Jewishness Of Our Faith
Jesus Christ was a Jew. Born of a Jewish
mother in Galilee, he lived all his life
in what we call today Israel. All of his
friends, associates, colleagues, disciples,
all of them were Jews.
Even the way he spoke and the rhetorical
devices he employed betray this Jewish flavor.
Obviously he was very familiar with the Scriptures.
Just to take just one simple example, the
great cedar of Lebanon from Ezekiel plays
a role in his description of the mustard
He obviously worshipped regularly in the
synagogues and we know that he used to go
on procession to Jerusalem for any number
of festive religious holidays.
He was born, lived and died as a Jew. This
why an acquaintance with the Jewish legacy
is essential to understand our roots. As
one Rabbi says, "no one person is alone
when he can cling to a chain of tradition
in which he is the latest link."
"Where does God exist?" the Rabbi
asked several of followers. "Everywhere",
the surprised disciples answered. "No,"
the Rabbi insisted. "God exists only
where man lets him in!" This is why
Jewish spirituality is based on the blessing
- to speak well always of God, to think well
always of God… If a Jew breaks a leg, he
says, "Blessed be God that I did not
break both legs." And if he breaks both
legs, he says, "Blessed be God that
I did not break my neck!"
There are eight things, the Talmud says,
that taken in large quantities are bad but
in small quantities are helpful: travel,
sex, wealth, work, wine, sleep, hot baths
and blood letting!!
But there is one thing that should be taken
and given in colossal quantities, and that
is love. The Talmud says that "the commandment
to be charitable is in its weight as much
as all the rest of the commandments in total…
Those who give charity in secret are greater
Ann Frank is probably one of the most well
know Jewish figures. She was a teenager in
Holland during the Second World War who kept
a diary while hidden in a closet. The family
was eventually betrayed and she died in a
concentration camp. "Give of yourself,
she writes in her diary, "you can always
give something, even if it is only kindness…
no one has ever become poor from giving."
There was a terrible famine sweeping the
land and a good Jew decided to do something
to relieve the suffering. So he went and
knocked at the door of a rich man who was
known for his disregard for others. Instead
of money he was given a punch in his face!
Undeterred, he wiped his blood from his face,
and his only answer was, "The punishment
was obviously for me, but now how much will
you give to the poor?"
The beginning and the end of the Torah, the
Jews say, is the performance of loving kindness.
When the Tahnah The Pious was entering the
city on Sabbath Eve at dusk, he came upon
a man afflicted with boils. "Master,
do an act of kindness for me and carry me
into the city." Tahnah was unsure what
to do because he was carrying a bundle with
necessary provisions for his family.
If he abandoned the bundle, he would have
nothing for him and his family to support
themselves. However "if I abandon an
afflicted with boils, I shall forfeit my
What did he do? He carried the afflicted
man into the city and then returned for his
bundle. However when he started entering
the city, the last rays of the sun were coming
down. Everybody was astonished to see this
holy man disregarding the strict law of the
Sabbath. He himself felt bad. But God is
remarkable. At that point, the Holy One caused
the sun to continue to shine, thus delaying
the beginning of the Sabbath.
Yes, it is true, God looks at a man's heart
before He looks at his brains!
The Rabbis recount this powerful anecdote.
When Moses was tending the flock of his father
in law, Jethro, one young kid ran away. Moses
followed it tenaciously until it reached
a pool where it stopped to drink. However
Moses did not get angry but instead said
to the sheep, "I do not know why you
ran away. Perhaps you were thirsty. But surely
now you must be weary." So he placed
the sheep on his shoulders and carried it
God Almighty seeing all this, told Moses,
"Because you showed mercy in leading
this sheep back to the flock, you can lead
my flock, Israel." Compassion is always
Rabbi Moshe of Lieb tells the story of two
farmers who were chatting over a glass of
wine. At a certain moment, one of the farmers
asked the other whether he really loved him
or not. The other emphatically answered in
the affirmative. But the first farmer answered
back. "You say you love me, but you
do not know what I need. If you really loved
me, you would know!"
And the Rabbi concludes. "To know the
needs of men and to bear the burden of their
sorrow - that is the true love of men."
(c) Fr. Pius Sammut, OCD. Permission
hereby granted for any non-commercial
provided that the content is unaltered
its original state, if this copyright