What is God for? Ask your neighbour

In his “The Distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Torah,” Rabbi Bar Chaim provides many rabbinical sources that “brother” and “neighbour” refer to fellow Jews only, as in Leviticus 19:17-18, “Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thine heart: thou shalt in any wise rebuke thy neighbour, and not suffer sin upon him. 18 Thou shalt not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of thy people, but thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself: I am the Lord.” Love your neighbour” as long as he’s Jewish

The preponderant Jewish view, however, is that “neighbour” refers to all humanity, for doesn’t it say “Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Leviticus 10:19). And, often, what can be stranger than your neighbour.

When it comes to religion in general, the majority Jewish view is that “religion is only positive for humanity if it is at the service of humanity, respecting diversity and dialogue with one another in honour of the creator of living beings.” (This quotation is from “The Jewish View of the Other and the Stranger/Foreigner” (L’autre et l’étranger dans la perspective juive) of the organisation of the “Liberal Jewish Community of Paris”. Here is the original French excerpt: “La religion n’est positive pour l’humanité que si elle est au service de l’homme, dans le respect de la diversité et dans le dialogue des uns et des autres en l’honneur du créateur et des êtres vivants”).

Thus, the main reason for religion, in this particular Jewish view is to bind communities together in honour of the creator of all living things.

There are many anti-theists (that is, if a creator existed they wouldn’t want anything to do with him/it) who might agree with the first half “religion is to bind communities together” but, naturally, reject the second half, “in honour of the creator of all living things.” The vast majority of humanity, in contrast, would approve of the whole package. I am reminded of what the “Reconstructionist” Jew wants from God: to help the Jew to:

“create a better society and worldwide democracy. Reconstructionist educators focus on a curriculum that highlights social reform as the aim of education. [We have] the potential for either human annihilation through technology and human cruelty or the capacity to create a beneficent society using technology and human compassion… [and] preparing people for creating this new social order” The Spirit of Reconstructivist Judaism.

This is also the view of many (I would say the vast majority) Jewish psychologists Viktor Frankl is a typical example.

Rabbi Tuvia Bolton
says, correctly, “Frankl only seemed to be interested in what works to supply man’s needs; not the Jewish (Chassidic) idea of supplying G-d’s needs (Nachat Ruach l’mala).” (Rabbi Bolton’s comment in “God in Viktor Frankl’s Logotherapy”).

All the above views are antithetical and heretical to Jews like Rabbi Bolton, who believe with many Christians (yet fewer than is good for them) that man was created to serve God and cleave to Him and not that God serve man.

19 Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. 20 Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name” (Deuteronomy 10:19-20).

For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen (Romans 11:36).

The above verse is the end of Romans 11. Let us continue a bit into Romans 12 where we see clearly the priorities of the Christian life, namely, honour God first and then your neighbour. The immediate context is the attitude of Christians but it extends to all without distinction or exception.

Romans 12

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is —his good, pleasing and perfect will.

Humble Service in the Body of Christ

3 For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. 4 For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5 so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6 We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us.

Love in Action

9 Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Jesus, the Christian’s blessed Saviour, Son of God, set the example:

Mark 10:40-46
… to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. 41 And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. 42 But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. 43 But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: 44 And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. 45 For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

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