Google+ Badge

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

BEYOND THE KEN OF KNOWLEDGE





In the pantheon of Laws decreed by God, there exists some considered chukim. This is a Hebrew word for a decree which God has ordained. A chukah is further explained by God when He said, "No created beings are able to comprehend My decrees." Midrash Koheles Rabbah 8:1 (5). Would God tell us to do something that is incomprehensible to us? And, if so, then why? We've been told over and over again that God is not the author of confusion, or chaos, but the author of peace and order. So, is it true?

Job 28:28 says, ". . . the fear of the Lord, that is wisdom;" telling us that the only wisdom we can possess in things we don't understand is the fear of the Lord. In the New Testament, Paul addresses wisdom in 1 Corinthians 1:18-31 and 1 Corinthians 2:1-16 in an attempt to explain why the wisdom of man cannot comprehend the sacrifice of Christ, and why He chose the weak instead of the strong, shaming the strong and the wise men. He further explains that because we have the mind of Christ, as believers, we have the ability to comprehend the full picture, all the way from the beginning through to the future, in a way that can only be revealed to us by the Holy Spirit.

Does this mean that God suddenly explained everything when Christ came? Mysteries remain, even though there are some denominations that have stripped all the mystery away, and offer a denuded faith to the followers. You always have the feeling that there is something missing. How can they explain turning the water into wine, or commanding us to baptize, or commanding us to eat His body and drink His blood? These are mysteries that evoke powerful feelings, that draw us in, and drown us in a well of prayer that asks for answers. They are made of the stuff that changes our natures, that fills the hole inside of us, satiating our hunger to know who we are and why we are here. To take away those mysteries denies us our dreams, our hopes, and even our fears. Those mysteries are what makes us human, and not some nihilistic animal.

DID MOSES UNDERSTAND?

According to the Midrash, Moses was granted the gift of understanding God's rationale of these unexplained laws, such as the Red Heifer. It is explained that God enclothed the Torah in a way that sparks the intellect into action; the action of study, prayer, and more study. God revealed a part of His will within Moses, becoming the cornerstone of Moses' intellectual powers, the same stone under Jacob's head as he dreamed, the cornerstone that the temple was built upon, the cornerstone that Christ built His church on. God has challenged us to search deeply into the meanings of scripture, to put on the mind of God as Moses did, and to transcend logic and ordinary wisdom. Saint Paul in his letter to the Corinthians asks us to do the very same thing. He asks us to approach the scriptures with that same commitment to "do and hear," (See earlier postings about Exodus 20.) We must water that mustard seed to allow it to grow into the bush it was meant to be. This can only be achieved through study of the Word of God and prayer.

WHY?

However, I didn't answer the question. Yes, God would tell us to do something incomprehensible. But, why would God not speak plainly to help us understand what He expects of us? The answer is simple. If man could reason his way through everything, if there were no mysteries to plumb, then man would begin to rationalize everything, and lose the Godly connection with his core. Haven't you seen it already with the rise in atheism and nihilism? Cynicism has reached epic proportions in many cultures, primarily from the rise of these dark philosophies. They infest our politics, our work places, and even some of our charities. People hunger for mystery. Is it any wonder that many of our youth are fascinated with vampires, witches, and werewolves? If we do not fill our children's lives with these mysteries of our faith, they will fill them up with magick from the dark side.

It is written that “He will swallow up death for eternity." Isaiah 25:8. Don't let your soul be swallowed up with the death of the darkness in the world. Seek the kingdom of God first, and you will be lit within in the knowledge beyond the ken of man.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

IN THE CAVE OF ABRAHAM

SPOILER ALERT! The following are answers to comments and questions people have had regarding THE GARDEN OF SOULS sequences.


Some have asked whether the images I used in the novel are a fantasy born out of my imagination. The answer to that question is an unqualified, "No!"

The images of the sentinels at the gate of the Garden of Eden are right out of the scripture. The river the characters float down is from Jewish mysticsm and the scripture. 

The river issuing from the Garden is noted for its dream-like qualities in Jewish mysticism, and is often referred to as the River of Dreams. Alana's vision of the tragedy in the Andes is her subconcious mind trying to resolve her complicity in the deaths of her comrades. This is in keeping of the river lulling her into a state of mind that enables her to finally confront what happened.

Liam's vision is taken directly from the Midrashic account of Rabbi Akiva's death. The Rabbi's death is not only deeply moving, but it contains an important lesson about God's Oneness, the connection of our soul to the breath of God, and the Jewish practice of drawing out the word ehad as they pray. It is this lesson Liam needs to review in order to find the final symbol to enter the Garden.

