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Traditions and goodness

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Tradition is a wonderful tool to unite and build fellowship.

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Traditions and goodness

Tradition, Tradition! I may not have said that as well as Tevye from fiddler on the roof but I think everyone knows what this teaching is about. Tradition. We are in a season of very traditional activities. Last week we gathered and enjoyed the Pesach together. We followed a Haggadah and participated in many traditional activities. Some of us have been counting the Omer and reciting traditional prayers this week. In our lives we maybe seeking to keep more traditions. So at this point let us discuss tradition and really understand it.
First let us understand what tradition is. A simple understanding of tradition is a Teaching or Ritual that has been handed down. So when we are keeping a tradition we are keeping a Teaching (belief) or Ritual (custom) that has been impressed upon us by some one from a previous generation. This seems pretty straight forward. Yet some people mistake tradition for habit, conformity, quaintness or rejection of change. To a Torah observer real tradition is about a life of true goodness, which requires a devotion to spiritual precepts.
Some times these traditions can take different forms depending on a cultures understanding of a precept. So a good example of this is we abstained from the leavening this week. Most cultures abstained from the 5 grains of oats, rye, barley, spelt and wheat. Some cultures included more grains and legumes. Both traditions are good and serve the same purpose. These traditions should not divide us. If one is convinced in their heart that a tradition is good, if the tradition does not violate Torah, and it serves a purpose then they should do that tradition. Even if that tradition does not serve a purpose directly in Torah, if it is good and does not counter Torah then one should keep it. Some may think that is a strange statement. Why should we keep a Tradition that is not directly in Torah? Well it builds community and fellowship. An example of this is the Happy Birthday song. We sing this song yet it is not commanded in Torah and it is a totally man made tradition. Should we keep it? I think so. Another one Thanksgiving the Holiday. While certainly we are commanded to give our Heavenly Father thanks the actual day is not a commanded holiday yet it is clearly good to keep. Or should we give these up because there is not a specific Torah commandment about them? What about Yeshua when he spoke about Traditions? Was he against traditions?
2 “Why do Your taught ones transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”
3 But He answering, said to them, “Why do you also transgress the command of Elohim because of your tradition?

15 1 Then some P’rushim and Torah-teachers from Yerushalayim came to Yeshua and asked him, 2 “Why is it that your talmidim break the Tradition of the Elders? They don’t do n’tilat-yadayim before they eat!” 3 He answered, “Indeed, why do you break the command of God by your tradition? 4 For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and ‘Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death.’ 5 But you say, ‘If anyone says to his father or mother, “I have promised to give to God what I might have used to help you,” 6 then he is rid of his duty to honor his father or mother.’ Thus by your tradition you make null and void the word of God! 7 You hypocrites! Yesha‘yahu was right when he prophesied about you,

8  ‘These people honor me with their lips,

but their hearts are far away from me.

9  Their worship of me is useless,

because they teach man-made rules as if they were doctrines.’ ”

