Ethics – Now & Then 56 – Avot 4:5

Star of David ENT

Avot 4:5  Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka said: Whoever desecrates the Name
                of Heaven in secret, they will exact punishment of him in public;
                unintentional or intentional, both are regarded desecration of
                the Name.

Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka said: Whoever desecrates the Name of Heaven in secret, they will exact punishment of him in public…

Rabbi Yochanan ben Beroka was a second century sage. Many of his teachings or rulings are recorded in the Talmud, particularly in marital or civic matters. Here he makes a statement regarding the serious offense of Chillul HaShem – desecration of God’s Name. The profaning or desecrating of HaShem, The Name, involves behavior that affects others, or appears to others, in a way that is not befitting a person who claims to be God-honoring. Other definitions of chillul are: to make secular; to profane or deprive something of holiness. Chillul HaShem is thus the opposite of Kiddush HaShem – to honor, to sanctify, and to ascribe holiness to God’s Name.

Certain obvious outward actions, such as blatant rudeness, dishonesty or cruelty, would surely cause another to question one’s dedication to God. In general, a person’s bad behavior reflects on the person himself and causes a diminishing of his honor in the eyes of others, which is a justifiable outcome. He is, as it were, ‘paying for his sin’ and hopefully will repent, learn from the experience and put things right. An even greater and more serious harm occurs when someone “desecrates the Name of Heaven in secret.” Outwardly he may appear a righteous and godly person but his hidden deeds, the things that others don’t see but may be adversely affected by, show contempt for the character of God. When, as usually is the case, the deeds are revealed they bring disrepute not only to himself but also to God’s Name.

Figuratively, the ‘name’ of a person refers to his reputation; the esteem or lack thereof that they hold in the opinion of others. One can have a public name as well as name shared by family and friends, dependent upon the relationship one has with the individuals concerned and how well they know or perceive one. Jewish author, Irving Bunim points out, “Clearly there may be little relation between what a man really is and what ‘name’ he enjoys among his fellow humans.” [1] Often people go to extraordinary lengths to build a “name” for themselves and to achieve fame or stardom. We may rest assured, however, in knowing that the only true ‘name’ that will endure for eternity is the one given to us by our Father Himself. Only He knows, in His great love, the true depths of the life of every one of His children and He calls us by the name He bestows. This is the name one should strive to live up to and that will, in turn, reflect and bring honor to His Name.

Bunim also says, “For better or worse, people draw conclusions about God, the Creator, from the impression of those who live and speak in His Name.” [2] In a stirring example, the Midrash tells the story of Rabbi Shimon ben Shetach, who bought a donkey from an Arab. When his disciples were taking care of it, they found a precious jewel hung about its neck. They took it to him and quoted the verse, “The blessing of the Lord brings wealth!” (Proverbs 10:22). Rabbi Shimon replied, “I bought a donkey, I did not buy a precious jewel,” and he went and returned it to the Arab. Astonished and grateful, the man exclaimed, “Blessed is the Lord, the God of Shimon ben Shetach!” By his simple and honest act, Rabbi Shimon sanctified the Name of Heaven.

…unintentional or intentional, both are regarded desecration of the Name.

Some of the great Sages say: “…even to take a few paces without studying Torah constitutes a desecration [of God’s Name].” [3]   What can this mean? Clearly one cannot be immersed in Torah study every waking or walking moment.

One implication is that our awareness of God and His ways, as revealed in His Word and which we only can know by studying them, should clearly and constantly be in the forefront of our minds. So much so, that we cannot carelessly do something that would dishonor His Name. Just as a regular person would not be unconcerned or careless with the life and well-being of his or her child, or even that of a pet animal, so one who truly loves and honors God would not allow an unintentional act that would betray His goodness and love and bring Him dishonor.

Star of David ENTA Reflection on “the Name above all names.”

We rightly encounter a great mystery and solemn tension when reflecting on God – the Holy One blessed be He – and  the holiness of His Name and we cannot do it lightly.
May we proceed in His grace and with a desire for deeper understanding of His great redemptive purposes both in our lives and in the earth.

What is the present relationship between God, Creator and Father, and Jesus? And what influence has this on their names?  We read in Philippians 2:6, that God bestowed upon His son Yeshua, the ascended Messiah, the ‘name’ and authority of King over His Kingdom.