Avi's encounter in the Garden is scriptural and based on the Kabbalistic account of creation. Liam's encounter is out of the scripture, also. What he sees is based on Jacob's dream of the Ladder in Genesis, and some Aggadic references. The Aggadah is the Oral Testament of the Jews, and contains many explanations of problematic verses in Genesis. The New Testament was originally an Oral tradition. This makes the Aggadah an important part of understanding some Old Testament narratives and dispels the four-source theory of interpreting Genesis.

Although the Garden sequence appears to be highly fantastical in nature, the root of all my scenes there comes from sources other than my imagination. I used images from some individuals who died and were brought back by extraordinary medical means to tell what they encountered while dead. And the rest was from deducing the origin of all plant life, and what the world would like if Adam had not sinned in the Garden. The only thing from my imagination was the cottage.

I also took a page from some individuals who have the ability to see sounds and other remarkable sensory exchanges. It seemed logical to me that if we were once again united with our unfallen natures, what miracles would happen to our senses, how would they be enhanced, and would we be able to see the spiritual world in all its beauty.

So, perhaps my imagination was in full flower, but I believe that the world that awaits us, once we have left this world, is far grander than we suspect, that it holds untold opportunities for us to experience what God intended for us to experience before we fell from grace.

I hope you enjoy my novel, and will recommend it to others.


Chéri Vausé’s new book, THE GARDEN OF SOULS ( paperback 978-1-62697-114-1 e-book, 978-1-62697-115-8) is published by Xulon Press, a division of Salem Communications, the world’s largest Christian self-publisher, with more than 8,000
titles published to date. Retailers may order
THE GARDEN OF SOULS through Ingram Book Company and/or Spring Arbor Book Distributors. The book is available online through xulonpress.com/bookstore, amazon.com, and barnesandnoble.com.


Thursday, August 15, 2013

indiana-jones-and-garden-of-eden-review by, Katherine Santos

Posted: 08 Aug 2013 08:58 AM PDT
It's hard to find a good supernatural thriller, especially one that stays true to its Judeo-Christian roots. Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark is one. Cheri Vause's novel The Garden of Souls is another.

The Garden of Souls has a goodly amount of swashbuckle in it, as well as a search to uncover the mystery of our creation and the one who created us. The vivid imagery and fast-paced action make the book flash across your imagination as if you were watching it on a movie screen.

The male lead, Liam, is a priest-archeologist torn between obeying his superior's orders to catalog piles of moldering documents in the Vatican archives and his desire to join his best friend Avi in discovering the secret of humanity's origins hidden in the blistering Israeli desert. The female lead, Alana, is an archeologist seduced into a ring of criminals who steal priceless antiquities and sell them to the highest bidder. Indy and Marion Ravenwood have nothing on them.

At the heart of the book are the main characters' struggles to choose between irreconcilable destinies. Liam feels he is losing his vocation to the priesthood. Alana has turned into an FBI informant gathering evidence to incriminate her fellow conspirators, but she despairs of making it out of the criminal underworld alive. The two meet on a quest to find the burial site of the Old Testament figures Abraham and Sarah. What they unearth is a mystical passageway to a land virtually unseen since the beginning of human history. The dream-like sequences near the book's end reminded me of the visually stunning, but not particularly Christian, depiction of the Tree of Life in The Fountain, a 2009 film starring Hugh Jackman.

The quest of the characters in The Garden of Souls is ultimately the search for God and their own individual destinies within God's plan. As  Liam's best friend Avi, the skeptic, marveled: "the Old Testament is coming to life, becoming fact.  ...This means God is real." And the quest's driving force comes from the characters' families, who propel them toward the lives that God wants for them.

The fourth commandment to honor your father and mother is "the anchor for every child to steer his way through life,"states The Garden of Souls. The book fleshes out the truism that our relationship with our parents deeply colors our feelings about God. The beauty and terror of our vocation as parents is that our children's relationship with God will show us how well or how poorly we reflected God's love to them as we raised them.

In The Garden of Souls, Alana's life of subterfuge has contaminated her relationship with her father. She lives a lie within a lie as an FBI informant pretending to be a criminal and as a criminal pretending to be an honest archaeologist. She wishes to end the lies. The expedition to the ancient burial site, while "rattl[ing] the agnostic cage that she had constructed around herself," makes Alana long primarily for one thing. To apologize to her father for being such a terrible daughter, and thus restore normalcy to her life. Faith awakens love, and vice versa.

