Discipline and Ethics, and a Surprise!

In my daily Bible reading last week I read a verse in Proverbs that drew me to look up the Hebrew word that was translated as “discipline”.  When I found the word, it was “mussar“.  My first response was to wonder why I hadn’t looked for mussar in the Hebrew text before, and my second response was to read all of the verses that contained “mussar” in them to get a better understanding.  Here are a few thoughts to share:

  • My concordance defines mussar as:  discipline, chastening, correction.
  • Mussar is the modern Hebrew word for ethics (morality, standards, principles of right vs wrong).

The two may not make much of a connection in your mind just yet, but I think you’ll see the connection shortly.  I’ve described the tradition of mussar to my friends as “spiritual character development”.

The first use of this word in the Scriptures is in Deuteronomy 11:2b-3a:

…consider the discipline (mussar) of the L-RD your G-d, His greatness, His mighty hand and His outstretched arm, His sign, and His deeds that He did in Egypt…

The next earliest uses are in Job where those passages speak of discipline that intends to bring one back from their error, a chastisement.  But what really piqued my interest was the next group of uses.  The book of Proverbs uses the word mussar a lot.  In Proverbs 1, for example, is this:

2 To know wisdom and instruction (mussar), to understand words of insight, 3 to receive instruction (mussar) in wise dealing, in righteousness, justice, and equity…

7 The fear of the L-RD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction (mussar).

Discipline and instruction – these two certainly work together.  As we grow our parents instructed us and sometimes that included forms of discipline.  At the same time, as we grew we developed a self-discipline through our parent’s continued instruction.  We would not learn without the two being partners – discipline and instruction.   Continue reading

Culture of Fear, part 2

Today my Daily Bread Bible Reading journal took me to Leviticus 8, Isaiah 8, Psalm 146, and Acts 3 in my trek through the Scriptures in one year.  Today I read quite a bit in Isaiah 8 that piqued my interest and took me back to other portions that I have already read this year and others that I’ve yet to read this year.

This passage brought me back to Living In A Culture Of Fear, the blog entry I wrote the other day.

For the LORD spoke thus to me with his strong hand upon me, and warned me not to walk in the way of this people, saying: ‘Do not call conspiracy all that this people calls conspiracy, and do not fear what they fear, no be in dread. But the LORD of hosts, him you shall honor as holy. Let him be your fear, and let him be your dread.’   Isaiah 8:11-13

Isaiah had just spoken about his instruction from HaShem to name his son, “The spoil speeds, the prey hastens” and Isaiah says in verse 18 that he and his family are given as signs and portents for Israel.  At this time there has been the death of the evil Menahem the king of Israel (up north) after his short 10 year reign, and the new king, Pekahiah, reigned for 2 years.  He was assassinated by Pekah, the son of one of his captains or aides. Pekah reigned for 20 years and, obviously, was an apostate king.  He makes an alliance with Rezin, the king of Aram (ancient Syria).  (see 2 Kings 15)  Together the two kings turn to Judah and the righteous King Jotham refused to join with them. The two kings went to war with Judah, killing King Jotham.  Now the son of Jotham, Ahaz, is king of Judah and as you can imagine, there is no small amount of fear and theories of conspiracy swirling around.  Isaiah had been given a word of prophecy, a prophecy that speaks of a son who would soon be born to King Ahaz (the Immanuel prophecy) and “before he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted.”  These kingdoms were desolated, and taken into exile, by Assyria.  This is the time of the Assyrian invasion and exile of Israel (north of Judah).  Assyria wouldn’t leave Judah alone, they aimed to take Judah in the same way they had taken Israel and all of the other nations they set their minds to.  But that would be in the future.   Continue reading

Living In A Culture Of Fear

Years ago I came to the realization that we live in a culture of fear.  I’ve shared this thought with a few friends and lately one of them asked me to write it out.  So, here goes.  ;)

Fear isn’t always a bad thing.  Fear can motivate us to do necessary things like escape a burning building or to keep a safe distance from the edge of a cliff.  Fear can also creep in and become a dominant force behind so much of what we do, and we might not even know it.  I realized a few years ago that fear was taking over so many areas of my life and the lives of my loved ones.  As we discussed some of the decisions we were making and whether or not they were based on fear, we all began to realize that we’d been sorely duped.

