabbaths. Maybe they saw his shriveled hand and decided to social distance giving him six feet. Maybe some saw his hand and were apathetic. Maybe some didn’t want to entertain thoughts of healing on Shabbat, since they were beholden to Pharisaical traditions. I think with this pandemic going on, (coercing people to self-quarantine) the virus of racism came front and center, where everyone could see it and its deadly effects.

But he, wanting to justify himself, said to [Rabbi Yahshua], “And who is my neighbor?” Taking up the question, [Rabbi Yahshua] said: “ A man was going down from Yerushalayim to Yericho when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him naked and beat him up, then went off, leaving him half dead. By coincidence, a cohen was going down on that road; but when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. Likewise a Levi who reached the place and saw him also passed by on the other side. But a man from Shomron who was traveling came upon him, put oil and wine on his wounds and bandaged them. Then he set him on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day, he took out two days’ wages, gave them to the innkeeper and said, ‘Look after him; and if you spend more than than this, I’ll pay you back when I return.’ Of these three, which one seems to you to have become the ‘neighbor’ of the man who fell among robbers?” He answered, “The one who showed mercy toward him.” [Rabbi Yahshua] said to him, “You go and do as he did.” (Luke/Elior 10:29–37, CJB)

The cohen and the Levi, two parties that are zealous for Torah! Yet, they both passed by. Yet the Samaritan man didn’t say: “He must be a crisis actor. He’s fully committed to the role, however.He even stripped himself naked. Wow. He must of went to the Hebrew University School of Theater. Maybe he was doing drugs or under the influence.” He simply showed mercy.

Believers, are we showing mercy to those who are proponents of the BLM movement?

My plea with The Body of Messiah, is for us to show more mercy. Even if it’s time consuming. Even if it’s inconvenient. Even if it’s laborious. Maybe we don’t need allies. Maybe we need more Believers, who are willing to become the neighbor. I leave us with the following questions: Would you have been a neighbor to Ahmaud Arbery? Would you have been a neighbor to Breonna Taylor? Would you have been a neighbor to George Floyd?

Why did I write this? Do I want Believers of Israelite and non-Israelite descent alike, to join the BLM movement in droves? Do I want white Believers to apologize for their whiteness? Do I want Believers to argue ad infinitum about which political party will fix racism? Do I want us as Believers to silently ignore a demographic of The Body that may be hurting?

No. I want the exact same thing our Lord and Savior, Rabbi Yahshua wants.

I pray not only for these, but also for those who will trust in me because of their word, that they may all be one. Just as You, Father, are united with me and I with You, I pray that they may be united with us, so that the world may believe that You sent me. (John/Yochanan 17:20–21, CJB)

So Believers in Messiah, let’s spur each other to transform into better ambassadors of Yah’s Kingdom. We hold these truths in Yah’s Torah to be axiomatic. Self-evident, that all men and women. Boys and girls. Old and young. Are equally created in the image of The Creator. The God of Abraham, Isaac, Israel. That Israelites and Gentiles are endowed by our Creator, with certain unalienable rights. That among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of holiness.

Lover of Yahweh. Disciple of Rabbi Yahshua The Messiah. Israelite man. Reader of The Hebrew Bible. Writer.

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