Torah-observant people behaving badly

imageYesterday’s article in the Washington Post is a great example of Torah-observant religious people doing what they think is right, but totally shaming God’s name in the process.

Why are tzitzit-wearing, Torah-observant men surrounding a woman, spitting at her, cursing her, and kicking her in the back, you ask?

For religious reasons, of course!

You see, the religious in Israel are supposed to study Torah! And the mean old Israeli government says the Ultra Orthodox must serve in the military like everyone else in Israel. But that infringes on their precious Torah study time! So, they riot! And spit! And curse!

If Torah study was so important to the Haredim, you’d think they’d actually follow it.

Nope, they just want military exemption and lifetime government welfare. They’re not serving God; they’re serving themselves.

Religious people doing evil in the name of God. Boy, that’s a new one. ಠ_ಠ

Stepping back for a moment, in the Tenakh (the Hebrew Bible, which includes the Torah), God called Israel to be אוֹר לְגּוֹיִם Or LaGoyim, a light to the nations.

It is too small a thing that You should be My servant
to raise up the tribes of Jacob
and restore the preserved ones of Israel.
So I will give You as a light for the nations,
that You should be My salvation to the end of the earth.

-Isaiah, chapter 49 (and again in Isaiah 42)

Do you think these Haredim are being or lagoyim, a light to the nations? Is the world impressed by the righteousness and holiness on display as they kick, curse, and spit at this woman who is trying to protect civilians in the vehicle?

Let’s look at the comments to that news article, where lots of goyim are commenting. That should tell us how the Haredim are doing at being a light to the nations. Let’s see, here’s the top-rated comment to that news story:

Ultra Orthodox Jews. Radical Muslims. Christian extremeists. All are mindless absolutists filled with intolerance and hate in the name of God. Absolutely no difference.

-PityTheFool

Oh, fantastic! Thanks to these Haredim, the nations are lumping all religious people – Jews, Christians, and Muslims – as mindless intolerant haters, doing evil in God’s name.

If the Haredi are being a light to the nations, internet commenter PityTheFool isn’t seeing it.

But maybe PityTheFool is an outlier; surely there are other gentiles who see the beautiful light the Haredim are showing to the nations by spitting on this Jewish woman and labeling her a shiksa.

Next comment:

That was just sad all around. You have religious chauvinist freeloaders trying to intimidate a fellow citizen and only getting "brave" when they could push her in the back. The car driver just meekly sat there. And the government gave this woman no support.
Props to the woman; Israel's going to need more like her.

-Rob Pollard

Whoa! Another member-of-the-nations Rob Pollard says he isn’t seeing any light coming from these Ultra Orthdox. How could he miss it! I mean, here you have young men who feel they are entitled to other people’s money, trying to avoid service to their country, rioting about it, and attacking a woman – surely that’s righteous cause, a shining light to the nations?

Well, Rob Pollard doesn’t see it. SMH, fam.

Let’s try one more comment. Maybe the beautiful example set by the Haredim can be seen only by the enlightened of the gentiles?

Typical cowards. 50 men attacking one woman. Their hate book demands it.

-NoTyrany

Oh no! Not again! NoTyrany is so turned off by these particular Haredim, he’s discarding all religion, and believing that God’s own words, the Bible, is actually a hate book that requires people to behave like this!

Fantastic. Well isn’t this turning out swimmingly.

The prophet Isaiah predicted exactly this. The Apostle Paul elaborates, quoting him:

But if you are Jewish and rely upon the Torah and boast in God and know His will and determine what matters because you are instructed from the Torah— and you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Torah the embodiment of knowledge and the truth—

You then who teach another, do you not teach yourself?
You who preach not to steal, do you steal?
 You who say not to commit adultery, do you commit adultery?
You who detest idols, do you rob from things holy?
You who take pride in the Torah,
through your violation of the Torah, do you dishonor God?
For as it is written, “the name of God is slandered among the nations because of you.”

-Paul, Letter to the Jews and gentiles in Rome, chapter 2, quoting Isaiah 52

God’s name is desecrated in the nations because of what Torah-observant people are doing. Isaiah and Paul nailed this one.

The problem is, these particular Haredim aren’t actually keeping the Torah, are they?

Oh, sure, they’re wearing tzitzit and dressing modestly and eating kosher.

But they’re missing the weightier matters of the Torah: justice, mercy, faithfulness.

These Haredim are not practicing justice when kicking a woman in the back for trying to help a civilian vehicle in peril.

These Haredim are not practicing mercy when they are the ones putting the civilian driver in peril.

These Haredim are being unfaithful to God when they spit at and insult a woman who is trying to help a civilian driver.

You have heard it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever commits murder shall be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be subject to judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Fool!’ shall be subject to the Sanhedrin; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be subject to fiery Gehenna.

-Messiah, Matthew 5

This is indeed a danger for folks in the Torah-observant sections of the Messianic and Hebrew Roots sub-movements: embracing the outward Torah things like kosher, but lacking mercy and justice and faithfulness.

Torah is good. Tzitzit are good. Kosher is good. Modesty is good. Study is good.

But if we don’t actually do what the Torah says – the tough things like mercy, justice, and righteousness, not merely the easy stuff like kosher – then we are in danger of repeating the same error as these Haredi zealots.

For all who have sinned outside of Torah will also perish outside of Torah, and all who have sinned according to Torah will be judged by Torah. For it is not the hearers of Torah who are righteous before God; rather, it is the doers of Torah who will be justified. 

Paul, letter to Jews and gentiles at Rome, chapter 2

I hope these Haredim soften their hearts, repent to God and to this woman, and live. God doesn’t hate these Haredim; God desires all humanity to repent.

We Christians have a tangible model for Torah observance: Messiah. I mean that literally. Messiah lived the Torah in perfection; amplifying the Torah’s weightier matters. One example: 2000 years ago, it was a sin to pray for a person’s healing on Shabbat; you might actually cause God to break shabbat by healing a person! Messiah dismissed that religious garbage and healed a sick person. On Shabbat. In a synagogue. Ha!

If we followers of Messiah want to be Torah observant – and I believe we ought to be – we should do what Messiah did: visit the sick, care for the poor, feed people who are hungry. Care for the homeless. Give to charity. Help people in need. Rescue a civilian driver in peril. Be an actual light to the nations.

You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a basket. Instead, they put it on a lampstand so it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before men so they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

-Messiah, Matthew 5

Ben Gurion 1959.jpgThe first Prime Minister of the State of Israel, David Ben Gurion, founded Israel to be a light to the nations; it’s why Israel’s state emblem is a menorah; a light. If a non-religious person like Ben Gurion can be a light to the nations, why is it religious people fail so greatly at it?

The Haredim are largely failing at being a light to the nations. What about us?

Will you, dear reader, be a light to the nations? What are you doing that is a light to other people? Amplify that. Where are you failing to be a light to people? Fix that.

Be a light to the nations. It’s your calling, whether your call yourself Torah-observant or a follower of Messiah or both – this is your divine calling, this is why you exist.