Monday, February 8, 2016

The writing on the doorposts - God's reminder for righteousness

When God wants us to follow His commandments, He’s not shy about what we should do. Also, I know is He is not about taking over our life and running it for us. He has to remind us to do certain things and we have to remember what they are.

Participation, not abdication

That the Lord isn't our personal chauffeur is evident by our freedom to make mistakes and then calling us back to obedience through His commandments. We either read about them or remember the singes from His past rebukes. He loves for us to be obedient but also wants us to enjoy our life. In the right way.

I think most people want to believe God wants us to enjoy our lives also. I know the Puritan who strayed from the flock, Benjamin Franklin, has often been misquoted about beer being proof that God loves us when his French correspondence was really more about the wedding at Cana and the wine celebration there (John 2:1-11). It means about the same thing but centers on something too often abused.

A better focus of pleasure is said more elegantly in Ecclesiastes 9:9 concerning how our life is to be enjoyed with the woman you love.

So at least we know that we have a loving God that gives us the freedom to be a part of His physical world. The laws start out with general commandments of the heart and mind. And then they get more specifically concerned with our activities which can remind us of the most important laws when we do them.

The mezuzah

The one specific part of the Torah where Deut 6:9 talks about having the commandments written on the doorposts of your house is the source for the mezuzah placed diagonally on many observant Jews’ houses and apartments. I especially cherish this law and its various customs of keeping it.

It may be just a small container with some verses it in, but it represents more than that. It’s certainly not a talisman of the house to protect you from an angel who comes to destroy anything. It has no magical ability to guard against bill collectors or prevent disease. God does not put any spiritual power in a physical object so that someone can worship it.

But as a symbol, it has the power to do God’s duties in our world. That way, is when we pass through the door, read in our heads what is written on that little scroll inside the container, and have those words become a part of us. We then take those words into our house and live with them each day as they become a part of our life. We eat with them, we sleep with them.

Then when we leave in the morning, we take those select verses with us to our job. They wait for us when we come home again. My meditation on those basic and elemental thoughts about my relationship with God is the way that I am cleansed from the world every day. They shield me from the worldly desires to find an alternate god and seek another happy place.
The Lord will keep you from all harm—he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalms 121:7-8
I would decorate them on my doorposts in my home but since I’m neither a sofer stam (qualified scribe) or a good painter, I would rather just have the printed version and know what is contained in the distinctive vessel. The mezuzah is the doorpost and the scripture is to be on them so we continually refresh our priorities of our day while we are in transit from one activity to the next.

Why not inscribe all of the important scripture on all our door jambs where we can read it daily? Well, that’s the purpose of the study of the Torah. We do have to walk through those gates of study as a conscious decision to understand what God is telling his children. The study times do serve the same purpose.

Slow holiness

As we take the commandments into our house, refreshed by the kissing or viewing of that parchment holder, they blend with our activities in the home. Our activities become more aligned to those laws and the laws share themselves with us while we partake of them. Our activities become slowly cleansed and made more acceptable to our God.

If the words in the mezuzah are the only truth about God that we know, then we at least are being reinforced with the most basic knowledge of all in Deut 6:4, the Shema, one common verse there. And through each repetition of that verse we realize that the Lord is the only one. And who is He one with? He is one with His creation. And that includes us.

Our uninterrupted feedback from seeing and hearing commandments in our mind lead to the physical mitzvot of us doing acts of righteousness and becoming blameless, to the certainty that the Lord is one. When a corrupt act breaks that loop, there must be restoration in His world because there can be no unity without a repair to that order. The Lord is not two. There is only one way to come to know Him.

May you, our Lord God of holiness, be at our side in our daily household tasks so that Your blessing is rich for our family. May you, Lord of oneness, provide a shelter to keep us protected when we go out to face the storms.  And we ask that our ways are steadfast in obeying Your decrees so that we are not put to shame. Let us praise You with an upright heart as we learn more of Your righteous laws.

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