Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Jewish Sabbath Boundaries (Eruvin)

The followers of HWA so often insist that to be a Christian it is necessary to observe certain Jewish rituals and traditions but the followers of HWA tend to know so little about the traditions of various forms of the Jewish religion. How many of them know what an eruv is?

When HWA began to adopt certain Jewish practices as part of his own syncretistic religion it is quite evident that he had little understanding of the Jewish practices and concepts he was adopting. It seems likely he adopted many of these ideas from a Church of God (Seventh Day) minister named G. G. Rupert.

The Seventh Day Baptists and Seventh Day Adventists adopted the Seventh Day Sabbath as their own. But they did not adopt the annual Sabbaths described in Leviticus 23. But Rupert did. It seems likely HWA was imitating Rupert in adopting these days instead of getting them from the Bible. 

So HWA did not bother consulting any Jewish person when he adopted these days and began to use them in his own religion. HWA taught his followers to rest on the Sabbath from Friday sunset to Saturday sunset. He said it was forbidden for them to work in that period of time. But what is "work" exactly?

Any Jewish religious practice he decided not to adopt he dismissed as merely extra-biblical traditions that his followers were not required to observe.

So HWA taught his followers not to work on the Sabbath. But how do Jews view this matter?

Last month Arutz Sheva, a far right Israeli media outlet that caters for national religious Israeli Jews and which is based in Beit El, an Israeli settlement in the Palestinian West Bank, published the following story.
According to residents of Kfar Bilu, the town council refuses to install an eruv, a boundary that allows observant Jews to carry certain objects in public areas, and use strollers and canes, on Shabbat. The residents claim that the council fears a proliferation of religious residents.

Gal Taib, a disabled veteran and a resident of Kfar Bilu, is unable to leave his home on Saturdays due to the lack of an eruv. "I am confined to a wheelchair. I became observant several years ago and it bothers me that there is no eruv in our town, since I am in a wheelchair and I cannot leave the house without an eruv," he said. (Arutz Sheva, June 16, 2016.)
This is one aspect of Judaism that HWA, as far as I know, never mentioned to his followers, namely the eruv. Here is how Wikipedia introduces the relevant article.
An eruv ([ʔeˈʁuv]; Hebrew: עירוב‎‎, "mixture", also transliterated as eiruv or erub, plural: eruvin [ʔeʁuˈvin]) is a ritual enclosure that some Jewish communities, and especially Orthodox Jewish communities, construct in their neighborhoods as a way to permit Jewish residents or visitors to carry certain objects outside their own homes on Sabbath and Yom Kippur. An eruv accomplishes this by integrating a number of private and public properties into one larger private domain, thereby avoiding restrictions on carrying objects from the private to the public domain on Sabbath and holidays.

The eruv allows these religious Jews to, among other things, carry house keys, tissues, medicines, or babies with them, and use strollers and canes. The presence or absence of an eruv thus especially affects the lives of people with limited mobility and those responsible for taking care of babies and young children. (Eruv, Wikipedia.)
Here is one writer explaining the religious requirements for an eruv.
Some community leaders are taking this situation as an opportunity to remind themselves what life is like without an eruv. Others, however, are concerned about whether or not a generation of Orthodox Jews who have been brought up carrying on the Sabbath thanks to an eruv will remember to avoid carrying — and thereby keep the Sabbath holy.
Of the varied forms of work that observant Jews avoid on the Sabbath, one of the most basic is carrying. Jewish law prohibits carrying any object outside of a private area to an open or public space. In other words, you can carry a glass of water around your living room, but not out of the front door.
This law poses obstacles to the fundamental ways we operate in the world, prohibiting the carrying of house keys, a cane or medication, or even an infant. Jews have developed ways around the law, such as belts and jewelry that incorporate keys. However, for many elderly and sick people, and especially for women and children, the proscription of carrying on the Sabbath symbolizes a virtual house arrest for 25 hours a week.
Rabbinic Judaism developed a solution about 1,800 years ago. Drawing from passages in Jeremiah and other parts of the Bible, Jewish sages in Roman Palestine came up with a the concept of an eruv, a symbolic border resembling a series of doorways (two uprights connected by a crossbeam), which mixes or fuses private spaces into one shared space by enclosing a neighborhood or a city.
Within an eruv enclosure observant Jews can carry keys, push a baby carriage or hold a baby, or bring food to someone’s home. Moreover, an eruv makes it possible for observant Jews both to follow Sabbath laws and to enjoy the Sabbath, one of the requirements for correct Sabbath observance. (Zachary Paul Levine, Eruv: The (Nearly) Invisible Borders That Define Religious Jewish Life, Huffington Post, April 7, 2013.)
Many cities and communities all over the world have eruvin.

Now of course many Jews do not observe this particular religious practice. Some are not even religious at all.