Liam is also at a crossroads. Emotionally scarred by the death of his mother and father, Liam is plagued by nightmares. When the time comes for Liam to choose his destiny, he receives the mysterious advice that his mother is the gate and his father is the key. On one level, this advice guides Liam to the heart of a fantastical land where he finds the answers he seeks. On another level, these words hint at how Liam's parents instilled faith in him and planted the seed of his vocation. Liam's mother was a Jewess, and Judaism is in a sense the mother of Christianity. Through the gate of Judaism, the religion of the Old Testament people of Israel, Christians enter into the knowledge of the One God. The analogy holds true with Liam's father as well. Liam's father came from a long line of men dedicated to helping the Catholic Church. Just as Judaism is the gate, Catholicism is the key to unlock the fullness of truth about Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the only-begotten Son of God. Liam's inner spiritual journey towards a deep and abiding faith in God's promises can be followed by all of us.

The Garden of Souls was published through the Christian self-publishing firm, Xulon Press, which might not have been the ideal choice for Vause. Xulon, which provides some editorial services to its authors, has a style marked by radical abandonment of commas and a self-described "looseness" of verb tenses, which includes using the present tense occasionally although the story takes place in the past. While the editors stand by their choices, my background as a lawyer and journalist leads me to regard these choices as simply grammatically incorrect. They mar the flow of the story and present an annoying distraction to an otherwise excellent narrative.

Moreover, at around $16 on Amazon or Barnes & Noble, the book is pricey for paperback fiction. The $8.99 Kindle version is a better deal. But you get enough 50-cent words to make up for it -- the author's exquisitely elegant word choice is one of the most delightful aspects of the book.

As stated by one of the reviewers on Amazon, where the book currently has a 5-star rating, I can't wait for the movie to come out.

My thanks go to the author for providing a free e-book review copy.
http://canwecana.blogspot.com/2013/08/indiana-jones-and-garden-of-eden-review.html

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

THE CHRISTIAN CELEBRATION OF PENTECOST IS THE JEWISH FESTIVAL OF SHAVOUTH: Pentecost is more than the coming of the Holy Spirit




Introduction

According the Talmudic sages, the universe was created for the Torah (the five books of Moses) and Israel. Both are referred to in scripture as beginning or primary. The why of it comes from the concept that the Torah contains the primal forces of creation: The letters of the alefbeis or the alphabet. The Hebrew word for letter is ot, which means sign or wonder or miracle. God formed the universe by voicing each of the twenty-two letters aloud, breaking the silence or the nothingness until the universe sprang to life. This means that each of the letters represent the building blocks of creation, and each one holds a spiritual energy or force that hold the elements of the universe together. They are the cosmic glue that keeps the universe from flying apart into chaos.

“In the beginning of God's creating the heavens and the earth—when the earth was astonishingly empty with darkness upon the surface of the deep, and the Divine Presence hovered upon the surface of the waters—God said, “Let there be light.” (Gen 1: 1-3) This interpretation is a product of the Mesorah Heritage Foundation for Artscroll, and presents the first words of the Old Testament in an interesting and valuable light to help us understand the Jewish perspective of the creation story. You must realize that the Bible is not a history book, or a spiritual book, or even a religious book. It's the story of God's relationship with man and the charter of man's mission in the universe, as cited by Rav Yitzchak. The reason for the narrative of creation is to show the Israelites, the world, who God is, that He is Sovereign, that the universe belongs to Him. The name He uses for Himself in this passage is Elohim, which means justice, ruler, lawgiver, judge of the world.

It's very clear what God did and who He is, but when God gives the Law to the Hebrew nation in the Sinai desert, He doesn't say, “I am the creator of the universe.” No, in Exodus 20: 2 He says, “I am YHWH, your God, Who has taken you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” God could have easily reminded them that He is the Creator of the universe, that He is their Creator, but he doesn't. Instead, He makes it personal. He introduces a relationship to them that is unique. He becomes their deliverer from injustice, from death, a purely Messianic message. God has become YHWH again, the merciful One and only, the God who created Adam with His breath. This is the tie between Shavouth and Pentecost.

