The Torah Became Flesh
The Prologue of St. John’s Gospel
A Hebrew Catholic Perspective
Mystery of Godliness.
The mystery is overwhelmingly great but it is a mystery of Love and
Condescension. It is the link between, the Creator and the creature —
not with the perfect, but with the imperfect and fallen creature, for
the Son of Man, though sinless Himself, became the Brother of sinful
creatures. There is One in the Universe, once in the womb, once on
the Cross, once in the grave, ‘Who is now at the right Hand of God,
Who has within Him the mind, the love, the will of God, and yet also
the mind, the love, and the will of man.
The best setting forth of the Incarnation which I have seen is in these
words : “That Eternal Mind which, till then, had thought and acted as
God, began to think and act as a man, with all man’s faculties,
affections, and imperfections, sin excepted. Before He came on earth
He had but the perfections of God; but, afterwards, He had also the
virtues of a creature, such as faith, meekness, self-denial. Before He
came on earth He could not be tempted of evil but, afterwards, He
had a man’s heart, a man’s tears, and a man’s wants and infirmities.
His Divine Nature, indeed, pervaded His Manhood, so that every
deed and word of His in the flesh savoured of eternity and infinity;
but, on the other hand, from the time He was born of the Virgin Mary,
He had a natural fear of danger, a natural shrinking from pain, though
ever subject to the ruling influence of that Holy and Eternal Essence
which was within Him. For instance, we read on one occasion of His
praying that the cup might pass from Him ….. Thus He possessed at
once a double, assemblage of attributes, divine and human. Still He
was all powerful, though in the form of a servant still He was
all-knowing, though partially ignorant ; still incapable of temptation
[so that. He should fall], though exposed to it.” (J. H. Newman.)
On Leadership: To Lead is to Listen.
Excepts from an address by Lord Jonathan Sacks
former Chief Rabbi of Great Britain and the Commonwealth.
I It is reasonable to assume that in the life of faith, obedience is the
highest virtue. In Judaism it is not. One of the strangest features of
biblical Hebrew is that – despite the fact that the Torah contains 613
commands – there is no word for ‘obey.’ Instead the verb the Torah
uses is shema/lishmoa, ‘to listen, hear, attend, understand, internalise,
respond.’ So distinctive is this word that, in effect, the King James Bible
had to invent an English equivalent, the word ‘hearken.’ Nowadays the
word has gone out of circulation, and there is no precise translation.
Equally, modem Hebrew had to invent a word to mean pure,
unquestioning obedience. It chose letzayet – not lishmoa which means
something else, reflective response. In Judaism, G-d does not
command blind obedience. Ein haKadosh Barukh Hub ba be-tirunyiah im.
beriyotav; ‘G-d does not deal despotically with His creatures’
(Avodah Zarah 3a). If He sought no more than mindless submission to the
Divine will, He would have created robots, machines, or genetically
programmed people who responded automatically to commands as dogs
to Pavlov’s bell. G-d wants us to be mature, deliberative, to do His will
because we understand or because we trust Him when we do not
understand. He seeks from us something other and greater than
obedience, namely responsibility.’
II If we want God to listen to us we have to be prepared to listen to Him.
and if we learn to listen to Him, then we eventually learn to listen to our
fellow humans: the silent cry of the lonely, the poor, the weak, the
vulnerable, the people in existential pain.
When God appeared to King Solomon in a dream and asked him what he
would like to be given, Solomon replied: lev shomea, literally
“a listening heart” to judge the people (1 Kings 3: 9). The choice of
words is significant. Solomon’s wisdom lay, at least in part, in his ability
to listen, to hear the emotion behind the words, to sense what was being
left unsaid as well as what was said. It is common to find leaders who
speak, very rare to find leaders who listen. But listening often makes
Listening matters in a moral environment as insistent on human dignity
as is Judaism. The very act of listening is a form of respect. The royal
family in Britain is known always to arrive on time and depart on time.
I will never forget the occasion ― her aides told me that they had never
witnessed it before ― when the Queen stayed for two hours longer than
her scheduled departure time. The day was 27 January 2005, the
occasion, the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. The
Queen had invited survivors to a reception at St James’ Palace. Each
had a story to tell, and the Queen took the time to listen to every one
of them. One after another came up to me and said, “Sixty years ago
I did not know whether tomorrow I would be alive, and here I am
talking to the Queen.” That act of listening was one of the most royal
acts of graciousness I have ever witnessed. Listening is a profound
affirmation of the humanity of the other.
In the encounter at the burning bush, when God summoned Moses
to be a leader, Moses replied, “I am not a man of words, not yesterday,
not the day before, not from the first time You spoke to your servant.
I am slow of speech and tongue” (Ex. 4: 10). Why would God choose to
lead the Jewish people a man who found it hard to speak? Perhaps
because one who cannot speak learns how to listen. A leader is one
who knows how to listen: to the unspoken cry of others and to the still,
small voice of God.
(End of excerpts)