Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Resonances Part 1: Gleanings From The Field of Judaica

For some time I have been noticing, enjoying and sometimes collecting interesting resonances between Rabbinic Judaism and the New Testament. I plan to begin sharing some of them here. These will not be organized discourses or essays but little samplers of a larger course I would eventually like to put together as a serious discussion of incredible degree of resonance between Jewish and Christian theology. Of the following samplers some of them will be, hope, profound, some entertaining and some minor but interesting. The first I am sharing is in the last category (not good marketing, oh well). I am nevertheless sharing it in order to kick off this new habit. Here we go:

Offerings to the Holy Man: Talmud Berakhot 10b:

In a discussion of the healing miracle of Elisha in 2 Kings 4:10, the Rabbis mention that the woman from Shunem put out a bed, a table, and a candlestick for Elisha. The Talmud says that Abaye, and some say Rabbi Yitzhak, said that a holy man who wishes to enjoy the contributions of those who honour him may do so, as Elisha did, or not, as in the case of Samuel from Rama (1 Samuel 7:17, which the Rabbis read as implying Samuel avoided accepting gifts).  The point the Rabbi seems to be making is that it is ok for a wandering preacher to accept and enjoy offerings, but also that is also alright to refuse them. This is a real question, as I can attest from my experience in Buddhist cultures where great significance is attached to whether or not one accepts offerings and in many instances t is not allowed to refuse for fear of causing offence or even spiritual harm to those whose gift was not accepted. Rabbi Abaye (or Yitzhak) affirms that the holy man is allowed to refuse.

This reminded me of Paul, who was averse to accepting support for his apostolic work. He affirms, nevertheless, that the worker has a right to his wages, ie. apostolic workers have a right to being supported by the churches. Yet he refuses that support when he can and maintained himself by his own work. Here Paul, both in his affirmation of the right of holy men to accept offerings and their right to refuse, follows the Rabbis.

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