Readers of Messianic Jewish Musings should be glad I don’t write a post every time I read something that moves and inspires me in the rabbinic texts. While I am taking this class at the Messianic Jewish Theological Institute, I am reading so many things, I could keep you all busy for years. The rabbis read the Bible with such creative minds. I think too few Jews, much less Messianic Jews and Christians, sufficiently appreciate the beauty of rabbinic tradition.
My theme for today is not because this is the most inspiring thing I have read thus far. It’s just something that caught my fancy today. I hope the creativity and truth of it will fill you with pleasantness as it did me . . .
Judaism emphasizes the unity of the physical and spiritual (and in my opinion, good Christian theology does the same). Reuven Kimelman, writing in The Cambridge History of Judaism, Vol. Four, says:
Rabbinic theology differs from contemporaneous Graeco-Roman theologies, Jewish or otherwise, in its emphasis on the physical as complement, not as contrast, to the spirit.
This is why in Judaism it is forbidden to abstain from the good pleasures of the world without reason. God gave wine and food to be enjoyed and it is a sin not to enjoy them (this does not negate abstinence for alcoholics or fasting for religious purposes, etc.). Judaism takes seriously what God said in Genesis, “It is good.”
So I was delighted when I read a traditional, rabbinic description of the relationship between the soul and the body. It can be compared to the relationship between God and the world. There are eight parallels:
1. The soul permeates the body as God is present everywhere in the world.
2. The soul bears up the body, giving it life, just as God upholds the world.
3. The soul survives the body, just as God will be when all things cease to exist.
4. The soul is unique, each one different, just as God is one.
5. The soul is pure, just as God is pure.
6. The soul is seeing yet unseen, as is our heavenly Father.
7. The soul does not eat.
8. The soul does not sleep.