Full Version: Mitzvah & Mikvah (Long!!)
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<COLOR color="navy">Part of the chat we did last Friday, September 8, was exploring a bit more about the whole concept of mitzvah. We talked a bit about mikvah, too, a term that is basically unrelated. Then today, we went to church and heard about??? Yup, BOTH of them! The guest preacher did not use the words, but oh honey, they were in there.

Mitzvah (plural mitzvot) is badly translated as "good deed" in many Christian explorations of Judaic thought, culture, or religious expression. Badly translated! Another bad definition was found online, "any act of human kindness, such as the burial of the body of an unknown person." Other definitions that my knowledgable friends say are closer are, "a commandment, but not at quite the same level as THE commandments", "commandments that are not on the same moral plane as the Ten Commandments," and things like that. One online definitions are intriguing, "any ritual, religious or ethical obligation to follow God's will." Closer, methinks, but still no cupie doll. All of those are interesting, but none of them seem to take into account the Jewish mindset, looking at the complete interconnection of body, soul, and spirit, the whole being.

The Jews have a much better concept of consequence than do most of us westerners. What I'm about to share is what I've gleaned over a number of years, composited from many teachers. No promise as to its accuracy, but I'll be submitting it to a few trusted friends to see if I've captured their understanding of the concept.

Father God instructed all of the seed of Abraham, unto all generations. He gave some pretty explicit instructions. We've talked a little about the "imperatives" found in scripture. These are not suggestions. These are instructions; the Jews call them commandments. Most of the western church hears that word and limits it to 10. They also hear the Jews say 613 commandments and the western eyes roll back into their collective sockets, clucking tongues and reciting the word, "Pharisee!" :pharisee:

The more I read, the less convinced I am that the Jews are that far afield from what Father intended. He was teaching them (and us!!) about what life was to be, and how to be righteous, and how to snuggle in ever-closer to Him. All of these noble acts, spoken by God Himself, usually with words like, "Thou shalt", or "do this..." These are not suggestions. Jesus said during his last passover meal, "WHENEVER YOU DO THESE THINGS..." strongly implying that these things were TO BE DONE!! Isn't that an instruction? A commandment??? 614... Smile

The very special thing about most of these is that they are not burdensome, and they come with a blessing. By doing them, you are being a blessing to somebody, and to our Lord. Having done them with the right heart attitude, we're changed more and more into His likeness, displacing the darkness of our flesh with the light of His Spirit. The object is not to do them SO I can be blessed, but out of joy in Him, and out of respect for the things that He's told us to do. If we know what He expects in certain situations, those responses become our natural responses. That's a good thing. His supernatural instruction becomes our native response. Naturally Supernatural Cool, yes? Makes we want to go ferret them out so that I can be better equipped to do His will with intention.

And then, today's sermon. What a goodie! :wow:

Text was John 13:1-10. He had at least another 2 hours of stuff that he wanted to bring to the fore, but the clock won't permit that in our parish. :yeahright: We are a fully liturgical church, celebrating the Eucharist each week as a focal point of our time together. Brother David's words to us came through the context of the institution of the Table of the Lord, and we were asked to listen carefully to the true nature of the invitation we were receiving. That made me have to listen. He's a great teacher, great heart, wise, learned. He always brings me a treasure trove.

It's Thursday before Passover. Jesus is gathered with the 12, soon to be 11. In the midst of the meal, Jesus gets up, girds his loins with a towel and proceeds to wash the feet of the 12. In the midst of the meal. Never really thought much about that before. Enter Friend and Brother, David's sermon. He related a bit about how things were done in the Jewish community of the day. One of the mitzvot is that the Jews were to be careful to be very kind to strangers (also translated aliens or sojourners), since they were once strangers and were taken in (Ex 22:21). David went on to share that most folks are ignorant of even more of the context. The host never washed feet. It was always a slave (bondslave or bondservant, not a mere hired servant). Jesus washed the feet, serving as Father's bondservant in this footwashing. That's imporant later, as is the act of the footwashing and Peter's response.

