Learning to color within the lines….

We were eating lunch in the ‘upper room’ overlooking the Temple Mount and the Kotel (Western Wall).  Technically, it was the meeting room over The Quarter Restaurant, but IMG_20150520_114531854‘upper room’ had a more interesting ring to it considering we were in the Old City of Jerusalem.  As we discussed a plethora of topics, particularly items of consideration before and during the First B’ney Yosef National Congress, Frank Houtz made a comment about the broad latitude within much of the Torah and the freedom we have to be different yet united.

Yesterday, a ‘third rail topic’ came up and it highlighted to me the imperative we have to learn the boundaries and then learn to walk in peace with those who may see things differently than we do.  Let me explain and give an example.

The Torah can generally be divided into to two colorscategories:  ‘DO!’ and ‘Don’t!’  These could be likened to the lines within which we are to color.

Many of these commands, particularly the ‘DO!’ commands, offer a lot of latitude in observance.  This latitude might be likened to the variety of colors that can be used within those lines.

Here is the Scriptural basis for a simplified case study:

37 The Lord also spoke to Moses, saying, 38 “Speak to the sons of Israel, and tell them that they shall make for themselves tassels on the corners of their garments throughout their generations, and that they shall put on the tassel of each corner a cord of blue. 39 It shall be a tassel for you [a]to look at and remember all the commandments of the Lord, so as to do them and not [b]follow after your own heart and your own eyes, after which you played the harlot, 40 so that you may remember to do all My commandments and be holy to your God. 41 I am the Lord your God who brought you out from the land of Egypt to be your God; I am the Lord your God.”

This is a ‘DO’ command that only has a couple simple guidelines:

  • It is NOT gender specific
  • Tassels (Tzitzit / tzitziot)
  • Throughout generations
  • A cord of blue

Honestly, there is a HUGE amount of latitude within this commandment.

  • How long do we make them?
  • What colors besides blue?
  • Wear them hidden or exposed?
  • How many?  We assume four corners…  but six, eight?
  • How thick?  Thin or REALLY FAT?
  • Sewn in or safety pinned?
  • How many and what kind of knots?
  • What kind of material?  cotton?  Wool?  Linen?
  • Beading?
  • etc…

Here is the point:  Man’s propensity is to start splitting hairs and adding distinctions in an effort to ‘further clarify’ the command.  Soon we have camps or division set up based on how many knots and what the proper spacing is…  Yet, there is NO SUCH statement anywhere in the command.

By way of example, I remember after I had been walking this Torah walk for a while, I became bored with ‘blue and white.’  Personally, I love bright colors and think our King enjoys them, too!  So, I made a couple sets of tzitzits that were multicolored.

Some couple weeks or a month later, we hosted a Messianic teacher who called me aside to ask questions about my tzitziot.  I went to my bedroom and pulled out five or six sets of varying colors and lengths which I laid out on the table and he expressed mild disapproval at my creations.  After I explained that I saw nothing in the command preventing my choices, he frowned and stood there awkwardly as his wife began handling and admiring the tzitzits.  She said, “These are beautiful.”  The conversation then sort of ended.

The large lesson, as it applies here, is to ask ourselves, “Do we look for places to divide, or, do we find the common ground that is within the boundaries of the Torah and then allow the Spirit to lead and direct others?”  Personally, I think Yehovah delights in creativity and variety, and I bet He delights even more when His children learn to enjoy His creation and the creativity He endowed others with.

 

 Hine ma tov u’ma-nayim Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad          הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד

Yeshua revealed just how ‘pleased’ He was with man-made traditions that override commandments of God when He said,

“Rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:

This people honors Me with their lips,
But their heart is far away from Me.
But in vain do they worship Me,
Teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’

Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men.”

He was also saying to them, “You are experts at setting aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition.

I suspect He would say much the same when we split the body into camps or sects (hairesis) that favor entirely man-made traditions.

Even sadder, we sometimes use these diversities to destroy each other.  Judges 12 relates a story of how the Gileadites of Manasseh used a difference in tribal linguistics to identify and kill their Ephramite brothers.

