In my recent studies about Jewish customs I came across this article written by a Jew. As I read it I felt grieved of how we so easily dishonor one another. No wonder our relationships with others are so strained and awful. I have taken this article to heart and it has deepened my understanding of Paul’s plea to “Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10)
The Sin Against Persons by Arnold Jacob Wolf
Many important commandments have been abandoned by almost all Jews, including those who consider themselves observant. One of these laws is the prohibition against shaming another in public.
"Shaming" is vividly described in the Hebrew phrase as "whitening the face." Under accusation in public, one's blood leaves one's cheeks. One almost, as it were, dies of embarrassment, indicating that the sin of shaming is like murder. Murder, in fact, can find atonement, if the murderer is truly sorry. But I may shame my neighbor without even knowing what I have done, in which case I will never repent for my sin. We are commanded rather to let ourselves be destroyed than to embarrass any other person in public.
Tamar, who had the goods on her father-in-law after he visited her sexually, never named him as the offender, but only indicated what pledge he left with her, so that he could identify himself without being made ashamed. Joseph cleared the room before he disclosed himself to his brothers so that they might not be put to shame in the presence of the Egyptian court. For many generations, Jews have taken pains not to embarrass even a guilty person, much less one simply inferior in station or in power. We are commanded not to give offense by words, by deeds, by epithets, even by hints. We are not to insult the stupid who would not even know they were being put down, nor our intimates, with whom we sometimes tend to think anything goes.
Shaming in the Jewish tradition
We are not allowed to recall someone's past offenses, blemished ancestry or personal weaknesses. If someone owes us money, we must not go near him in public, lest our very presence put him to shame. If we are well dressed and affluent, we should avoid poor neighborhoods and needy people. If we are collecting for a cause, we must be certain in advance that anyone we approach is able to contribute. When we recite the verse from the blessings after meals, "I have grown old without ever seeing a good person in need or his children begging bread," we should lower our voices, in case there is a beggar at our table.
There is a precise etiquette for Jewish study. A teacher must not ask a student questions he probably cannot answer, nor the student ask questions outside his teacher's field of competence. Neither should they be queried in the presence of critical colleagues, nor when they have something else on their minds nor when they first enter the school-room. Blessings over study are said together, in case someone doesn't know the text by heart.
We should not watch someone eat or drink or do anything incompetently. We should not ask our host for what we don't see, because he may be unable to provide it. Virgins go out to find husbands (on Yom Kippur, according to the Mishnah) in borrowed garments, so as not to shame any poor young woman. Invidiousness is itself shame, so all our dead are buried alike according to tradition, and thus no Jew need be ashamed. Rabba said: "one is allowed to shame himself, even though it is against Jewish law to do oneself harm." But one must never "whiten the face" of any other woman or man.
But we still shame today
I believe that much of our civilization is based directly on shame. Prisons destroy prisoners by treating them shamefully. Students are very often subjected to inane procedures whose effect is precisely to make them feel inferior. Some Israeli actions in the past were designed specifically to demean Arabs.
In the modern world, knowledge itself has become invidious. We use our minds to master the cosmos and to surpass our colleagues. We make fun of what is intractably mysterious and act as if all can be known. The best and brightest among us serve the worst in order to demean those less successful than both of them. Even the Jewish community in America no longer knows how to debate issues without destroying people. Our good causes grow by way of professional invidiousness, and our best institutions become training-grounds for making and breaking reputations. Courtesy, patience, respect for others pay no dividends, though obsequiousness and hypocrisy often do. While Jewish life goes through one crisis after another, some of our celebrities still achieve and hold office by denouncing their fellow-Jews, and raise money by insulting those who cannot give. Small congregations, small bank-accounts, small IQs are literally of no account. It is only the successful who merit our attention and even they not much of our respect. Rabbis are subject to relentless congregational gossip and honorable lay-leaders to suspicion and envy. The American cult of success has undermined what should be essentially collective and collaborative in Jewish communal experience.
When our hopes are crushed in the painful reality of a failed relationship, the question in our heart can be, “Will I ever love someone again?” The lingering wounds of a lost love can rob us of hope and trick us into thinking that we won’t be able to forget that person and move on. But our hearts have a much larger capacity to love than we think and we can love again.
You see, when I had my first child Dallas, I loved him with such intensity because I had never known such love until I had him. Then 2 years later I learned that I was pregnant again. I remember a particular discussion with my husband one night. We feared that we couldn’t possibly love another child like Dallas. We were sad that our second child might be short-changed. But we were very surprised. Our second child was born and our love poured out for him with the same intensity as our first. And then our third child was born and again we experienced the newness of a fresh and intense love. We learned that our hearts keep enlarging and we keep loving more and more as God puts more people in our lives. If God gave me 20 children he would give me the ability to love each individually and intensely.