Purpose of Redemption

Within this context of a merciful God, YHWH, the God who delivered a people from bondage, the God who saved the Hebrew nation to give them the most precious gift of all gifts, the Law, the Torah, the Midrash says: The two monumental moments in history are creation and the giving of the Torah. But the latter is the greater. This concept astounds most people. It would be natural to conclude that creation would be the moment of all moments. However, the wisdom of man is foolish to God. He deems the giving of the Torah, the Law as the greatest of all gifts, the singularity. The Law is the light of the world, the covenant between God and His people, the defining of man's mission and his place in the world. The Torah was transubstantiated from the spiritual realm into the physical universe. We can hold within our hands the cosmic glue of the universe, the redemptive dynamite that can recreate a man, a nation, the world, the universe.

God wanted the Hebrew nation to be a, “Kingdom of ministers and a holy nation.” Ex 19: 6 God was to be their king, and they would be His priesthood to the world, carrying the light of the Law before them in order to transform all of creation. But even the Hebrews failed in that mission. They wanted a human king, their leaders turned to other gods, they disobeyed God's Law, they fought among themselves splitting the kingdom, etc. Redemption would transubstantiate one more time in order to save man from himself.

What is Shavouth?

No other feast or festival possesses as many names as the Festival of Shavouth. It is known as:
  • Festival of Weeks (Seven) Exodus 34:22; Deuteronomy 16: 9
  • Festival of Sabbaths (Seven)
  • Days of Counting (Fifty days = 49 + 1)
  • Festival of the Harvest Exodus 23:16
  • Day of the First Fruits – The Sages added the word Atzeret (no menial labor), just as the other two pilgrim festivals, Passover and Sukkot, have atzeret added so all menial labor was to be ceased during the holiday. Because Passover is connected to matzot and Sukkot to booths, Shavouth had no physical manifestation, as to place or food connected to it, therefore, it became Atzeret exclusively. It is interesting to note that the Torah is viewed as spiritual and not physical.
  • Day of the Giving of the Torah (ma'amad har Sinai) Exodus 20

Shavouth in Hebrew means weeks or Sabbaths, hence the two names using those words. The tradition holds that fifty days are counted from the day of the exodus, or the final meal in haste, Passover. Fifty is also the number of Jubilee, the joy or release from work and the redemption from debts. You can easily see the pattern emerging for the coming of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and the third personage of the Holy Trinity. God knew that the Law needed to come to fruition, the ultimate transubstantiated union of spirit and flesh in the man Jesus, but the path needed to be paved for His coming, or the revelation of the Torah for the fullness of God's redemptive power to be seen.

The festival of Shavouth is intricately tied to the completion of the Festival of Passover. Passover represents the exodus of man from physical bondage, the redemptive act of the death of the lamb and his blood saving the lives of the Hebrew peoples, while Shavouth is the union of God and man in the ultimate marriage of spirit and flesh. The festival is also referred to as the wedding day between God and man. As God gave his gift of the Torah to man, so to does a father give his daughter as a bride to a groom.

Shavouth also has many interesting connections with the most important personalities in the Old Testament, and it's traditions are all steeped in mystery and allegorical significance.
  • Moses was rescued from the river by Pharaoh's daughter on Shavouth
  • David was born and died on Shavouth
  • Boaz was born on Shavouth
  • Shavouth is the only Jewish Festival that allows dairy. This is because the Torah is like mother's milk to the Jew. Milk and water are combined to show God's compassion. Milk is also the food of infants. On the day of the giving of the Torah, the Jewish nation was like an infant, still on the brink of learning what was required of them, just like children beginning school.
  • The men in a Jewish community spend the entire night of Shavouth occupying themselves with tikkun lel shavuot, which means the improvement, or restoration. The custom takes the form of intensive study of the Torah, the Mishnah, and the Talmud. As the day represents the wedding day between God and Israel, the study is offered up as a dowry, and what they learn as a trousseau of value rather than things.

The Book of Ruth, a part of the Megillah, or extra readings connected to the Torah, is read during the celebration of Shavouth. Ruth first came to Israel at the beginning of the barley harvest, (Ruth 1:22) which is Passover, and she married Boaz at the end of the barley and wheat harvests, which is Shavouth. The farmer is commanded in Lev 23:22 to leave the corners of his fields for the poor and the proselyte to harvest. Ruth was gathering in these corners, for she was both poor and a proselyte, when she met Boaz. The story is about self-sacrifice, humility, loyalty, dedication, and kindness.

Ruth was a Moabite princess and she gave all of it up for a life of poverty because of her conviction and willingness to stay with her mother-in-law, Naomi, a Jewess. Ruth's name has the exact letters for the word turtledove. A turtledove was a sacrificial animal fit for the altar of God. Ruth is also a fit for inclusion into the assembly or family of God, primarily because she is considered a convert par excellence. The number of verses in the Book of Ruth is eighty-five, which is the numerical value of Boaz.

