God | Torah | the Universe | Judaism
an essay of faith and love
Messages from GOD
Part 1. Introduction
This site, begun in 2011 and still a work in progress, is about God, Torah, the universe, and Judaism, each of these summarized in its own section below and then expanded upon on subsequent pages of this site.
In 2017 I added a section called Messages from God. These were derived from what I believe have been His communications to me in intimate times of prayer. I have added them to the end of my discussion as Part 7.
Parts 1 to 6 of this web site present what I have learned during a heaven-inspired fifteen-year-long process of translating the bible from Hebrew to English. My long, nearly solitary journey was both difficult and rewarding, and fantastic in the wonder of the improbability of its results. In traveling this long path I have become intimately familiar with God’s presence, love, and encouragement. I have learned to love and revere the Lord. I have also come to cherish and respect the awesome Hebrew of the bible.
And I have -- to my utter surprise and chagrin -- found that in the bible, and especially in the Torah, many passages offer support for contradictory alternatives to some of the accepted and hallowed laws and traditions of Judaism. As one very exciting and ominously disruptive example, I have discovered that a traditional Jewish day should not start with sunset. Once this reality becomes accepted (if ever), it will have profound and far-reaching implications for Sabbath and festival observance. For another fascinating and potentially explosive example, I believe many of the kosher laws may be at best weakly supported by scripture, being based on (1) voting down reasonable alternative interpretations of three verses in Exodus, (2) overlooking the implications of a simple verse in Deuteronomy, and (3) discounting the similarities between milk and meat.
Even more to my chagrin, the Torah offers an unbelievable revelation about the Passover festival. We may not observe it in the normal manner given to us by Moses in the absence of certain conditions, which do not exist today.
And even worse, the Jewish year must start with the month in which Passover occurs, the first month as dictated by God to Moses. According to verses in Leviticus 25, the year is not to start with the seventh month (traditionally called Rosh Hashanah). It starts with Nisan (called Aviv in the Torah), and this instruction (law) has never been changed by God or Moses. It was inappropriately redefined by the sages during the Babylonian exile or by the Talmudic Rabbis. Therefore, I refer to the first day of the seventh month as Rosh Chodesh Hashvi’i, the head of the seventh month. Furthermore, it is not the anniversary of Creation, nor of the forming of Adam, as promulgated by adherents to tradition and Kabbalah.
Also to my surprise, I have discovered that biblical Hebrew is not the loosely structured language many scholars seem to believe it to be, but a well conceived tongue with consistent grammatical rules and amazing flexibility, suitable for conveying to the world God’s instructions, yet not easily revealing “too much.” My understanding, born of my long and deep contemplation on the translation and my struggle for discernment and wisdom, is that the Lord is not telling us the whole story we are eventually to learn. It is for God to know and us to seek. But He dictated how we should seek. Our seeking must be in accordance with the Lord’s words in the Torah -- which I have found to be less strict than tradition-worshiping Jews believe them to be.
Read more about these findings in Part 5, Judaism 1 and Part 6, Judaism 2.
Following this introduction I will examine the detailed support of my findings. After (or before) investigating the remaining six parts of this site, if you’re interested in delving deeper into my conclusions, you can visit my translation of the Hebrew bible and my more detailed remarks about the text and my discoveries on one of my companion web sites at http://www.rubinspace.org. For a discussion of the commandments I encountered in my journey, see my other companion website, http://www.rubincmds.org.
Please take notice that, because of what I say here and on the aforementioned web sites, halachah, traditional Jewish law, must define me as a heretic, a false prophet, and an evil man, even subject to sentence of death.
There is some biblical Hebrew displayed on many of these pages. If you would like to see the Hebrew, you will need to have installed on your computer the TrueType font called Bwhebb.ttf. Do you see the Hebrew name of Abraham here?
If you don’t, you will need to get the font. The instructions for doing so are here.
Please note that all of the translations of verses quoted on this web site are my own. You may find that they frequently differ from more traditional and accepted translations in many bibles. I have from the beginning translated according to a precise analysis of each word in context and have taken no liberties with the biblical Hebrew. Oddly, every other translator since the first translation (into Greek) more than 2000 years ago has taken such liberties.
