2019 Study Summary 9: "He Taught Them As One Having Authority" | Israel Revealed

2019 Study Summary 9: “He Taught Them As One Having Authority”

Matthew 6—7

What is the significance of studying Jewish Values?
Judaism reflects a great history of instructions and traditions in giving charity and making offerings to assist the less fortunate. Philanthropy is a basic part of Biblical life, and hence, a religious life. To devout Jews, Biblical life means a Jewish life. “The obligation to help the poor and the needy and to give them gifts is stated many times in the Bible and was considered by the rabbis of all ages to be one of the cardinal mitzvot of Judaism.”

How do Jews care for the poor?
“Although the idea of charity and almsgiving is spread throughout the whole of the Bible, there is no special term for it. “The term hesed (“loving-kindness”), which is used widely in the Bible, has taken on the meaning of physical aid, or lending money without interest. “Everybody is obliged to give charity; even one who himself is dependent on charity should give to those less fortunate than himself.”

What are the degrees of giving?
Maimonides lists seven ways of giving zedakah which are progressively more virtuous: to give. (1) but sadly; (2) less than is sitting, but in good humor; (3) only after having been asked to; (4) before being asked; (5) in such a manner that the donor does not know who the recipient is, (6) in such a manner that the recipient does not know who the donor is; and (7) in such a way that neither the donor nor the recipient knows the identity of the other.

“The highest form of charity is not to give alms but to help the poor to rehabilitate themselves by lending them money, taking them into partnership, employing them, or giving them work, for in this way the purpose is achieved without any loss of self-respect at all.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

How do Jews collect offerings?
In a Jewish community it is similar to a Latter-day Saint custom of fast offerings. “In every town where there are Jews they must appoint ‘charity wardens,’ men who are well-known and honest that they should collect money from the people every Sabbath eve and distribute it to the poor . . . The actual collection had to be made by at least two wardens who were not permitted to leave each other during the course of it.”

How is tithing viewed by Jews and Moslems?
In modern times, the principle of tithing has been modified to reflect the charity and alms given. It is a general Jewish understanding that three percent of one’s income should be used for charitable purposes. I have found a few who prefer the tithing amount to be ten percent. In the Islam religion, charity is one of the basic five pillars or tenants of faith. The charitable contribution is generally considered to be two percent.

What are prayer mannerisms?
To Moslems and Jews as well as to many Christians, the acts of prayer are accompanied by mannerisms that show the person is in the act of prayer. Various forms of singing (chanting), bobbing (moving), washing, covering heads, and women wearing aprons have been passed down through the ages. The Hebrew word Kavvanah is the direction, intention or concentration of prayer. So that we can better understand the customs of others in their form of prayer and worship, “Melodic chanting was used as a means of increasing kavvanah and worshipers were taught to sway as they prayed, thus throwing their entire body into the worship.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What is a prayer circle?
When the Jews pray in a synagogue, they form a prayer circle (Minyan). It usually consists of at least ten participants. In addition to group prayer and the prayer circle, it is still essential to have individual prayer. “The rabbis placed great emphasis on the relationship of the individual to the community during prayer. Almost all prayer, for example, was written in the first person plural — “Forgive us,” “Teach us,” “Bring us to our Land.” Although private prayer was certainly permitted, the individual was urged to join a congregation (minyan) when he prays and to incorporate the needs of the minyan in his prayers.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

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What are origins of pre-written prayers?
Most prayers in Judaism are pre-written. Many are created from the Psalms. It is common that the prayers were and still are said in the Hebrew language. In fact, the Hebrew language was largely preserved because of prayers and, of course, the scriptures. There is also a recent trend of thought that questions the pre-written structure of prayers.

What do Jews feel about kneeling for prayer?
Kneeling, a common form of prayer among Christians, is shunned by Jews, although scriptural references to kneeling do exist. “And it was so, that when Solomon had made an end of . . . kneeling on his knees with his hands spread up to heaven.” (1 Kings 8:54) “O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the LORD our maker.” (Psalms 95:6)

How is fasting viewed?
The practice of fasting is found is Islam. It is also a part of Jewish life, although fasting is never done on a Sabbath day because Sabbath is a day of joy and fasting (to many) is less than joyful! Yom Kippur (a High Day – hence, treated as a Sabbath) is the only exception. On that day, fasting begins an hour before the Sabbath and continues until an hour afterwards. In spite of the statement in the Bible that fasting is only required once, Jews have many traditional fasting days and fasting reasons. It is the custom among the very religious to fast at the beginning of every month.

How do Jews describe choseness and mercy?
Latter-day Saints who consider themselves chosen if they keep the commandments, have the other part of the family stating, “How odd of God, to choose the Jews.” W.N. Ewer, who wrote this jingle, could not understand why Israel is God’s Chosen People. Moses, in Deuteronomy 7:7–8, explains it thus: “The Lord did not set His love upon you because you were more in number than any people . . . but because the Lord loved you, and because He would keep the oath which He had sworn to your fathers.” The rabbis insist that Israel was elected because it voluntarily accepted the Torah whereas other nations would not. “Mercy and forgiveness”, says the Talmud, “are distinguishing characteristics of Abraham and his seed, and these characteristics motivated God to choose Israel as His people.” “But God, as depicted by the rabbis, embodies a combination of justice and mercy, of strict judgment and lenient compassion. This combination of justice and mercy in God is represented by the two names of God — Elohim and YHWH (Jehovah). The former stands for justice and the latter for mercy. Though they may seem contradictory, one actually complements the other and, when there is a conflict between the two, God usually favors mercy.” (Encyclopedia Judaica Jr.)

What is commitment?
As a closing comment on this lesson, let me add a personal perspective. In the days of the Savior, all believing members committed their time, talent, and even their lives to “the kingdom.” I participated in an archaeological survey close to Jericho where we were discussing the odd nature of a beautiful synagogue floor of the first century. What was odd about it was the signature? Almost every ancient mosaic floor found in Israel has the signature of the donor with his family name and title. This one simply had an inscription that indicated that the “entire community” had done this work. I had the distinct feeling we were standing on the remains of a worship center used by early saints, “Former-day Saints,” people who committed themselves to first building of the Kingdom of God.

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