David shared that there are three levels of relationship involved in the mitzvah of hospitality. It starts as a stranger. The stranger is tested out to make sure that it can be an honorable relationship at a deeper level. Like maybe over a meal, say a PASSOVER meal in this case. Father had invited the 12 to this meal and in the words of the King James Version concerning Abraham & Isaac, "The Lord [has provided] Himself a Lamb" (Genesis 22:8, KJV). And YHWH had also provided Himself a manservant to do the washing, once the inquiries and testing was complete. The 12 had graduated from "stranger" to "guest". David reminded us about Lot and the angelic guests. It was the host's responsibility to guard the guests, to protect them and provide for them in the extreme, to the absolute best of his ability. Hospitality is no mean act. Lot was willing to be extreme in his protection of his guests (beyond stranger at this point, and before the exodus, too). Lot understood the principle, but his methods of protecting the strangers/guests is beyond my understanding. He was willing to offer his own virgin daughters to the mad crowd rather than see them "have relations with" the strangers. Was Lot being sly, offering female flesh to a homosexual male crowd? Don't know, but willing to protect these guests in his home. Extreme hospitality. Pre-law, pre-commandments, it was part of his pre-Jewish culture.

Back to the Passover meal. Abba invited 12 strangers to the Kingdom, and once the testing was done, Jesus washed their feet, transforming them to guests, just as he does with all of us. Once the hospitality has concluded and the guests are on their way, they are no longer guests, they are friends. When God talks about Abraham, He calls him "Friend". Pretty amazing. At least as good as family. (Better than family if you're staying with Lot!)

The main point of the sermon was that we're invited, in the Lord's Table, to be washed, to quit our role as strangers, and to become guests at His table. Pretty amazing.

David continued on for a brief moment, I think especially for me, before the clock caught his attention and he closed. Jesus was going around the table, washing feet. Judas is still in the crowd, not yet dispatched by Jesus to do what the devil had already put in his heart to do, to betray Him. Jesus gets to Peter, and my buddy Pete says, "What, You wash my feet? No way!" and of course, Jesus replies, "If I don't wash your feet, you have no part in Me (or in My Kingdom, or in My Father's plan)". Petey gets the idea that this is important. Did he get it that Jesus was acting as Father's slave in these acts? Don't know. I think Paul figured it out, having called himself a bondservant of Christ. Peter ends up saying, "Not just my feet then, but my hands and my head!" Wash it ALL, Lord Yeshua! He's "getting in the swim of things" here. Dunk me good, Lord. More, Lord! I think that Peter "got it" enough to know that he was not a stranger to the Father at this point. At least an inkling. In just a very few moments, Jesus is about to pray the amazing high priestly prayer over these guys in John 17. "The ones you have given me...you in me and I in them..." I'm guessing again, that they got their eyes opened to the importance of the acts of hospitality shown that night.

Peter's request for a thorough, above and beyond washing may well have been (speculation here!! beware of that as you read) a request for a mikvah. Mikvah is normally understood as a full-fledged bath, an immersion for both washing and ritual cleaning, especially before the Sabbath, including but not limited to the cleansing after a woman's cycle or after intimate relations for both men and women. Passover is certainly a major feast, if not THE major feast in the Jewish year. Mikvah would make sense, and be on the minds of the devout. Mikvah is also a mitvah. God said it, that settled it, they wanted to comply. Maybe Peter was not being the sarcastic fisherguy that I always suspected him of being!

And maybe, just maybe, Peter was really, really deeply hearing Jesus' invitation to "guesthood" so that he could in a very few minutes, right there in John 15:15, he could hear the amazing words, "I no longer call you bondslave, but I call you FRIEND." Graduation to the top of the list in the hospitality mitzvah!

I especially wanted to share this with Dave since the mitzvah/mikvah "thing" involved him directly.

Thanks for staying to the end of the read. Hope it meant as much to you as it did to me hearing it and sharing it.
Wo! Neat stuff there, Dean! Good read.