Fear is a significant source of dis-ease in our world today.  Fear leads to worry and stress, which are known causes of things like depression, ulcers, anxiety, high blood pressure, and headaches and can lead us into things like addictions and anger.  None of these things are good, and they’re just a sampling of where fear takes us.

Take for an example, my FB news feed in recent days.  Lately I’ve been seeing articles and status updates that focus on things like “Don’t eat such-and-such because it’s got bad stuff in it and it’ll hurt you!” and “Our leaders are evil and are bent on putting us in prison camps!”  and even “The rain is contaminated with poisons that will kill us and our future generations!”

While I appreciate my friends, there are some friends whose news feeds I’m really getting tired of seeing.  Every little thing is motivated out of fear.  On the one hand, everything is so tainted and so manipulated that it’s causing all manner of troubles in people so we don’t want to be exposed those things.  On the other hand, what isn’t manipulated or sprayed or full of something bad?  If I cook my food, am I doing something bad for my health?  What about eating everything raw, won’t I get salmonella or something?  At what point is it safe to eat anything at all?  I remember having discussions with the family when we decided that we’d do the best we could with our diet, but that we’d acknowledge that there will inevitably be something in some of our food that “isn’t good for us” and we’ll just have to let G-d work that our in us, and for us.  We agreed that the fear that was growing in our social circles regarding food was probably causing as much, or maybe more, damage to our health than the food was.  (granted, our social circle eats pretty healthy so that was a safe conclusion)  We also agreed that the occasional junk food isn’t going to be so bad, but that it’ll be an occasional treat instead of something that’ll kill us or even “a moment on the lips, a lifetime on the hips!”

If I didn’t know better, I’d think that all doctors, scientists, teachers, and politicians are all out to see us destroyed in one way or another. Or maybe it’s a technological collapse that we should be preparing for. Maybe it’s an ice age that we should be preparing for, or was it global warming and the desertification of the earth?  I forget which. Or, maybe someone will come in and attack us – a foreign government, maybe even our own government!  Maybe it’s something from outer space that will collide with planet earth and set us off of our orbit just enough to destroy nearly all life on earth.  But what if it’s not from outer space, but it’s an earthquake that tears a continent apart?   Continue reading

I'm listening…

This morning I was met with “a message” that I keep finding all over, and I thought I’d share it.  Just because.

It’s always exciting and intriguing to me when my Spiritual Curriculum comes to find me.  Lately I’ve been starting to take notice of the cycles that these things come in, and I have a sneaking hunch I’m beginning to understand.  :)  The things I’m often working on and processing through and strengthening (or intentionally weakening) seem to come in waves, which is good because to be underwater with them all the time with no rest time would be beyond miserable!  So as I take a deep breath and begin to dive back into “my work” I am going, this time, with some excitement.  I’m starting to understand how this works!

So, here’s my morning “message” today.  ;)  I don’t know what else to call it or how else to describe it.  Maybe you will see the pattern here, but maybe not.  I hesitate sharing because it makes sense to me and connects, as usual, several resources and topics that I was surprised (though why should I be?) to find were connected.

“As a man thinks in his heart, so is he”

“Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”

“You’ve turned my mourning into dancing again, you’ve lifted my sorrow”

I’ll include the sources/resources that they are connected with in my longstanding and more recent Spiritual Curriculum Today on FB, I load my news feed to find these two messages: Continue reading

Virtue, Temptation, Suffering

Hebrews 2:18

For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

 

1 Peter 2:21

For to this you have been called, because Messiah also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

 

1 Peter 4:1-2

Since therefore Messiah suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of G-d.

 

Several years ago I had a thought that I was very excited about.  I was unable to articulate it in a way that made any sense (at all) to anyone else.  What seemed to me to be such an obvious observation in a few passages was escaping the notice of everyone else who I tried to show it to.  And while I was able to understand what some of them had to say about these passages, there were others that left me as stumped and mystified as I seemed to have left them.  Now, 4 years later I’m reminded of this attempt to explain my thought, this “ah-ha!” moment that hit me like a freight train almost 4 years ago.

If I remember correctly, at this time I was just being introduced to Mussar and I was really excited about this concept and application.  It made *so much* sense to me.  It was “the missing link” to several other topics that I had been learning about up until that point and suddenly a larger and more complete picture was emerging.  It truly was an exciting discovery, one that brought much peace.