NOTE: I would love to discuss Lag Ba'Omer, the celebration between Passover and Shavouth, but I will discuss it in my next post as it would make this one longer than necessary. However, I will mention at this point that Lag Ba'Omer is known as the Hidden Torah and is shrouded in mystery.

Preparing the Way for the arrival of Pentecost

The preparation begins in earnest for the disciples. Christ has appeared after the crucifixion and resided with them for forty days (the number forty is significantly tied to the Jews wandering in the desert), but he must leave in order for the work to be completed. A Christian community had been created, just as the Hebrew nation was created and moved from Egypt in the mass exodus to the Sinai desert. They watch the ascension of Jesus into Heaven and He admonishes them to not stand around gaping, but to prepare, and watch for the Holy Spirit to come.

The preparation of appointing a successor to fill the shoes of Judas begins. The process is initiated in Acts 1:20 when Peter gives the historical references from Psalms 69:25 and 109: 8: 'May his place be deserted; let there be no one to dwell in it.' and, 'May another take his office (or place of leadership or bishopric.'” There are two orders of business to be taken care of in the meeting: First, dealing with the land purchase by Judas, who bought it with betrayal money, and second, filling the office he once held. Peter is doing something very exciting here. He is tying the scripture to the new tradition. Yes, this is an important piece of evidence providing proof of the act of apostolic succession. The word office or bishopric or place of leadership is used here, in Greek the word is episkope and that means an office of authority or an overseer.

Everyone is looking to Peter because Jesus had placed him in that office by renaming him, from Simon to Peter, oftentimes referred to as Simon Peter in the scriptures to avoid confusion. In Jewish tradition, when someone is renamed, like Abram becoming Abraham, or Jacob renamed Israel, it denotes an office is created specifically for the person. The act of Jesus asking Peter three times if he loved Him that he should feed His sheep, John 21:15-19, is a commandment, a defined role Peter must fulfill. The three pronouncements was generally accepted as making the change permanent, an act of mantling the person and changing their life by separating the person from the rest of the group. When Peter dies then another must be immediately elected to the office in order that the chair would never be empty.

Jesus had placed Peter into the role of shepherd, the man to stand in His place. It's interesting that Jesus did not do this to the disciple he loved, nor did he choose someone who was already a priest. Instead, he commanded Peter, the fisherman, to be the shepherd to the fledgling flock Jesus would leave behind after He ascended into heaven. This has always puzzled me until I understood that fecund moment when Jesus was teaching his disciples. Jesus asked them who people said he was, and who he was to them. In that moment of recognition, the Holy Spirit revealed to Peter that Jesus was the Christ, the Messiah. Peter deserved the office more than the others. This is what Jesus was looking for, the one who would hear the Holy Spirit and speak the truth boldly. Peter's willingness to leap out of the fishing boat into the water to follow Jesus, and even his leaping into action in the Garden of Gethsemane, was the strength Jesus wanted in his leader. Peter possessed the, “We will do and we will hear,” character of the Hebrew nation. Doing right was in his DNA, even though it also came back to bite him when he denied Christ three times. He still possessed the heart of David, and Jesus saw this in him. Peter was not afraid to fail, and he was willing to repent quickly, to humble himself before God. Evil would not take root in him because the Holy Spirit had watered the ground of his character.

In Mark 16: 6 the angel in the tomb says, “Do not be amazed! You seek Jesus of Nazareth, the crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Behold, the place where they laid him. But go and tell his disciples and Peter.” The angel named Peter because he was their leader, recognizing that Peter would lead the new community of Christians with the proclamation that Jesus is risen, he is the Messiah. In John 20: 2, Mary runs to Peter (named) and the other disciples. Again, another confirmation of Peter's leadership.

Pentecost Arrives with Wind and Fire

The business is over with the casting of lots and naming Matthias to fill the empty office. What follows in Acts 2: 1, “When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together.” This is in reference to the counting of days. The count is fulfilled. The Festival of Shavouth had come upon them. Here we have the day of the giving of the Torah, Shavouth, which is the very day that the Holy Spirit arrives. If you recall the thunder, the lightening, the smoke, and the roaring of the voice of God as relayed in Exodus 19:16-25, you can see the comparison to the arrival of the Holy Spirit in that upper room. The beautiful difference between the two events lay within the fact that the voice of God came out of the people, rather than the voice of God coming from above them. The Torah, the Word, the Christ, fulfilled his promise and sent the Holy Spirit to this fledgling community, creating a Church, built upon the foundation of the apostolic succession administered by the Holy Spirit. If it was not meant to be done in this way, then God would not have appointed apostles, but He did. And the chain has not been broken for two thousand years.

