In discussions I have had with people about God, like the one I had with Believers I met at breakfast on a cruise this weekend, and also those discussions (cat fights, mostly) I have followed in some discussion groups on Face Book, I have come to ask myself this question: “What is important, and what isn’t?”
Is it really necessary to know if there is a difference between the Ashkenaz mentioned in the bible and the Ashkenazim Jews from Eastern Europe? Are they descendants of Noah through Japheth? If so, does that mean they aren’t really Jews? Or is the term “Ashkenazim” just being used to identify them as different from the Sephardic Jews?
Better yet…does it matter?
Also, the pronunciation of the Tetregrammaton is vehemently argued, many using a “W” instead of the “V” in the third letter, justifying it by saying that in Paleo-Hebrew the letter V (vov) also was pronounced with a “W” sound. I see the same thing with the Hebrew name for Jesus, Yeshua, being restructured into Yehashua. Which is correct? Is God’s holy name Yahweh? Jehovah? Yehoveh? Yeh-veh?
Does it matter? Or, more realistically in this case- are we supposed to even know it? Are we supposed to use God’s own name, the Holy Name, as easily as Tom, Dick or Irving?
I have nothing against extra-biblical knowledge and study being used to help better understand the bible, the history of the Jewish people, the history of the split between Jews and Messianic Jews during the 1st to 3rd Century C.E. (that devolved into the many Christian religions we have today), or biblical archaeology. I have always said that when we interpret the bible, in order to properly understand what they meant when they said it, we need to know the cultural and grammatical meanings of the words and expressions they used back then. That knowledge of etymology, archaeology and history isn’t always found in the bible, so we need to look elsewhere.
What I am absolutely certain of, though, is that it is not necessary to know any of that in order to be saved. To be saved we only need to do T’Shuvah (repent), accept that Yeshua (Jesus) is the Messiah God promised and to ask forgiveness of our sins through His name. That’s all- repent of sinning, accept Yeshua as our Messiah, ask forgiveness of sins through His name, and change your life by living more for what God wants than for what you want.
After that, it’s all just gravy. Leaning more about God and what He wants from you is important, and all you need to know about that is in the bible. You do NOT need to go anywhere else. Learning about the history of the world at that time, about Judaism from a Rabbinical viewpoint (through the Talmud and even the Zohar) is OK, so long as you don’t let it get in the way of your salvation!
What I mean is this: Yeshua died for you so that you could have forgiveness of sin and commune with God in the Olam Haba (world to come) forever. That is all you really need to know for salvation. What you learn from Rabbinical readings will not do any more for you regarding salvation; when you are reading Talmud and Zohar you are going beyond what is in the bible, entering into the realm of man-made information, and you need to step cautiously. Where you are is not where God sent you because what is in these volumes is not from God, it is from men. As such, you will need to remember that no matter how wise (and the Talmud is rife with wisdom) or how holy sounding, or how miraculous, or even just how sensible something sounds….it is not the inspired word of God, it is the inspired word of people.
Let me restate that I have nothing against knowledge. I love to know everything. Throughout my career (and I have had three different carers) I have always been the “Duty Expert”, the one with the answers. I have out-performed many of my peers over the years only because I made sure I knew more about what I was dong than they did. But when it comes to God, salvation and all the related topics, I try to keep it simple because… it is simple.
Moshe told us how simple it is in Deuteronomy 30:11-15:
Now what I am commanding you today is not too difficult for you or beyond your reach. It is not up in heaven, so that you have to ask, “Who will ascend into heaven to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” Nor is it beyond the sea, so that you have to ask, “Who will cross the sea to get it and proclaim it to us so we may obey it?” No, the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart so you may obey it.
Therefore here is my warning, if I may use so strong a word, to those who are new to salvation, or Judaism, or anyone who is thirsty to know more about anything involving God: PLEASE keep focused on the bible as the verifying document. If it isn’t explained in the bible, then whatever it is, it isn’t something God thought you need to know. And another thing- please maintain a humble and open attitude towards others who have different opinions. God gave us all Free Will so that we could choose Him or reject Him, as well as everything else in our life. We should respect that everyone has a right to choose to believe (or not believe) as they want to. If we are certain they are on the wrong path, we should try to convince them of what we know to be the truth, but you can never catch flies with vinegar so do not be nasty, derogatory or cruel and insulting when you meet someone with a different “spin” on something. When someone says something I find hard to believe, I ask where they leaned that, and if I am certain they are wrong I will suggest that what I learned was different, and will have to check out what they say. I would then politely suggest they may want to verify it with the bible, and I give them this advice:
For me, the “Acid Test” question is: “How will this affect my salvation?” So, when it comes down to it, will knowing (fill in whatever topic you want to) make me “more saved” or “less saved” than someone who (1) believes in God; (2) believes Yeshua is the Messiah and (3) tries to live as Yeshua said, by loving God and loving each other?
Isn’t that what the One who died for us said is all we need to know? To love God and to love each other?
All the rest is just “nice-to-know” stuff, and not important for your salvation.