I remember sitting down to study one afternoon and reading 1 & 2 Peter.  I remember coming to chapter 4 and thinking that “Messiah suffered in the flesh” and “whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of G-d” meant something more than suffering physically.

Usually “flesh” means only the physical body, the human body, our physical nature.  But here there is more being said than that, I think.  I can’t see how suffering physically leads one to cease from sin for the rest of his life.  People with illness or injury still sin, and sometimes sin grows due to their suffering if you consider bitterness and anger as sin.  And while I’ve known many people who have suffered physically and were wonderful people, they wouldn’t agree that their suffering brought them to a state where they no longer sinned.  This view of Peter’s message simply wasn’t satisfactory to me.

Deep inside I understood something, but I couldn’t communicate it.  It seemed so obvious to me, yet it seemed to obscure to others.  So I put it away and focused on other things.  But over the years this thought has come back, many times.  I’ve just not sat down and tried to articulate it again until today.

Today I was studying Hebrews 2.  Verse 18, “For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” brought back this thought and my desire to communicate it, my desire to understand it better.  This is that attempt. Continue reading

Our Reading Lists

** Updated to include Miriam and Shalom’s reading list as well, as requested.  **

 

Recently several friends have asked us what we’re reading and they’ve asked us to share the titles and a brief summary of the books we’ve chosen to read.  I thought that would make a good blog entry since we can answer several people at once and get input from our friends for which books to add to our reading wish list.  :) Continue reading

I've been thinking…

I’ve been thinking this weekend:
Ariel Sharon marked the 8th anniversary of his massive stroke this weekend as his body is shutting down, he is dying.  It was 5 months prior to this tragic stroke that the residents of Gush Katif were forcibly removed from their homes, and their property given to the Palestinians in a “land for peace” deal. You might have noticed that no peace has come as a result of this land for peace swap, only heightened terrorism and suffering.  Expulsion was August 15 – 22, 2005 and the Prime Minister’s massive stroke was January 4, 2006.

  • Sec. of State Kerry has been shuttling back and forth between Israel and her neighbors trying to broker a “peace deal” that is reported to include “land for peace” in the West Bank aka Judea & Samaria.  Once again there is pressure from Israel’s “friends” to give away precious land that provides peace and safety to her residents, and maintains her defensible borders.  Only this time there is a reminder of how things went last time.  Israel understands that giving land for peace was a bad idea and that it hasn’t brought peace but increased terrorist activity, more rockets and international hatred toward Israel.  But political pressure is intense, to say the least.  Will the vivid reminders of Mr Sharon’s suffering bring strength to Israel’s leaders as they walk this dangerous road once again?  May it be that this reminder strengthens them to unite Israel, to annex the land that they unexpectedly and legally reclaimed so many years ago, and to end this particular dance with the nations.
  • August 23, 2005 is the date that meteorologists say Hurricane Katrina was formed.  Note the date, just hours after the final Jewish resident of Gush Katif was forcibly removed and the last of the Jewish property was turned over to the Palestinians in Gaza.  August 29 is the fateful date that this tremendous storm slammed into Louisiana and changed the lives of so many people.  After the IDF soldiers had dug up the bodies of the last Jewish souls who were laid to rest in the Gush Katif area so they could be reburied somewhere else, the front page of the New York Times was showing the waterlogged, dislodged, and opened sarcophagi and the displaced residents of New Orleans.  Can the message be any more clear?  How many of us saw the connection then?
  • Some observers have been noting connections between US policy toward Israel (particularly policies that pressure Israel to divide her land) and tremendous natural disasters in our country.  Some have pointed out that there may be a similar connection between Japan’s decision to withdraw their support of Israel and their giving of funding to the PA, and the devastating earthquake and tsunami in March 2011.  William Koenig has written a book that documents these types of events in the US – anti-Israel policy and subsequent natural disasters.  Right now, while Mr Kerry is ferrying back and forth between Jerusalem and her neighbors in an attempt to broker a middle east peace deal, much of the United States is in a deep freeze and should be in ‘shut-down mode’ in the morning.  

As we discussed these things this weekend and wondered if PM Netanyahu might be pondering the same things, someone in our study group said, “It looks like 2014 could be a very interesting year…”  Yes, it appears that this could be a year of intensity.

Pray for the leaders of our nation, the leaders of Israel, for the Name of G-d to be glorified in ALL THE EARTH.