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Offline Icy  
#1 Posted : Friday, June 20, 2008 3:23:22 AM(UTC)
Icy
Joined: 9/5/2007(UTC)
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I wasn't sure where to put this, as it is a small article talking about Shavout, but stresses the importance of the Torah, while pointing out how following tradition instead of the Torah is a mistake. This came from the Karaite newsletter, while they are wrong on some things, they do try to follow the Torah, and I thought some of you might like to read this two part article.

Quote:
Shavuot Customs

I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy Shavuot this coming Sunday June 15, the fiftieth day from the morrow after the Sabbath. (They reckon the time a bit different) As is well known, our Rabbanite brothers observed Shavuot six days early, at the beginning of this week. It so happens that I was invited to participate in a festive meal at the home of some Rabbanite friends observing the holiday on their day. A very interesting thing happened at the meal that I thought I would share.

Most Rabbanite festive meals consist of meat, which is usually beef, chicken, or turkey. However, on Shavuot there is a long-standing rabbinical custom of eating an all-dairy meal without any meat. Of course, Karaites interpret the commandment, "do not boil a kid in its mother's milk" to mean just that, and hence we do not separate meat and milk. As a Karaite, the concept of an all-dairy meal struck me as odd. As I was enjoying some cheese blintzes at the home of my Rabbanite hosts, I began to wonder where this custom came from and why specifically it was observed on Shavuot. I asked those present at the meal and one of the guests offered the following explanation:

"The Torah was given on Shabbat and this included the laws of slaughtering. As soon as the commandment was given, the Israelites needed to dispose of all their meat and slaughter new animals. Because it is forbidden to slaughter an animal on Shabbat, they were forced to eat dairy. Ever since, on the anniversary of this event – Shavuot - we commemorate it by eating dairy."

There are so many things wrong with this explanation I hardly know where to begin. Nowhere does it say that the Torah was given on Shavuot. We are told in Ex 19:1 that the Revelation at Sinai took place in the 3rd biblical month but we do not know when during this month. In the Tanach, Shavuot is the Feast of Harvest and the Day of First-fruits but nowhere is it connected to the giving of the Torah. Secondly, the only thing the Almighty revealed before the entire nation of Israel at Sinai was the Ten Commandments, not the entire Torah and certainly not the laws of slaughtering. The commandments of the Torah were gradually given over a period of forty years, not on a single day at Sinai. Every time we read in the Torah "And Yehovah (sic) spoke to Moses saying" this constituted a separate revelation at a separate time. As Moses received the commandments he taught them to the Israelites and only completed writing them down just before he died, as stated explicitly in Dt 31:24. Thirdly, whatever requirements there are for slaughtering, they must have been known before the Revelation at Sinai. In Ex 12 we are told that the Israelites slaughtered the first Passover lambs in Egypt and this was at least a month and a half before the Revelation at Sinai. Furthermore, Noah slaughtered sacrifices which were accepted by the Almighty and hence he must have known how to properly slaughter animals over a thousand years before Sinai. Finally, nowhere does it say that the Revelation at Sinai took place on a Shabbat. This is just wild speculation.

Before I could share this information with my Rabbanite friends, another guest pointed out that the above reason for eating dairy on Shavuot could not possibly be correct. Apparently the original Rabbanite custom was to eat a dairy dish immediately followed by a meat dish. Since the original custom entailed eating meat, the explanation that the Israelites ate dairy because they were forced to discard their meat on Shabbat could not be the source of the custom. So what is the real source of the custom? My host, a very learned Rabbi, admitted that he did not know and no one offered an alternative explanation. I was really amazed being surrounded by all these knowledgeable people who between them possessed more than a hundred years of formal rabbinical education. Yet no one knew the real reason for such a famous and popular custom. Finally my host went over to his bookshelf, pulled out a Shulchan Aruch, and began to look up the answer. The Shulchan Aruch is a definitive guide to modern rabbinical living and whatever answer it gives is reckoned as the gospel truth. The Shulchan Aruch explained that the custom is to "eat a dairy dish and afterwards to eat a meat dish" in commemoration of the two loaves of bread offered in the Temple from the first-fruits of the wheat harvest (Lev 23:17).

One of the commentators on the Shulchan Aruch added that another custom is to eat dairy and honey since the Torah is supposedly likened to dairy and honey in Song of Songs 4:11. I have to admit this last custom is a beautiful concept. Even if the Torah is not really likened to dairy and honey (the verse actually speaks about King Solomon's lover), these two foods represent the blessing of the Land of Israel which is called "a land flowing with milk and honey" (Ex 3:8). The Torah itself is likened to food and drink (Prov 9:5). I think this coming Shavuot I'll observe the custom of eating dairy and honey when I go to the Western Wall for my thrice-annual pilgrimage (Ex 23:14-17). After my long walk from the west-side of Jerusalem I'll sit in the shade of the remains of the Second Temple and pull out a cheeseburger (made from Kosher meat and Kosher cheese, of course) with a smear of honey and think about the blessing of the Torah and the Land of Israel.