It turns out in traditional Jewish law there are thirty-nine activities which are forbidden to be done by a Jew on the Sabbath.
Halakha (Jewish law), especially the Talmud tractate Shabbat, identifies thirty-nine categories of activity prohibited on Shabbat (Hebrew: ל״ט אבות מלאכות, lamed tet avot melakhot‎‎), and clarifies many questions surrounding the application of the biblical prohibitions. Many of these activities are also prohibited on the Jewish holidays listed in the Torah, although there are significant exceptions permitting carrying and preparing food under specific circumstances.

There are often disagreements between Orthodox Jews and Conservative Jews or other non-Orthodox Jews as to the practical observance of the Sabbath. It is of note that the (strict) observance of the Sabbath is often seen as a benchmark for orthodoxy and indeed has legal bearing on the way a Jew is seen by an orthodox religious court regarding their affiliation to Judaism. (Activities prohibited on Shabbat, Wikipedia.)
In the Old Testament it is stated that "work" is forbidden on the Sabbath. The Hebrew word used for "work" is melakha. Turns out when it is said that "work" is forbidden on the Sabbath it does not mean exactly what we might think.
Though melakha is usually translated as "work" in English, the term does not correspond to the English definition of the term, as explained below.
The Rabbis in ancient times had to explain exactly what the term meant, and what activity was prohibited to be done on the Sabbath. The Rabbis noted Genesis 2:1-3:
Heaven and earth, and all their components, were completed. With the seventh day, God finished all the work (melakha) that He had done. He ceased on the seventh day from all the work (melakha) that he had been doing. God blessed the seventh day, and he declared it to be holy, for it was on this day that God ceased from all the work (melakha) that he had been creating to function.
Specifically, the Rabbis noted the symmetry between Genesis 2:1–3 and Exodus 31:1–11—the same term melakha ("work") is used in both places, and that in Genesis 2:1–3 what God was "ceasing from" was "creation" or "creating".
The Rabbis noted further that the first part of Exodus 31:1-11 provides detailed instructions for the construction of the Tabernacle, and that it is immediately followed by a reminder to Moses about the importance of the Shabbat, quoted above. The Rabbis note that in the provisions relating to the Tabernacle the word melakha is also used. The word is usually translated as "workmanship", which has a strong element of "creation" or "creativity".
From these common words (in the Hebrew original) and the juxtaposition of subject matter the rabbis of the Mishnah derive a meaning as to which activities are prohibited to be done on the Sabbath day.
Genesis 2 is not pushed aside by the commandments to construct the Tabernacle. The classical rabbinical definition of what constitutes "work" or "activity" that must not be done, on pain of death (when there was a Sanhedrin), is depicted by the thirty-nine categories of activity needed for the construction and use of the Tabernacle. (Activities prohibited on Shabbat, Meaning of "Work", Wikipedia.)
HWA knew little, if anything, about these matters. Yet he insisted on imposing his fragmentary knowledge of these things upon his followers and his imitators continue to do so to this day.

The COGs, if they happen to be of white British or American descent, claim to be Israelites and common brothers and sisters of Jews sharing a common ancestor in Jacob. But this dogma of British Israelism is not true. Europeans are not related to Jews in that way. They are stealing the Jews' identity for themselves.

Long ago, even before the New Testament was written, it was decided by the early Christians that it was not necessary for Christians to observe various Jewish practices. As is well known Christianity initially began among Jews and later non-Jews started joining. The question arose: Should they be circumcised? Should they observe the Jewish religious law that these Jews who were the first Christians had been observing all their lives? It was decided early on that these non-Jewish converts to Christianity did not need to observe the Jewish religious law. Galatians, for instance, was a polemic condemning those who told the early Galatian Christians that they needed to be circumcised. In the context of the New Testament to not be circumcised meant to not observe the Jewish religious law.

But HWA did not understand these things. He incorrectly insisted that various Jewish religious practices were in force among Gentile Christians in the New Testament and that it was only after the New Testament was written that these things were removed from Christian religious observance by Simon Magus and men inspired by Satan who allegedly took over the church and created what would become the Roman Catholic Church. This is nonsense. The break with Jewish religious practices occurred within, not after, the New Testament era. The fact that the New Testament says so little about observing Jewish religious practices indicates that is what happened.

HWA had no idea of the traditions that surround these Jewish practices. The COGs are in no position to insist they understand these things better than everyone else. HWA messed around with religious ideas that he knew little about.

Sadly HWA's ignorant exploitation of Jewish religious teachings and their very identity through British Israelism have caused some to blame Jews for following some of the various teachings that HWA and his imitators imposed on them. No Jew asked for or gave permission for their religious teachings and even their very identity to be exploited by HWA in his creation of his syncretic religion, Armstrongism. We should place responsibility on HWA and those who promote his idiosyncratic views.

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