As you see, they were not in the upper room by accident, or by serendipity. They were there waiting for Shavouth, or in Greek, Pentecost, which means fifty. They had completed their business, completed the counting of the days, and it was day fifty. They were there to celebrate the giving of the Torah, which God embodied in the man Jesus, and they were prepared for what Jesus had promised; to send the Holy Spirit. (Luke 24, 49) Can you imagine how astounding the event must have been? People speaking in languages they didn't know, proclaiming Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah. It must have been quite a sight, and bewildering to the crowd, all waiting to hear Peter speak. Some resorted to cynicism and believed the group to be drunk on a new wine. But, how delicious to be drunk on the Holy Spirit and in the presence of Peter, the leader of the community.

Peter begins to explain to the crowd what was happening by referencing Joel 2:28-32 in Acts 2:16-21. It is believed that this speech was for connecting the written and the oral Torah when he says in Acts 2:14, “Then Peter stood up with the Eleven, raised his voice, and proclaimed to them, 'You who are Jews, indeed all of you staying in Jerusalem. Let this be known to you, and listen my words.'” Peter is speaking from a position of authority by standing and raising his voice to the crowd. He is teaching, offering an Oral Torah to the crowd, connecting events from the Old Testament to the New through an Oral tradition.

Summary

God is not the author of chaos. God is the author of order and peace. He created a Church knowing the Temple would be destroyed. He created something new and wonderful, fulfilling the Festivals and Feasts in Christ and the Church (except one, the Feast of the Trumpets). He placed the Holy Spirit within us to give us power to defeat evil in the world. Perhaps we should act like it, to step out and, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:18-20) Let us not shrink from our duty to fulfill His final commandment.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

THE FEAR OF GOD: The Dread of Isaac






Uncovered at the Ur excavation. The legend of the binding of Isaac reached all the way to Abraham's birthplace.




Introduction

I recently had a intense discussion—pardon me—a huge argument—on the meaning of the Fear of God. Some people got down right nasty, and they tried to tell me that I was flat out wrong, and incomprehensible in my analysis. Plus, I didn't know what I was talking about because the four source theory disagreed with my analysis. Mind you they showed no proof or references for their argument, nor could they read Hebrew, or use reason and logic to dissuade me from my position on what it means to fear God. So, what is my position that prompted such malice and filled me with arrows of hate from the naysayers? I took the high road, and that means I traveled straight to the highest court in history: The Talmud, Judaism's bench of the greatest scholars of all time, and the early church fathers of the Roman Catholic Church. If you want to argue, then take it to them, not me. I'm the messenger, and a devoted one at that. But, if you can offer a logical, theologically orthodox position that contradicts me, I'm always willing to take a look at it. I may not agree, but, at least I won't get nasty.

What Started the Whole Donnybrook

I rely on only orthodox, traditional sources, none of that four source nonsense for me (Yahwist or Jehovist, Elohist, Deuteronomist, and Priestly, or JEDP). The reason I do is because when you get away from focusing on the literary strains, and concentrate on what is being said at these supposed breaks in the narration--as if that was an indicator they were interjected by someone else other than Moses--you find a continuity of meaning, of the intent of God who is emphasizing a salient point in the narrative. Once you understand these Hebrew points that must be emphasized, then you begin to understand the mindset of not only the author, Moses, but that of God. Try to follow my meaning before you get on your high horse and disagree. Okay? Pax. Read first, then mount your horse and disagree.

The First Time Fear Appears

The word fear first appears in Genesis 9:2 when God makes a covenant with Noah, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the heavens, in everything that moves on earth and in all the fish of the sea; in your hand they are given.” Abarbanel, the Talmudic sage says, “Lest Noah be afraid that the few surviving people would be in constant danger from the hordes of animals in the world, God assured him that He had implanted an instinctive fear of human beings.” It was assumed because mankind had sunk as low as the animals that the aura of God that emanated from them had disappeared and the animals would no longer fear them. Noah had a reasonable fear considering there was more of them than of Noah's family. They didn't have Remington shotguns or Henry rifles in those days, that just by firing one of those would be enough to startle and frighten an animal into running off. God did something else here. He gave Noah permission to eat meat. This had never been done before, according to some sages like Or HaChaim. Noah had tended to all the animals' needs and he was allowed to partake of the toil of his hands for food. Otherwise, their food source was extremely limited given the amount of time they spent in the ark, and he stepped off into a land with no crops to replenish his food stores. This was a gift God gave to man to protect him in the wilderness.