More on Shavuot Customs

For those of you who asked, my Shavuot cheeseburger was very enjoyable and the honey really added a nice touch. In the previous newsletter I mentioned being among my Rabbanite friends who despite having over a hundred years of formal rabbinical education between them did not know the real reason for the custom of eating dairy on Shavuot. My purpose for mentioning this was not to cast aspersions on their achievements within the rabbinical educational system. On the contrary, they learned the system very well. When I pointed out that not one of them knew the real reason for such a well-known and prominent custom they unanimously agreed that the reason was unimportant. One of those present, the former gabbai (beadle) of a Jerusalem synagogue, remarked: "There are many customs that we live by on a daily basis but that we do not know the reason for nor is the reason important."

I do not think I fully realized the significance of this statement until yesterday when I was waiting in a doctor's office where I sat reading an ultra-Orthodox Jewish magazine. The magazine contained an article on Shavuot by a woman named Anne Gordon (no relation) who teaches at a seminary in the Old City of Jerusalem. In the article Ms. Gordon explained what she believed to be the true significance of Shavuot from a purely rabbinical perspective. She pointed out that there are many Torah commandments related to Passover but very few related to Shavuot. What Shavuot lacks in commandments it makes up for in minhag – man-made customs developed over the generations which have become obligatory over time. Eating dairy on Shavuot is a prime example of such a man-made custom. In the view of Ms. Gordon, Shavuot is all about "going beyond" the Torah by showing our loyalty to these man-made customs. Indeed, the very nature of Shavuot as understood by the rabbis is an example of this "going beyond" the Torah. In the Torah, Shavuot is a pilgrimage-festival thanking the Almighty for the bounty of the wheat harvest and the first-fruits of our crops. Anyone who thinks these things are no longer relevant in the modern world should consider all the food riots that have taken place around the world over the last year, and this due to nothing more than minor fluctuations in levels of rice and corn production. Apparently not satisfied with the agricultural character of Shavuot, the Rabbis have transformed it into a festival commemorating the giving of the Torah, something which has no basis in Scripture. How ironic that the giving of the Torah is celebrated by "going beyond" the Torah! I think it is time we shed the baggage of two thousand years of Exile and return to the true Torah! Rather than showing our loyalty to man-made customs we must show our loyalty to the word of the living God! The prophet Isaiah spoke well about this generation, which follows in the footsteps of its ancestors:

"that people has approached Me with its mouth and honored Me with its lips, but has kept its heart far from Me, and its worship of Me has been a commandment of men, learned by rote" (Isa 29:13)

Nehemia Gordon
Jerusalem, Israel
Offline bitnet  
#2 Posted : Saturday, June 21, 2008 2:11:13 AM(UTC)
bitnet
Joined: 7/3/2007(UTC)
Posts: 1,120

Shabbat Shalom,

When it comes to traditions I am of the opinion that much of it really does not matter when it comes to Salvation. That said, I also recall that the Yisraelites were led out of Egypt and given a new lease of life with new laws and essential traditions. If traditions that do not contradict His laws are practiced, and bring us closer to Him, then it is hard to find fault in them. For instance, if I start a tradition that every three months a group of us meet at Starbucks for a coffee and then proceed to go to a corner for Scripture discussion, there is nothing wrong (unless we buzz ourselves by drinking too much coffee). But if we decided that we must meet at Starbucks or else our Salvation will be at stake then the tradition takes on a twist that is wrong. The Yisraelites also wanted to worship Yahweh according to their past traditions in Egypt and brought forth a golden bull. This angered Yahweh for it was clearly against what He had warned against.

Anyway, over the past millenia much of what was taught had been lost and certain practices have been continued for all the wrong reasons in a quest to understand the Creator. I can imagine if in the future people started to say that in order to understand the Creator, they must meet at Starbucks and have double espressos and lattes while reading the Scriptures. "Ye shall have no cappuccinos nor tea of herb, and if ye do then you are to make atonement with triple lattes and cake of the day." Now ain't that a buzz...
The reverence of Yahweh is the beginning of Wisdom.
Offline kp  
#3 Posted : Saturday, June 21, 2008 10:53:32 AM(UTC)
kp
Joined: 6/28/2007(UTC)
Posts: 1,030
Location: Palmyra, VA

Folks who think they're keeping the Torah today by observing it as a set of rules are missing its entire point. When I drive from the city of Charlottesville toward my home in the "sticks," there's a sign along the way: "Palmyra---18 miles." It's as if they start out toward Palmyra, but stop moving when they see the sign. They wonder about the significance of the number 18. That's 9x2, and it's also made of a 1 and an 8, which are 2 numbers which add up to 9---and all that must mean something wonderful. They contemplate the concept of a mile, wondering if it might be a code word for some penance they must perform in order to reach their destination. The analyze the sign, and discover that it's a piece of metal with paint on it, hung on a wooden post, also with paint on it, and they decide that maybe the paint must be significant. Then they discover that a wise man once stopped near the sign to walk his dog, so they have tradition to consider. In the end, they just sit patiently at the foot of the sign, waiting for something to happen, and wondering why they've never found ken's house.