Then Jephthah gathered all the men of Gilead and fought Ephraim; and the men of Gilead defeated Ephraim, because they said, “You are fugitives of Ephraim, O Gileadites, in the midst of Ephraim and in the midst of Manasseh.” The Gileadites captured the fords of the Jordan opposite Ephraim. And it happened when any of the fugitives of Ephraim said, “Let me cross over,” the men of Gilead would say to him, “Are you an Ephraimite?” If he said, “No,” then they would say to him, “Say now, ‘Shibboleth.’” But he said, “Sibboleth,” for he could not pronounce it correctly. Then they seized him and slew him at the fords of the Jordan. Thus there fell at that time 42,000 of Ephraim.

In similar manner, how often do professed brothers in the Messianic separate over how to pronounce the Name, how to read the calendar, or how to observe a particular feast.  Tragically, we see divisions over minutia that fit well within the bounds of Torah and at times are issues even entirely unprovable!   (How to pronounce the Name!)

 

 Hine ma tov u’ma-nayim Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad          הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד

As we sat in the ‘upper room’ in the Old City enjoying lunch and chewing the fat, part of what prompted Frank’s comments on the broad freedom within much of the Torah was our shared concern for unity during the then upcoming B’ney Yosef Congress. As we talked, we agreed the true miracle we wanted to see was peace and unity.  If Hanoch Young has had one message for Ephraim (the Messianic movement), it is that we must learn to dwell in unity before we can hope to truly come into fellowship with Judah.

So, what does that look like?

First, as a people, we need to realize that none of us has all the answers and there is much latitude within the Torah for diversity in halacha.  Further, we need to understand that just maybe, our Father loves diversity over homogeneity!  He did, after all, create huge diversity even within larger groupings.  (Think how many types of beetles, or varying skin tones, types and colors of flowers, etc…)

Secondly, we must allow the Spirit to change each of us at our Father’s pace instead of trying to force everyone to grow at our own pace.  We are to be known for our love and not our doctrinal distinction or assumed purity.

Thirdly, none of us can judge the heart.  Only the Father.

 

 Hine ma tov u’ma-nayim Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad         

                                                                                   הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד

 

The early concerns that many of the delegates expressed at lunch that day before the First B’ney Yosef Congress proved entirely unfounded.  For a group representing 12 different nations from all over the world, there was an incredible peace and unity.  In fact, there existed a love and compassion that was palpable.  Oh, I saw some with long tzitzits, some short, and some without anything visible.  I saw blue and white as well as colored tzitziot.  Some ladies had them and others did not.  There was beading and a plethora of knot varieties…  and, a lot of smiles, hugs, and praising of the King.

Oh that our fellowship might be a foretaste of the work that seems to be happening across the Messianic as I hear  the message of unity beginning to come from every corner.  Let us be a people who not only learn to color within the lines, but have the freedom to enjoy the differing colors and styles of others inside the very generous boundaries our King has given us.  Let HIM be the One who draws and corrects as we simply learn to dwell in unity!

 

 Hine ma tov u’ma-nayim Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad         

                                                 הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד

 

Behold how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell in unity!!  Psalm 133

About Pete Rambo

Details in 'About' page @ natsab.wordpress.com Basically, husband of one, father of four. Pastor x 11 years, former business and military background. Micro-farmer. Messianic believer in Yeshua haMashiach!
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15 Responses to Learning to color within the lines….

  1. Tommy Wilson says:

    Pete Thank you for writing this! I couldn’t agree with you more! Your words express exactly how I have been thinking and feeling for a long time! How refreshing it is to hear another brother like yourself share what is so important to understand and grasp!

    Here are a few quotes that stood out to me.
    * “Here is the point: Man’s propensity is to start splitting hairs and adding distinctions in an effort to ‘further clarify’ the command.”

    * “The large lesson, as it applies here, is to ask ourselves, “Do we look for places to divide, or, do we find the common ground that is within the boundaries of the Torah and then allow the Spirit to lead and direct others?” Personally, I think Yehovah delights in creativity and variety, and I bet He delights even more when His children learn to enjoy His creation and the creativity He endowed others with.” I also believe that Abba ABSOLUTELY DELIGHTS in our creativity in our personess (is that a word?!) as He leads us by His spirit within the boundaries of Torah. There are just as many different expressions of a torah command as there are different people to express them.

