All the mitzvot [commandments] I am giving you today you are to take care to obey (Deuteronomy 8:1).
This Scripture actually describes God’s commandments in the singular (kol hamitzvah). The emphasis is not on following each one of God’s instructions as separate or distinct parts. Instead, they need to be viewed as a whole, as the Artscroll Tanach reads, “the entire commandment.” In other words, each part of the Torah is interconnected. Ya’akov (James) makes the same point as he reflects on this passage in James 2:8-12. This means we cannot treat Scripture as a dinner menu, selecting just those items which are most appetizing.
Have you ever reflected on this reality? How do you decide which commandments in Scripture to obey and which to ignore? Are there any that can be ignored? Some people suggest that only those mentioned in the Apostolic Scriptures must be followed. However, this is misleading for several reasons, not the least of which is what we mentioned in the last post. The common assumption being that Jesus boiled the commands we have to worry about down to just the big two, but au contraire…there are actually considerably more in the so-called “New Testament” than in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Are God’s commands, whether they are in the first 2/3 or the last 1/3 of the Scriptures, intended to be burdensome? As Paul would say, “Certainly not!”, they form His Owner’s Manual to Life. How many of us men have ignored the Instruction Manual too long when attempting to put together the latest furniture purchase that our wife has proudly deposited on the living room floor–in a box of course? Guilty as charged! However, on a side note, I must say that I have learned my lesson and I religiously (pun intended) follow the instructions now. It’s amazing how I only have to put the darn thing together once or perhaps twice before I have it right. Whereas in the past…well, we won’t talk about the past, my blood pressure is doing just fine where it is, thank you.
Does this mean that if we can’t keep the whole of Torah we might as well give up and not keep any of it? That’s like the story of the bear who goes into the cornfield and fills his arms with ears of corn. As he leaves, he drops one ear. Dissatisfied with losing part of his haul, he throws down the rest and goes back to gather more. Again he drops an ear as he leaves the field. Again, dissatisfied, he throws away the remainder and returns to get more. He does this repeatedly. Eventually, he goes away hungry.
That’s right, though I too often hear this argument, “Why should I worry about everything the Torah says, I can’t even do what’s in the New Testament right?!”, it’s actually a completely ridiculous idea. First of all, not to beat a dead horse, but there’s more commandments in the New Testament than in the Old.
Ok, if I don’t get to a new idea soon PETA is going to be picketing my blog. Stay tuned, for a totally new idea…