The second time the word fear appears is in Genesis 15: 1 when God gives Abram a vision and says, “Fear not Abram, I am a shield for you; your reward is very great.” This beautiful promise is immortalized in the Amidah/Shemoneh Esrei prayer of the Jews, the first blessing which describes God as the Shield of Abraham. This assurance is handed down from generation to generation as a promise that Abraham's heritage shall never be extinguished from the face of the earth. It is no wonder that Paul, the Jewish genius, would admonish believers to put on their armor of God to battle against evil. (Eph. 6:13) The gentiles were not aware of this promise made by God to His followers.

The word fear is used several more times in Genesis where God speaks either through an angel (to Hagar) or directly to an individual to fear not. There are reassurances from one person to another, like Joseph saying to fear not to his brothers because God meant for what happened to him for the good. These admonitions are important because the individual was terrified they would lose their life. Fear is also translated as dread, like the Dread of Isaac. Remember the akedah, or the binding of Isaac? When Abraham bound his own son to offer him as a sacrifice to God, it sent a shock of dread through Isaac because of the knife held against his throat. The small cut across his throat from the sharp knife is often referred to as the beaded necklace in Talmudic writings. Even though Isaac remained compliant, trusting in God, trusting in his father, he was still terrified. At that moment he felt unworthy, his sins were still upon him. He had not offered a sacrifice for the remission of his sins, and here he was, bound as a sacrifice, and feeling unworthy.

The Akedah or the Binding of Isaac

There are many legends about the akedah, but there is an important legend regarding what happened after Isaac was released and the ram was sacrificed in his place. It is written that Isaac was taken to Paradise for three years as a reward for his compliance and in reparation for what he suffered. Can you even imagine what fear he felt as a result of his father's knife against his throat? Biblical scholars are all agreed that God would not let this compliance go unrewarded. There are some scholars who gloss over Isaac's trial to lionize Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his beloved son as a prefiguring of Christ's sacrifice. And this is correct. But we mustn't forget there was another person there, Isaac. Recall Christ in the Garden praying before his crucifixion, suffering such dread blood issued from his pores.

Isaac is not mentioned in the scripture until Rebekah arrives to marry him. (Gen. 24:62) “Meanwhile Isaac had gone from Beer-lahai-roi and was living in the region of Negeb (the south country).” The word bo mi-bo is used which means come from the way. The numerical value of the consonants equals three, for three years. Did you ever wonder why he is not even present for his own mother's death? The scripture suggests that Isaac was in the same place where Hagar had prayed and God answered her. Rashi says Isaac went there to retrieve Hagar (Keturah, Gen. 25: 1) as a wife for Abraham since his mother had died. This was in an attempt to heal the rift caused by his mother. Hagar was no longer a slave of Sarah's, but a princess again. However, there is no explanation for these disparate interpretations, and that is why we must go to the Aggadah, or the extra curricular legends to fill in the gaps. Bear in mind, these legends are believed to be true primarily because they are the Oral Tradition of Judaism, and they are reconciled with other scriptures in order to qualify as a part of the tradition.

One legend surrounding Isaac's disappearance has puzzled sages for centuries and can only be reconciled through another scriptural passage outside the Torah, or the five books of Moses, to explain where he was and why he was gone so long, missing important events like a parent's funeral. There is some support for this legend in Song of Songs 4: 9, “. . . with one bead of thy necklace.” The reference is to a bead of blood on the neck from a cut and only Isaac falls into that category.

To die with your sins still upon you was to die a horrible death, the worst possible kind. This is the reason why Shakespeare's Hamlet was even more furious about the way his father was murdered (doomed to haunt the castle until his death is reconciled). His father died without the benefit of confession and holy unction, let alone his remaining years robbed from him. This was also the reason why he hesitated to kill the king while he was in prayer. Hamlet wanted the king, his father's brother to die while his sins were still heaped upon his soul, and not in a moment of grace.

Jacob also felt the same dread his father Isaac felt. He felt unworthy. This is why he wrestled the angel all night until he received a blessing. There is a pattern emerging in this first book of the Old Testament regarding the fear of death, therefore, the fear of God. Fear is not only the dread of death but dying while unworthy.