“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus/Yeshua every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Mashiach Yeshua /Jesus the Messiah is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

We know, historically, that Yeshua [Jesus], a derivative of the name Yehoshua, Joshua from the root meaning ‘salvation,’ was one of the most popular and common names during the Second Temple period. This indicates that there must be something else beside the common name itself, another dimension added to the name, that reflects being raised and exalted above all others. This may appear in the role or position to which he is appointed by God. For example, David was only David until anointed as King David.

While on earth and teaching in the synagogue at Nazareth, Yeshua made the statement, “As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who feeds on me will live because of me.” His emphasis here is on the fact that he came to earth, sent by God as the living Word of God, which is the Bread of Life and which provides spiritual nourishment that results in eternal life.  When Yeshua asked Simon Peter, “Who do you say I am?” By revelation he replied, “You are Mashiach El – the Messiah of God!” The one anointed by God through whom knowledge of God would break forth to all the earth, bringing redemption to all who were, as the apostle Paul describes, “…separated from Messiah, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11). God’s living Word, the Bread of eternal life, would indeed be broken and shared with the multitudes in all the earth.

Interestingly, in the prophet Zechariah’s Messianic vision, (6:9-15) he describes the crowning of Joshua. Joshua, personally, was not of the line of David and could not rightly be crowned king of Israel, he can therefore be seen as a representation or forerunner of King Messiah. The double crown is placed on Joshua’s head, symbolizing that the status of true priesthood and kingship on earth shall be conferred on the one Messiah. We can compare the status of Melchizedek, who similarly combined the kingdom and priesthood as a type of Messiah (Hebrews 6:20; 7:1- 21).

Before God appointed him to be anointed as King of Israel, David was a humble shepherd. Yeshua, likewise, came as a humble Shepherd until God crowned him as King over His Kingdom. In Psalm 110, David himself describes how God, the Lord (YHVH), says to Messiah, the Lord (Adonai), “Sit at My right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool,” at which time his mighty scepter [of kingship] will go forth from Zion and he will rule in their midst (verse 2). He then proclaims in verse 4: “You are a priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.”

What have we gathered thus far? Yeshua was raised, exalted and seated at the right hand of the Throne of God and the Father has bestowed upon him the ‘name’ of Mashiach, Melech, Kohen ha’Gadol – Messiah, King and High Priest and has given him authority to rule and reign over all His Kingdom as Lord of glory. Another question is raised. Is this yet evident on earth?

Just before Yeshua’s glorious ascension into heaven, the disciples asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” After he ascended, two angels assured them that he again would return to Jerusalem “…in the same way you saw him go into heaven” (Acts 1:6-10); at which time, as is prophesied, he will be revealed in his fullness as Messiah, King and High Priest, and God’s Kingdom will be fully revealed and established and “the knowledge of God will fill the earth as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9)..

In the powerful account in Revelation 19 of the return of Messiah, who in righteousness judges and makes war on the enemies of God, there are varied references to his names. He is called Faithful and True (v.11), ‘he has a name written that no one knows but himself ‘(v.12), ‘the name by which he is called is The Word of God’ (v.13), and ‘on his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords’ (v.16).
HalleluYah! Praise be to God!  We are eagerly anticipating that time and say, “Baruch Haba b’Shem Adonai!” – “Blessed is the one who comes in the Name of the Lord!”
(Psalm 118:26; Matthew 23:39).

 

PAUSE and REFLECT

1) The fullness of the Kingdom of God, in joy, righteousness and peace, is not yet established on earth and yet Yeshua taught “it is in your midst.” How can we, for the sake of Kiddush HaShem, share evidence of the present reality of God’s Kingdom in our lives?

2) The reality and remembrance of the Shoah (Holocaust) weighs heavily on our present and on our future. As those in covenant with our Father God, whether a Christian or a Jew, are we prepared to reach out beyond the walls of our traditional religious framework to find His common Kingdom ground? How practically can we do this?

 

Footnotes:

1. Irving M Bunim, Ethics from Sinai, Vol 2, 40
2. Ibid., 41
3. Pirkei Avos, Artscroll Mesorah series, 35

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