    * “First, as a people, we need to realize that none of us has all the answers and there is much latitude within the Torah for diversity in halacha. Further, we need to understand that just maybe, our Father loves diversity over homogeneity! He did, after all, create huge diversity even within larger groupings. (Think how many types of beetles, or varying skin tones, types and colors of flowers, etc…)”
    * “Secondly, we must allow the Spirit to change each of us at our Father’s pace instead of trying to force everyone to grow at our own pace. We are to be known for our love and not our doctrinal distinction or assumed purity.”
    * “Thirdly, none of us can judge the heart. Only the Father.”

    When we start (and I want to say continue, because there are those who are already walking in unity) truly walking in unity with diversity, can you say LOVE, ACCEPTANCE, PEACE and FREEDOM!

    Shalom
    Tommy Wilson

    Hine ma tov u’ma-nayim Shevet ach-im gam ya-chad
    הִנֵּה מַה טוֹב וּמַה נָּעִים שֶׁבֶת אָחִים גַּם יַחַד

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Connie E says:

    Amein, Amein and AMEIN. May it be. So THEY will know who’s we are. BY our Love!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. loammi says:

    Hine matov indeed!

    Like

  4. Dorothe says:

    Esp. In regards to the tassels I w old like to add, that we might Look to Judah Deut. 17 for interpretation..b/c it is also a testimony to them… They say many colors don’t go because in those days you it meant if there’s only a blue strand..that only this was dyed… and the other parts not.. so what is thinkable is white with a strand of blue or all out blue.. on the other hand what does NBA or NFL-colored tassels remind you of?
    I don’t wanna be splitting hairs here, but I think there are examples where we miss the point when we think we have all the freedom to do what we want and at least is an example where we also should consider to humbly ask Judah how they came to their conclusion..

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dorothe says:

    …addition to previous, I think a bit different in regards to the tassels-colors.. and the testimony of it that it gives to our brothers… Esp. I think it is also wise in a few instances that we might Look to Judah (Deut. 17) for interpretation..b/c it is also a testimony to them… They say many colors don’t go because in those days it meant if it is mention of a blue strand..that the material e.g. cotton or linen had to be dyed..and in this case either left natural and part of it dyed or dyed all in blue… so what is thinkable is white with a strand of blue or all out blue tassles.. on the other hand what does NBA or NFL-colored tassels remind you of?
    Also the garment and the 4 corners.. I can’t remember the root word again, but I remember it was a term that indicates the fact that the garment was covering the sholders of the body..therfore they made it some kind of a shirt in the modern version… there’s still much variation left even in this framework and
    I don’t wanna be splitting hairs here, but I think there are examples where we miss the point when we think we have all the freedom to do what we want and at least is an example where we simply don’t know enough Hebrew and also should consider to humbly ask Judah how they came to their conclusion..

    Like

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  7. Ro Pinto says:

    I have a friend (female) who makes beautiful tzitzyot. Definitely feminine. She makes them look wispy and often adds beads.

    Liked by 1 person

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  9. Sharon B says:

    A couple of things: to look to Judah for halacha, although there is some variance in that camp – we would be working to “fit into” a mold that is fairly restrictive (blue/white) where there is no need; as you say, creativity still within “the lines” should be acceptable. But the second point is, you and many leaders in the Hebrew roots movement are pushing for unity and peace INCLUDING differences in practice/view of the calendar. Tzitzyot differences, OK; head-coverings/no head-coverings, OK; “Sacred name”/how is it pronounced/ or not! OK. But how do we “come together” on the truly divergent calendar issue? I desire peace and unity with brethren, but if I never see them as they are walking a completely different cycle (or they never see me!!) that is where “holding each other in high regard” without judgment is Really, REALLY difficult. Seems A.J.McCarn addressed this issue in his presentation and said let’s follow the Hillel calendar for this very reason – in the hope the Sanhedrin will grapple with and come to a decision that makes sense of this for us all.

    Like

    • Pete Rambo says:

      I do follow the Hillel for the reason you state. I do look forward to a Sanhedrinbthat can fulfill the mitzvah more precisely, but until then, I walk the calendar in unity with Judah.

      Like

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