Now, before continuing to the next section, please examine a Short Digression about pronouns relating to God. Read more >>
Many of those who profess belief in God consider Him to be a cruel, unjust, and manipulative Overlord, at times seemingly defying His own laws, whether spiritual or physical, purely for His own purposes. He is depicted in this fashion in numerous passages of the Hebrew bible, primarily in the Torah, the Five Books of Moses, and in Job. Moreover, we see this apparently cruel God, as described in the Torah, reflected in the obvious cruelty and impersonal arbitrariness of the world. There certainly appears to be ample evidence for this view all around us. At every turn, at every step along our way in life, the world greets us with menace, suffering, injustice, exploitation, illness, and death. And many of us spend much of our lives despairing over our “victimization” or bewailing our fate, and fearing worse.
On the other hand, the Torah contains frequent subtle hints, as well as outright expressions, of God’s eternal benevolence, love, patience, righteousness, justice, compassion, faithfulness, and constancy. How may we reconcile these two opposing views?
God’s love and compassion for humanity and His people, the Hebrews, is mentioned throughout the bible numerous times. In the Torah, God’s love and compassion is expressed fifteen times. But in reality, they are hinted at far more times. In such cases, it is necessary to read between the lines to understand the subtle implications. I will refer to and discuss some of these revealing passages on this site. You’ll find far more information on the above-mentioned companion web site.
Besides God’s love for us, He asks for our abiding love of Him. And He does this often, eleven times, in the Torah. He asks for both our love and our obedience to the instructions He offers us. Above all, He affords us the free will to choose faith, love, and reverence on the one hand, or disbelief, disobedience, and fear on the other.
So which view of God should we hold in our sights? Is God cruel and arbitrary or is God benevolent and merciful? I hope that whichever view you hold on your entry here, if you hold the first view, you will find it changing as you get deeper into this discussion. If you hold the latter view, you will find it solidifying as you progress. I hope the evidence I present and the discussion I offer will reveal a loving God to you, and help you to love and revere Him, the Lord of the Jews and the world, as I do.
The story of Creation, the venerated patriarchs and matriarchs, and Joseph and Moses has intrigued, captivated, and inspired human hearts and minds for over 3000 years. The Torah is the longest surviving, unchanged large body of literature in the world, precisely reproduced throughout the centuries in its original ancient Hebrew form. In the last three or four hundred years it has been translated into almost every language we humans speak. It has influenced every aspect of western civilization more than any other document in the history of the world. Along with all the miracles it describes, its incredible popularity and survival is itself a miracle that is hard to deny. Another fascinating fact is that those to whom the Torah is sacred, the Jewish descendants of its originator(s), constitute the smallest – by far! -- religious group of all the world’s major religions.
Furthermore, the language of the bible is mysterious and marvelous. The reality of biblical Hebrew is that it is not thoroughly understood (though most experts might disagree). Many of the subtleties of the language have been lost through centuries of exile, assimilation, and neglect. As a result, the meanings of a variety of words and phrases in the Torah, and bible, are guessed at or assumed, but are not completely understood. Mysteries, many unacknowledged, abound. Moreover, the Torah is at the same time both concise and ambiguous. Instructional verses are sometimes clear and relatively easy to interpret. But the meanings of many others are obscure and have been essentially voted on for the most acceptable interpretation (as recorded in the Talmud). The latter verses, it turns out, far outnumber the former.
If you were to embark on the journey of Torah and bible discovery as I have, translating from an innocent inexperienced perspective, you would probably also uncover the inexplicable other-worldly nature of the words you encounter. The bible, and especially the Torah, is awesome. What it says is intriguing, and what it doesn’t say is even more so. Mysterious!
My conclusions regarding the numerous vague instructions of the Torah are based on my love for its words and its story, and an even greater love for God.
In translating certain verses (to be described later), I have discovered that the original scribe(s) has (have) left clues as to the era in which he (they) inscribed the Torah. It would seem that much, if not all of it, was formally prepared after Moses’ death, after the children of Israel had captured, and settled in Canaan, perhaps even during the Temple era beginning several hundred years later.