It’s the same with our relationships. There may be special people in our past that we love and we may always love them to a degree. But we can also love another person with an intense and special love that is specific to only them. I have widowed friends that have remarried and they can confirm this. When we have the author of love in our hearts, Jesus, we have unlimited love.
If you are still pining over a lost love and feel like you can never love again, give God a chance to show you differently. Have hope! Open your heart! God wants to show you something new and intense. He is the God who loved you before the world began and through Him you can have love for the people in you past love and an amazing love for someone new. Hope in God. The best IS yet to come!!
“And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.” (Gen 2:25) This is God’s description of the unity he wants a husband and wife to experience: to be honest, transparent and unashamed. Yet, millions of couples are getting into bed with layers and layers of clothes on (baggage, guilt and unhealed wounds from past relationships.) All these unresolved issues create distance between married couples and keep them from real intimacy.
As single people, these are things we can deal with now so that when God blesses us with a marriage we can truly be naked and unashamed as God designed. I’m not speaking of naked in the physical sense – I’m speaking of a true stripping down of all the walls we have spent years building around ourselves: guilt, regrets, mistakes, distrust, unforgiveness – layers and layers of spiritual clothes that we have put on through the years.
God has brought this to my attention in my own life. I resisted for quite some time unwilling to strip away those walls and become totally transparent and vulnerable again. Yet, the truth of his word is undisputable; I can’t experience God’s best design for marriage unless I take some serious steps to remove those walls. As I have been praying, God has been revealing what those walls are. It’s a painful process – sometimes requiring forgiving others and sometimes requiring forgiving myself.
I’ve experienced this spiritual removal of walls lately and it’s been both frightening and freeing. Frightening because someone may see the real me inside and decide I'm not for them, but freeing because the real me is coming out and I’m no longer like Jacob dressing up as Esau to get a blessing. I’m ME! And I really like me. More importantly, I like what God has made me – an image of himself, a reflection of Christ, a witness back to HIM that his work on the cross has changed me forever.
Do I have any regrets about my first marriage? Yes – just one. I regret that I didn’t have an understanding of “Covenant.” When two people enter into covenant, neither belongs to himself anymore. In covenant, two become one, and they obligate themselves to each other in such a way that it would literally require their lives if they broke it. This was often referred to as a “walk into death.”
Let me explain. In Bible times when two people were preparing to “cut” a covenant, animals were slain, cut in half down the spine, and situated apart from each other.
Then, two men stood opposite one another. Each removed his own robes and handed them to the other, then clothed himself in his covenant brother’s garment. This signified, I am putting on you…and you me. We are one.
Then they picked up their weapons and each handed the other his sword or bow. By this action they understood, Your enemies are now mine….and mine are yours.
Then they handed each other their belts. When you are weak, my strength will be there for you.
In a figure-eight path, both walked through the pieces of flesh lying opposite one another. It was a “walk into death.” I am dying to my independent living…and to my rights.
They swore an oath as they pointed first to heaven – God, do so to me…and then to the slain animals, If I break this covenant!
Then each made a cut on his wrist, and with a handclasp the two mingled their blood. It is agreed: We – once two – have now become one.
In turn, each recited what he owned and what he owed; from this day forward they would share all their resources. What is mine is yours…what is yours is mine.
Each reached down and scooped up dirt mingled with small stones and rubbed this abrasive into the cut in his wrist. Wherever I am, when I lift my hand and see the scar, I will remember I have a covenant partner.
They exchanged new names. Because of covenant I have a new identity.
They sat down and partook of a covenant meal. One broke bread and placed it in his covenant partner’s mouth; then the other did the same. You are eating me, and I you.
Finally, a memorial was set up as a testimony of the covenant they had made – a pile of stones, a planted tree, a written contract. Now I call you Friend- my friend who sticks closer than a brother.
Do you see dear brother or sister the seriousness of covenant? Can you understand why covenant should not be entered into lightly? Oh how I have grieved over this very truth!
However, God is a god of Grace and Restoration! We may have blown it in the past, but God’s mercies are new each morning. If you are in a marriage that seems dead, why not meditate on covenant today. If you are in a serious relationship currently, you most definitely need to meditate on covenant. And if you are single, like me, and believe in faith that God wants to give you your heart’s desire in a mate, then read this post over and over again until you get the meaning of covenant in your spirit.
