Sunday, January 13, 2013

Are You Willing to Look Strange For Yeshua's Sake?



We are social animals.  Our instinct tell us to associate with other humans for survival and for happiness.

This instinct becomes problematic for Messianics who desire to obey the Torah ("and you shall not walk in the customs of the nation which I have cast out before you" Leviticus 20:23) but also feel the need to fit in with the host culture, which is, inevitably, a wicked culture.

So how do we direct the socializing instinct toward a righteous end?  I believe that the Torah tells us the solution.  First, let's hear how Maimonides describes the problem:

"It is natural to be influenced, in sentiments and conduct, by one's neighbors and associates, and observe the customs of one's fellow citizens.  Hence, a person ought constantly to associate with the righteous and frequent the company of the wise, so as to learn from their practices, and shun the wicked who are benighted, so as not to be corrupted by their example.  So Solomon said, 'He that walks with the wise, shall be wise; but the companion of fools shall [hurt] for it' (Prov. 13:20).  And it is also said, 'Happy is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked' (Ps. 1:1).  So too, if one lives in a country where the customs are pernicious and the inhabitants do not go in the right way, he should leave for a place where the people are righteous and follow the ways of the good."

"We should not follow the customs of the Gentiles, nor imitate them in dress or in their way of trimming the hair, as it is said, 'And you shall not walk in the customs of the nation which I have cast out before you' (Lev. 20:23);  'Neither shall you walk in their statutes' (ibid. 18:3); 'Take heed to yourself that you be not ensnared to follow them' (Deut. 12:30).  These texts all refer to one theme and warn against imitating them.  The Israelite shall, on the contrary, be distinguished from them and be recognizable by the way he dresses and in his other activities, just as he is distinguished from them by his knowledge and his principles.  And thus it is said, 'And I have set you apart from the peoples' (Lev. 20:26)."

In conclusion, the way to prevent assimilation is address the instinctual need for socialization:  (1) associate with a righteous community; (2) shun the traditions of the host culture; (3) purposefully dress according to the principles of tzniut and according to the halachah of Israel; (4) establish a community that observes the three sociological pillars of Judaism:  Shabbat, Kashrut, Taharat haMishpochah.

Hope this helps!

Shalom,

Peter

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