There is no doubt in my mind that the Torah, while divinely inspired, was written by one or more humans. Too many “errors” leave little room for doubt as to the divinity of the writer(s). Still, regardless of its authorship, its words possess a strange and wonderful authority. And divine inspiration is not to be laughed or sneezed at.
Inquisitive people, as well as others who experience difficulties in their lives, often grapple with the following difficult questions, which I have heard or read of numerous times. If God is loving and benevolent, why is the world so cruel and life so hard? How can a loving God permit inhumane atrocities, oppression of whole populations, genocide, widespread deprivation, starvation, and sickness, deadly natural disasters, severe damage to the ecology and environment, and enormous personal hardships?
I’ve often wrestled with this dilemma myself. I don’t know the answer. No one does. For who can know the “mind” of God? But I can imagine a plausible reason for this seeming incompatibility, based on my interpretation of the Torah and the bible. Can I conceive of a lofty and worthwhile objective that might justify the apparent incompatibility? Yes, I can. And I expound on it later on this site in part 4 according to my understanding of the “central message” contained in the Torah.
How awesome is Judaism and the Jewish people! Many multiple times smaller than any other major ethnic or racial aggregation of people, the children of Israel have had, and continue to have, a vastly out-sized influence on the world. Emphasizing tradition over almost anything else, placing it (at best) on a par with Torah, and even sometimes allowing it to supersede God Himself, Judaism persists against all odds. God’s miraculous people! Yet I have found fault with many practices, as is revealed on this web site and my companion web sites.
The basis for traditional Judaism is a combination of written and oral law, called halachah. The Torah and the Talmud, as well as the writings of highly respected post-biblical sages, are the sources of halachah. Some Jews believe that the whole of halachah, not just the written Torah, was given to Moses by God on Mount Sinai. They further believe that it was then handed down orally until it reached the first of the continual assemblies of 71 sages of the Talmudic period that survived from about 200 BCE to about 600 CE. These sages interpreted the Torah and produced the Talmud.
Halachah identifies 613 commandments in the Torah, although their derivation and number has been debated by sages and rabbis throughout much of the Christian era. One of several lists of the Torah commandments, and the most popular, was enumerated by the 11th-century sage, Maimonides. The number 613 has significance. The original enumerator of the commandments, said to be R. Simlai, a first-century Palestinian haggadist, is believed to have claimed that 365 commandments were prohibitions and corresponded to the days of the year, and 248 were positive mandates and corresponded to the number of bones in the human body.
However, during my translation of the Torah I uncovered some 559 commandments. Three hundred thirty-six of them are positive and 223 are negative (no significance to these numbers!). I know my list deviates from Maimonides’ (and Simlai’s) list by at least fifty, those for which I was unable to find a basis in the verse that is cited for each commandment in Maimonides’ list and other reasons. I also found a number of passages that I interpreted as commandments which were not listed by Maimonides. As far as I am concerned, the exact number of commandments is trivial and arbitrary, because there is too much uncertainty and controversy concerning their derivation. The only matter of importance is that we identify, understand, and follow all the applicable instructions in the Torah.
From another point of view, we should appreciate that a few of the acknowledged commandments in the various lists are compilations of the instructions detailed in several verses of a chapter. Almost all of these commandments relate to ritual practices. One such example is “You shall follow the procedures for a burnt offering,” which condenses the instructions contained in Levi. 1:3 to 1:17. If the verses describing the ritual were considered as separate commandments, they would add fifteen more to the list. Not desiring to expand the list unnecessarily, and because these commandments relate to practices we are unable to conduct without a Tabernacle or the Temple, I followed the example of Maimonides and the sages and condensed the fifteen into one. I did the same for all the combined commandments.
The criteria I used for determining whether a passage contains a commandment are simple and straightforward. I based my identification and enumeration on eight principles.
1) The commandment has to be uttered by either God or Moses (echoing God).
2) The utterance must be for a behavior that is intended to be perpetual, not for a
predetermined limited time or a single event.
3) The command has to be specifically to the children of Israel.
4) A passage that specifies two or more behaviors contains two or more commandments, one
for each behavior specified.
5) The procedures included in an interrelated activity are all summarized in one
6) A verse that applies to the Tabernacle also applies to the Temple as a commandment.
