By Messianic Pastor John Williams, D’var ADONAI Fellowship of Tulare
Level of Teaching (PaRDeS): Pshat – Basic, Grammatical, For Everyone’s Understanding
After many years of researching and studying biblical truths and traditions from both the Jewish and Christian worlds, I have come to realize that both worlds have more in common than many would like to admit.
Semantics do play a large part in not being able to recognize from the surface the similarities between the two distinct cultures. Much of it is due to how historians and spiritual leaders “with an agenda” want us to see and understand each other…to further keep a divide while hanging on to their traditions resisting any change even at the point of obscuring how we view the Creator of all. Lack of understanding is the very reason why this divide continues today.
Both the Jewish and Christian worlds worship the same God follow the same basic moral laws or codes of God and yet they both strive to be a unique culture and be nothing like the other as if this would be such heresy and betrayal to God…not even considering that these two different groups could in fact get along and even make great covenant partners (Isaiah 11:10, 42:6, 49:6, 60:1-3/Acts 13:47, 15:17, Romans 11:11-15, 15:9-12, Ephesians 2:14-22). One group helping the other to learn more about the cultural insights of the things being taught in the Bible…while at the same time helping each other to understand what it is to have grace and mercy from a loving and caring God.
So today the common consensus between these two worlds is that for the sake of preserving our “traditions” we are willing to forsake unity and working together in shining the Light of God into all the world demonstrating to all the nations that the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob is the one true God of all.
Traditions of men have and continue to be one of the greatest stumbling blocks for Jews and Christians and although many if not all traditions were established to help or keep us on the right paths before the God of all. Here are some insights I would like to share to help us to better understand how traditions, although well intentioned, have become more important in support of our beliefs even revered more than the Holy Scriptures.
Whether you are a Jew or a Christian your true heart’s desire is to please HaShem (Means “The Name” in Hebrew or another way to mean God). You are willing to do whatever it would take (short of falling off the face of the Earth) to ensure you do not do the things that would be displeasing to ABBA, the Creator of all.
So, first we must go to the scriptures from the Bible and find the things that are displeasing to HaShem to be aware of them and to even make the effort to avoid them at whatever risk we are willing to endure…thus the birth of traditions.
In Judaism and in Christianity, there are three related groups of concepts:
Gezerah / Fence – This concept is used to help you and I from “stumbling” into sin or inadvertently find ourselves walking into a sinful situation. Like a fence next to a ledge to prevent you and I from falling off a cliff. Example – It is a commandment to refrain from work on the Sabbath but it is a gezerah / fence to avoid even the handling of any work type instruments (hammer, drill, cooking utensils, yard rake, etc.) on the Sabbath. An example many Christians would relate to, the commandment not to commit adultery but it is a gezerah / fence to avoid being alone or provide private counsel to or with the opposite sex who is not your spouse.
Takkanah / Case Law Ordinance – Is a law or rule instituted by Rabbis / Pastors that do not directly come from the Bible but are inferred from its interpretation. In Judaism, an example of Takkanah would be the lighting the candles before the Sabbath begins. In Christianity, an example of case law ordinance would be the use of grape juice for the consumption of the fruit of the vine.
Minhag / Custom – Is an accepted tradition or group of traditions. In Judaism, an example of this would be the eating of apples and honey on Rosh Hashanah (The Head of the Year – Jewish New Year’s holiday). In Christianity, an example of this would be the celebration of the birth of the Savior during the Winter Solstice (Christmas) or celebrating the resurrection of the Savior on or after the March Equinox (Easter)
Most our traditions today were originally designed with this type of intention in mind to assist us in our daily lives to observe the things of ADONAI. So, with this said, not all traditions should be done away with or ignored but in fact should be observed if they are observed as they are intended and not as an addition to what HaShem has commanded (credited as righteousness).