Then take some time to rejoice over one more thing- we are in covenant with Jesus! HE has told us that our enemies are now HIS, our debts HE has covered, when we are weak – HE is strong for us, and HE is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. HE wears the scar of this covenant on his hand and holds it up boldly for the evil one to see. Do you see the beauty of covenant now?
The day I dreaded for so long finally took place last week. I took my middle son, Dalton, to college. I was happy for him but sad that the college is four hours away. As I drove down the highway with Dalton following in his car behind me, my heart was breaking.
I was careful to make sure that there was ample distance between my car and Dalton’s so that he could not see me wiping tears from my cheeks. I tried to dial my best friend – no answer. I tried to call my sister – no answer. I then tried to call my wise, Aunt Carole – strike three. I finally just cried out to God. As I sobbed, I told him that I wasn’t ready to be an empty-nester yet. Even though Dylan, my youngest is a senior in high-school, I felt the impending pain of possibly making another trip like this next year. As I told God about the pain, God gently began to tell me about HIS pain.
He reminded me of the time that Abraham set out to take his son Isaac on a dreaded three-day journey. Abraham’s heart was breaking because he was going to sacrifice his son. They climbed the chosen mountain together and as Isaac carried a stack of wood on his back, Abraham carried the knife and the fire. I can’t imagine how heavy Abraham’s heart must have been going up that mountain.
Abraham is actually a picture of God – the Father who walked his son up a hill to become a sacrifice. God walked every step of the way with Jesus as he neared Golgotha. Jesus carried the cross on his back and God carried the fire.
Then God spoke to my heart, “When you understand how much I love my son, you will then understand how much I love YOU – because I gave him up for you!”
Suddenly, something clicked in my spirit and I finally “got it.” We love our children more than our own selves. God loves Jesus the same. But God would not withhold even Jesus for our salvation. Do you see that? God gave up his SON for us! Meditate on that today. You need to understand how much God really, really loves you. Enough to suffer the pain of separation from his son for you! Then, may you be filled with joy to know that are so loved.
Stress, stress, stress!! Crises after crises seems to be coming at me like a machine gun. Pow - pow- pow -pow...Most of this is stemming from my job. A recent shift in my duties has landed me in a hotbed of a problematic and faltering business. I've been told that if it doesn't turn around....well, I won't go there.
So, everyday as soon as I enter my office, customers, contractors, my bosses, vendors and staff hit me with a laundry list of problems that need immediate attention. Even when I try to leave for lunch and on weekends my phone rings with another "crises".
How have I dealt with all this? Well, I admit - I think I could have handled some things better. I feel as if I have been short with a few people - or at least not my usual perky self. And I noticed that my staff was becoming hesitant to step in the doorway of my office with another problem. Maybe I was giving off a vibe that this wasn't a good time. Maybe they were starting to believe that NO time is a good time.
I recently told the Lord, "I feel overwhelmed and pushed beyond my limits and my frustration is leaking out onto those around me. I didn't know this kind of frustration was in me! Where did this come from?!"
Evidently, it was in there all along but I had never been tested to this magnitude. It was time for the refining fire to rid me of a little thing called impatience.
But God is good and didn't allow me to go it alone. First he laid it on my heart to search him out on this. I could hear sweet whisperings in my spirit during prayer, "No-one should EVER find you unapproachable. Once they do, it gives them a sense of uneasiness." "Jesus in all things was tested just like we are....he understands the pressing crowds and overwhelming needs" "Each person deserves our best."
But now that I knew God's heart on this - the question was how to do it when I'm just not feeling it. For me, there has only been one way to handle these last few weeks; my prayer language. It has energized me, edified me, lifted me up and taken me beyond my normal capabilities. In fact, I think it's been a small miracle how much praying in my prayer language throughout the day has strengthened me.
I know it sounds crazy, but I'm glad I had to undergo such stress to discover such a wonderful key to our daily life. Praying in the Spirit.
Lesson learned. Thanks teacher.
A few weeks ago, I was driving along and praying out loud when a thought came across my mind. I told God, "It's been so long since I've laughed hard. I mean really hard - the kind of laughter that leaves your sides aching and tummy muscles sore. I guess in a way, I was voicing a prayer request to God...or maybe he just agreed that it's time I start laughing. Never-the-less, the Bible says, "You don't have because you don't ask." Even small things like laughing can come along because of prayer. And boy, did it ever.
Do things happen by chance? This is a question many of us have wondered at one time or another. There are people looking for the perfect job believing that God will direct their steps to that workplace without fail. Are they right? Then, there are those that are patiently waiting for God to arrange their meeting to "the one." These people don't believe in chance. They believe that God has a will for their lives and their choice of mate is of great importance to God. Is that correct? And what about the election? Can God actually see to it that the right person gets in office?