Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Gracious Giver

Baruch Atah Adonai, Eloheynu Melech HaOlam, Notane Ha Torah... Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the Universe, Giver of the Torah. We may say this blessing often, but do we stop to think that we are thanking G-d for giving us the Torah because it is a gift... a gracious and wonderful gift.

I love verse 8 in Psalm 31,..."You have set my feet in a wide place"... because it always reminds me of my own journey in discovering the gift of Torah. The freedom that I have found in pursuing Torah is second only to the freedom I found in accepting Yeshua as my Savior. To say that Torah is simply ancient laws that were for the Israelites is completely missing the point. To say a believer is 'legalistic' in trying to observe the Torah is also an unfortunate fallacy. The Torah was given as a gift to a redeemed people. Have you been redeemed? If so, the Torah should hold great significance to you! Let us pray that the L-rd would "open our eyes so we can see great wonders in His Torah" (Psalm 119:18)...

For a couple years I loved watching the show, "Super Nanny." One piece of wisdom that I have taken away from it is that children need boundaries, in fact, they thrive on boundaries and knowing what is expected of them. A mother or father who sets boundaries for their children and gives them extensive guidance is seen as a successful parent, not as a harsh or mean individual. We should view our Heavenly Father in the same way. He has given us boundaries and instructions in His Torah because he is a successful Parent, and the Creator of all. He was not seeking to be mean to the children of Israel. He gave them Torah because He loved them, and He loves us.

Aside from being our Father, G-d is also the Divine Judge. My Rabbi has a story that illustrates His mercy in judgement perfectly. Say you parked unknowingly in a handicapped parking spot and received a ticket for your violation. Wanting to tell the judge that you did not mean to do this, you take a trip to the courthouse to speak to him. While you are waiting your turn, you hear excuse upon excuse as to why all of these other people violated the particular laws that they did. So when he finally calls you to speak, you simply say, "I'm here for mercy." Amazingly, the judge tells you not to worry about the ticket, that you are absolved. Does this action make this judge a bad one because he chose mercy over the letter of the law? I would say no. If this judge can show mercy, think how much more mercy our G-d can show to His children! Understanding that we cannot possibly observe every commandment of the Torah, G-d grants us His grace. Even orthodox Judaism comprehends this, for it is written in the siddur (prayer book) in the morning blessings, "may Your mercy suppress Your anger from upon us and may Your mercy overwhelm Your attributes. May You overstep with us the line of Your law and deal with us- O, HaShem Our G-d- with the attribute of kindness and the attribute of mercy." G-d's mercy does not make Him a bad Judge, just a merciful One. Abraham Lincoln is quoted as saying, "I have always found that mercy bears richer fruits than strict justice."

So G-d, our loving Father and righteous Judge, has given us the gift of Torah to show us how to live and what is expected of us. His instructions have always been for one reason: for us to draw near to Him in love. When a father gives his children instructions, it's not so that he can love them because they follow them, he already loves them...he wants them to be able to show their love to him by drawing near through obedience. His instructions also show his children who he is because they are matters very close to his heart. As his children hide his words in their hearts, they are showing their father that they love him. G-d desires the same. Let us hide His words in our hearts and draw near to Him through obedience to His loving instructions, Torah.

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