7) Two equally valid translations of a verse yield two commandments.
8) A commandment is listed only once no matter how many times it's repeated in the Torah.
I have read that Maimonides employed 14 principles for his list of commandments. I believe that many of them are incorporated in my eight as having been implicitly assumed by me as being logical and unnecessary to enumerate. As one example, Maimonides’ twelfth principle is: “Do not include in a commandment the successive stages in the performance of a commandment.” Maimonides was far more thorough in his enumeration than I. Nevertheless, I believe I adhered to similar, albeit unenumerated, principles, except for Maimonides’ 6th and 14th principles. See my second companion website www.rubincmds.org on the commandments for an explanation of these points.
[Return to Rubinspace.org Gene.17:13]
[Return to Rubinspace.org Exod. 12:6]
Before going on, I have to say one more thing. As a Jew, I have a deep respect for our tradition. I have little doubt that without it, we Jews would likely not have survived for the last 2500 years. As I see it, it’s one of God’s ways of preserving us. So without the ingenuity of our ancestors during the Babylonian exile and afterwards, Judaism might possibly have been dead today. Tradition has been important to our survival. It deserves our deep respect. However, I have more faith in the Lord than our sages apparently did. I am convinced that we Jews would have survived despite not having the oral tradition. The Lord tells us that we are His eternal children. His ancient covenant with us is carved into our flesh. He says we are eternal. I believe it.
He tells us to trust in Him. That’s exactly what I have done and am doing.
But at the same time, tradition has also had at least one consequence that may be considered to have diminished Judaism. It has led to splinter movements down through the ages: Sadducee, Pharisee, Essene, Zealot, Karaite, Rabbinic, Chasidic, Reform, Conservative, Reconstruction, Chabad, each of whose members believed and believe in different interpretations of the Torah. But there’s something about tradition that is even more important than this fracturing. In my humble opinion, oral law -- tradition -- goes far beyond the Torah commandments, which is a violation of a critical precept. As one orthodox rabbi put it to a congregant as I listened, “Most of tradition is not in the Torah.” I was astonished that he would admit this and yet not understand what he was saying. That statement is an admission that the oral law violates a precept dictated in two verses in Deuteronomy, 4:2 and 13:1 (see part 5, Judaism 1, for more on this subject).
As a result of this, I have to say: Respect, while important, should not become veneration. I do not worship tradition and neither should anyone else. I have to be critical of the way tradition seems to have replaced God and Torah as the center of Jewish life, even for rabbis and “observant” Jews. Placing tradition before anything else, defending it against all questioning or criticism, following it with blind faith, accusing those who criticize or denounce any of its precepts of heresy and worse! All these are, in my mind, violations of God’s instructions in the Torah. Furthermore, I believe that some of the more important of these instructions have been interpreted irrationally in order to justify making Jewish law as strict and as exclusive as possible. I will provide examples of some of these later in Part 5, Judaism 1 and Part 6, Judaism 2.
One last comment, perhaps impertinent and disrespectful, nevertheless true. All of the laws of the oral tradition are said to have been given to Moses on Mount Sinai and handed down through the generations until the second century CE. These were all put into writing during the Talmudic period. They may be referred to as rabbinic tradition pronouncements. Well, I believe these pronouncements are man-made and not dictated by God. Some evidence for this exists in the Talmud itself. It records the counter arguments of the opposing sides of the debate on interpreting Torah passages. Would both contradictory views handed down from Sinai? I find that very hard to believe.
I once asked a rabbi about this. If the oral tradition was faithfully handed down to the Talmudists, why are there two arguments given for every interpretation? You may be surprised at his answer -- I was. He said “Both sides were given to Moses and then handed down.” I hesitated to ask why two sides were handed down. I suspect he would have answered with “To show us that we can question and debate.”
As I see and have experienced the situation, traditional Judaism has an answer for every question, however illogical the answer may be.
The messages consist of an introduction, a number of speeches by God to the world, and a poem. I won’t say too much other than that some of the speeches may be rather disturbing to some people. So proceed with care and at your own peril. You can reach the messages only from the menu at the top left of every page.
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