Definitions

Let's take one step deeper into the scriptures by defining the word. Fear in Hebrew is spelled: yud, resh, alef. It translates: to fear, to be afraid, followed by “the what to fear,” or “what to flee from,” like fleeing from sin. To reverence, as one's parents, to fear God, as the avenger of wrong; hence to be godly or upright. To tremble for joy, terrible, dreadful, to terrify, holy fear.

When you breakdown the letters into their Talmudic mystical meanings there is an even deeper meaning that emerges from the word. In Hebrew, even the position of the letter in the word has meaning. Yud is the smallest letter of the alefbeis, or alphabet and it is the first letter in the name of God. Yud means dynamo or power or thrust. Yud is the cosmic letter of the alefbeis, which is interpreted as the hand of God. As the first letter in the word, yud takes on an even greater significance. This means that the hand of God lies within the word.

The second letter resh means healing, but it also means poverty, a kind of spiritual emptiness. Think about Christ's Sermon on the Mount: “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” He's telling the poorest of the poor who are so shunned by society that God has heard their prayers. They may not have anything here on earth, but they will have untold riches in heaven. There they will not be shunned, they will be like landowners. Death will be the entrance into a fuller life.

If you move into the letter resh's shadow on the beginning of a word, resh means that you can become judgmental, casting your sin upon others. Dickens wrote about the concept of casting your sin upon others in his novel, Martin Chuzzlewit. In the end, the protagonist realizes that the speck of sin he was so concerned about in others was even larger in himself. He had deliberately searched for faults in others in order to deny them an inheritance. By constantly looking for the sin of pride and greed in others, he had blinded himself with his own pride and greed, preventing him from seeing the good in those who loved him.

The next letter alef means letter, or sign, and wonder or miracle. It represents the central teaching of Judaism, that God is One. Alef is the first letter of the first word of the Ten Commandments or the Ten Words. Alef became the chief or the head of the alefbeis, appointed by God to declare His Oneness, and that is why it is the first letter. Alef begins several names for God, representing the many divine forces within God. Alef is also the first letter in Deuteronomy, deliberately made even smaller than all the letters in the rest of the book. The author did this in order to show how important and necessary the ingredient of humility is in learning and practicing the Law, a trait that we must all possess even when approaching God—a lesson learned the hard way by Moses, his lack of obedience preventing him from entering the Promised Land.

Remember I said that even the position of a letter in a word can mean something. If you move the letter resh to the center of the word it means trembles in a desire for wholeness, to return. The letter resh in the word fear is in the middle and, therefore, evokes the desire to be whole as it stands sandwiched between the cosmic letter of God, yud, and alef, the miracle. The interpretation is that God desires for us to be whole and provides that miracle of grace if we just give ourself completely to Him, dreading our sins that separate us from our heart's desire, in the mold of Isaac and Jacob. We should fear the death that would end our ability to repent, to face God with our hearts quivering with love, always ready to seek forgiveness. Confession should be upon our lips to heal the rupture between God and man, and a longing to please God should permeate our hearts.

Summary

We have learned that the individual letters and their representations all play into defining the word fear. What we must consider is that a healthy fear or reverence is not like the reverence we mean today; like another word for admiration, or even a quiet reflective demeanor. Fear is not a passive word but one that has force, a dynamic force that changes our nature, that turns us toward repentance, emptying us only to fill us up with God's grace, where we can achieve a true wholeness. This fear is the hand of God reaching down into us and causing us to tremble before Him. Therefore, to fear God, is a healthy, informative, dynamic love and reverence for God, knowing that He is the arbiter of good and evil, and that He separates the wheat from the chaff. When we choose to do evil we separate ourselves from our brothers and sisters and God. In essence, we issue the judgment on ourselves. The fear of God reels us back in so that we may face God on His terms and not ours. Instead of facing away from God, taking our own path and creating our own law, we turn toward God and humble ourselves.

The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; prudent are all who live by it. Your praise endures forever,” (Psalm 111:10) Fear has become almost a dirty word, a watered down version of the name-and-claim it crowd. Those who believe in a trembling fear are denigrated, laughed at as being childish or foolish or ignorant. People used to understand that fear was a useful tool of informing the conscience. Once you move past the trembling stage to realize the love God has for us, then a mature view is formed for God, growing our love for Him, but always keeping in the back of our minds that God is the author of the Law, our Creator, the Governor of the universe. How simple our lives become when we submit ourselves wholly to Him, and the grace we receive as a result passes all understanding. We should always strive to fear God first, to root out the leaven in our lives, so that we can love God more fully.