So I am on a plane reading Flavius Josephus, a history of the first century Judea. Seriously, what else would someone like us read on a plane? The Bible, I guess. A Jewish Rabbi gets on on the layover (I was on Southwest where you don’t always leave the plane on a layover). Curiously, he’s about my age and build, too, and sits down across the aisle from me and one row back. This would be one of only four seats on the plane where he can see what I am reading. I had moved seats when the plane landed, too. I don’t believe in coincidences.
The Rabbi notices I’m reading Josephus and strikes up the conversation. He really, really, really wanted to tell me that Josephus turned traitor at the end. Which is fine and I had already deduced that Josephus was a slimy guy with the way he manipulated the leaders in Jerusalem, King Agrippa, and the Roman leaders all at once. Also from what I have read I considered him to be noble because he sought to end disagreements without violence. In one instance, the people under his command were fired up and ready to burn another city to the ground so Josephus lead them on a long, hard ride into the country. Once they were tired and had calmed down, he convinced them to send word of the problems to Jerusalem instead of fighting. They agreed and went home without shedding any blood. It was a good thing Josephus did at that point.
I decide to take advantage of the situation with a guy who is a treasure trove of knowledge sitting next to me. The first I notice is he is wearing all white tzit-tzit. He’s decked out in Rabbi attire: all black clothing, a kippa, and a piece of cloth with a pattern on it about his waist, but the tzit-tzit are white – not blue. What the Bible says about tzit-tzit:
Num_15:38 “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.
Here’s a picture of what most believers in Messiah would consider a tzit-tzit
So I asked him what the deal is with the white tzit-tzit. As it turns out, the Rabbis can’t agree on what shade of blue the tassels are supposed to be, so they wear white. My conversation with the Rabbi was very nice and we got onto some pretty esoteric topics. The guy and I have a lot of other stuff in common, too. I would love to spend days talking and learning from him. Because my questions and knowledge were not something that a Rabbi would ever expect to hear from a non-Jewish person, I ultimately had to fess up to being a Torah-keeping believer in Messiah. He asked what we do for Sukkhot and wanted to know if I knew how to pick out kosher food products. It was really a great conversation.
The traditions of men is something that most readers of this blog have been trying to distance ourselves from while trying to draw closer to Yahweh. As I’m talking to the Rabbi, I think “Why wear a tassel at all if it’s not going to be blue?”
I’m not picking on the Rabbis in particular, but one of their doctrines “gone wild” is the mikvah. It’s “brief” doctrine can be read here http://www.chabad.org/theJewishWoman/article_cdo/aid/1541/jewish/The-Mikvah.htm. Mikvah started with the idea of washing with water after a period of uncleanness. Here’s one verse about it:
Lev_17:15 “When any person eats an animal which dies or is torn by beasts, whether he is a native or an alien, he shall wash his clothes and bathe in water, and remain unclean until evening; then he will become clean.
It is a simple concept in the Torah that when a person becomes “unclean” in a few specific instances, they are to wash with water to become clean. There’s no hint of constructing a specific pool or what type of water is to be used in the Bible. Due to tradition, this practiced has morphed into something quite odd. (I am not arguing in favor or against the scriptural application of washing with water. I’m just using this as an example of “traditions gone wild”).
Examining these traditions brings to mind:
Matthew 15: 9 ‘BUT IN VAIN DO THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE PRECEPTS OF MEN.'”
Christian “traditions gone wild” are generally what this site is about. Sunday replacing Sabbath is the biggest error. It is a doctrine of man that has convinced billions that they must break the fourth commandment. Christmas and Easter replacing God’s appointed times rank right up there, too. In fact, those Christian traditions are what most of us think of when we read Matthew 15:9, forgetting that it is in all caps which means it’s a quote from the Old Testament. Yeshua was actually referring to Rabbinical traditions when He said that. The Messiah probably takes great umbrage with those who profess to believe in Him creating similar problems to what He condemned when He came in the flesh. I don’t think it is logical to conclude that He had a problem with the Jewish traditions so He came down here so we can make some Gentile traditions to take their place.
So, back on the plane, the Rabbi asked me what traditions we have. I was stumped. Of course, we really can’t have a worship without some type of traditions, but I couldn’t really come up with even one when he asked me. After thinking about it, I’ve come up with a lot. Having a service on Sabbath is a tradition. Having a Bible study on Sabbath is a tradition. Having a potluck on Sabbath is a tradition. The format of the services and their locations for the High Days are traditions, too. But I couldn’t think of any when he asked and I think that is important. That’s because traditions start small and insignificant. I bet the first guy who built a mikvah had no clue what that was going to turn into. The “shade of blue” thing still blows my mind, but I don’t think the first believers in Messiah to start meeting on Sunday in addition to Sabbath ever thought it would spiral into the biggest error to ever enter the faith of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. I guess the moral of today’s story is that sometimes actions have incredible consequences, some that could never be anticipated!