The Torah is a sign. It's not the destination, only directions for the journey. If we act on its symbols (the 18 means 18, a mile is defined as 5,280 feet, and the direction it's pointing is eastward) we will eventually reach our destination. But if we turn the sign into a religious relic, all forward progress will stop. We shouldn't ignore the sign, for it imparts invaluable information. But we shouldn't worship it either.

kp
Offline Robskiwarrior  
#4 Posted : Saturday, June 21, 2008 1:24:59 PM(UTC)
Robskiwarrior
Joined: 7/4/2007(UTC)
Posts: 1,470
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Location: England

kp wrote:
Folks who think they're keeping the Torah today by observing it as a set of rules are missing its entire point. When I drive from the city of Charlottesville toward my home in the "sticks," there's a sign along the way: "Palmyra---18 miles." It's as if they start out toward Palmyra, but stop moving when they see the sign. They wonder about the significance of the number 18. That's 9x2, and it's also made of a 1 and an 8, which are 2 numbers which add up to 9---and all that must mean something wonderful. They contemplate the concept of a mile, wondering if it might be a code word for some penance they must perform in order to reach their destination. The analyze the sign, and discover that it's a piece of metal with paint on it, hung on a wooden post, also with paint on it, and they decide that maybe the paint must be significant. Then they discover that a wise man once stopped near the sign to walk his dog, so they have tradition to consider. In the end, they just sit patiently at the foot of the sign, waiting for something to happen, and wondering why they've never found ken's house.

The Torah is a sign. It's not the destination, only directions for the journey. If we act on its symbols (the 18 means 18, a mile is defined as 5,280 feet, and the direction it's pointing is eastward) we will eventually reach our destination. But if we turn the sign into a religious relic, all forward progress will stop. We shouldn't ignore the sign, for it imparts invaluable information. But we shouldn't worship it either.

kp


that sums it up very very nicely. Thanks ken, I think im gonna use that!
Signature Updated! Woo that was old...
Offline Icy  
#5 Posted : Monday, June 23, 2008 1:57:03 AM(UTC)
Icy
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I remember that sign. I stopped by and observed the dog walking ritual, too. I hope that I did it right. :P
Offline Matthew  
#6 Posted : Monday, June 23, 2008 2:09:48 PM(UTC)
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Funny, the Christians too consider signs to be "religious relics," therefore the apostolic-prophetic/charismatic/evangelical/take-your-pick say "we're not of the religious type, we're not bound to religious duties such as do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, Jesus did away with the Torah, nailing it to the cross, I am at the Destination already, living in the Spirit, the Law only pointed to the Destination, we do not need to consider the signs, we just need to know that there were signs."

I've been trying to think of an appropriate metaphor for pagan Christianity but I just can't seem to think of one. Do they pass the sign and then completely ignore it, considering it in the past? Or do they suddenly arrive at the Destination without ever knowing, and not even wanting to know, how they got there in the first place.
Offline Robskiwarrior  
#7 Posted : Monday, June 23, 2008 2:50:43 PM(UTC)
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Joined: 7/4/2007(UTC)
Posts: 1,470
Man
Location: England

Matthew wrote:
Funny, the Christians too consider signs to be "religious relics," therefore the apostolic-prophetic/charismatic/evangelical/take-your-pick say "we're not of the religious type, we're not bound to religious duties such as do not touch, do not taste, do not handle, Jesus did away with the Torah, nailing it to the cross, I am at the Destination already, living in the Spirit, the Law only pointed to the Destination, we do not need to consider the signs, we just need to know that there were signs."

I've been trying to think of an appropriate metaphor for pagan Christianity but I just can't seem to think of one. Do they pass the sign and then completely ignore it, considering it in the past? Or do they suddenly arrive at the Destination without ever knowing, and not even wanting to know, how they got there in the first place.


I think they ignore the sign and rely on the sat nav (read GPS if in the USA), which was developed by man in partnership with Mr Deception himself.
Signature Updated! Woo that was old...
Offline bitnet  
#8 Posted : Monday, June 23, 2008 7:04:41 PM(UTC)
bitnet
Joined: 7/3/2007(UTC)
Posts: 1,120

PWOAH! This is wisdom coming from a signmaker! Hope they don't render you obsolete by ignoring the signs, Robski. :-)
The reverence of Yahweh is the beginning of Wisdom.
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