4 “For Elohim has commanded, saying, ‘Respect your father and your mother,’ and, ‘He who curses father or mother, let him be put to death.’
5 “But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me has been dedicated,”
6 is certainly released from respecting his father or mother.’ So you have nullified the command of Elohim by your tradition.
What a bold thing for Yeshua to say. “Their worship of me is useless, because they teach man-made rules as if they where doctrines.”!
7 “Hypocrites! Yeshayahu rightly prophesied about you, saying,
8 ‘This people draw near to Me with their mouth, and respect Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me.
9 ‘But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as teachings the commands of men.’ ”
There is a lot in these verses. When one first reads this it may seem that Yeshua has a problem about washing hands. One might think Yeshua is upset that the Tradition of washing hands is being kept at all. I find 3 important points in this passage with the first 2 supporting the 3rd point. 1st this gets missed easily but the word for break here in Greek is παραβαίνω parabainō, par-ab-ah´ee-no and means literally to violate a commandment. The Greek word for break as in break bread or break a stick is κλάω klaō, klah´-o. They are very different. So the Pharisees and scribes are accusing Yeshua and his disciples specifically of violating a commandment. 2nd Yeshua tells the Pharisees plainly they are breaking a commandment by their traditions. Which commandment and which traditions? It is not the handwashing tradition that breaks a command, it is the tradition of declaring something Korban that violated the commandment to “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death”. Yeshua is not speaking against washing hands at all. 3rd point Keeping their tradition is without merit for they do not keep the commandments. In other words tradition with out understanding is worthless.
2nd Yeshua tells the Pharisees plainly they are breaking of command by their traditions. Which command and which traditions? It is not the handwashing tradition that breaks a command, it is the tradition of declaring something Korban that violated the commandment to “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death”.
James Strong, A Concise Dictionary of the Words in the Greek Testament and The Hebrew Bible (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2009), 54.
So where does the tradition for washing hands come from? Well the Torah commandment this connects to is found in . The specific commandment for the Kohanim to wash hands is in to give context we will read surrounding scriptures.
2nd Yeshua tells the Pharisees plainly they are breaking of command by their traditions. Which command and which traditions? It is not the handwashing tradition that breaks a command, it is the tradition of declaring something Korban that violated the commandment to “Honor your father and mother” and “Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death”.
Terumah must be kept pure, and the Kohen who eats it must be pure. Since a person's hands are active and might have come in contact with something unclean or impure, a Kohen must wash his/her1 hands before consuming terumah.
Institute for Scripture Research, The Scriptures (South Africa: Institute for Scripture Research (Pty) Ltd, 2000), .
This applies only to bread, for olive oil and wine are not generally eaten directly with the hands.
In order to keep us ready for the time when we will once again be eating terumah - with the coming of our righteous Messiah, our rabbis instituted the washing of hands before eating any bread.
In order to insure that the Kohanim wash, the Sages applied this rule to all Jews, kohanim and ordinary Israelites alike.
The specific commandment for the Kohanim to wash hands is in to give context we will read surrounding scriptures.
17 ADONAI said to Moshe, 18 “You are to make a basin of bronze, with a base of bronze, for washing. Place it between the tent of meeting and the altar, and put water in it. 19 Aharon and his sons will wash their hands and feet there 20 when they enter the tent of meeting—they are to wash with water, so that they won’t die. Also when they approach the altar to minister by burning an offering for ADONAI, 21 they are to wash their hands and feet, so that they won’t die. This is to be a perpetual law for them through all their generations.”
So one may see how this has been changed. 1st it is required of Ahron and his sons. 2nd it is their hands and feet. So even in the tradition it is not being kept according to the commandment.
This is an explanation from the site askmoses.com and a similar explanation is given on chabad.com. There is a Torah commandment that when one has a harvest of wheat, wine or olive oil, a small percentage is given as Terumah (a "separation") to the Kohen.
Terumah must be kept pure, and the Kohen who eats it must be pure. Since a person's hands are active and might have come in contact with something unclean or impure, a Kohen must wash his/her hands before consuming terumah.
This applies only to bread, for olive oil and wine are not generally eaten directly with the hands.
In order to keep us ready for the time when we will once again be eating terumah - with the coming of our righteous Messiah, our rabbis instituted the washing of hands before eating any bread.
In order to insure that the Kohanim wash, the Sages applied this rule to all Jews, kohanim and ordinary Israelites alike.
That ends the quote. On Chabad.com it also describes how it is likely that a person might come in contact with their body, bodily fluids or sweated so much in their sleep that their hands became dirty and thus the need to clean themselves like in a Mikvah but with water over the hands.
All of this is very reasonable, and all of it is fence building which is not a bad thing. Yet it is not a commandment of YA for all people of all time and should not be taught as such. So what should we do? Do wash our hands? YES! we get dirty wash your hands before you eat and after you wake. This is a good tradition. Should we keep the tradition as a remembrance of the temple service? How wonderful a thing to do! We should never forget the temple and should look forward to its service returning what a wonderful way to remember it! Yeshua did not have a problem with this tradition. He did have a problem with the scribes and pharisees teaching people they where defiled or spiritually unclean if they did not keep the tradition as a commandment of YA.
Which brings us to the important part about traditions. In the movie fiddler on the roof as Tevye continues in his opening song there is a line he sings “You may ask, how did this tradition get started? I’ll tell you. I don’t know. But it’s a tradition...” The problem is this is not a good answer. It is not enough to know a tradition we must understand it including where it comes from. The reality that the movie did not portray is every good Torah keeper does know where the traditions come from and what purpose they serve.
The people of The Way understood what their traditions were and where they came from. In we read 14 He called you to this through our Good News, so that you could have the glory of our Lord Yeshua the Messiah.
15 Therefore, brothers, stand firm; and hold to the traditions you were taught by us, whether we spoke them or wrote them in a letter. 16 And may our Lord Yeshua the Messiah himself and God our Father, who has loved us and by his grace given us eternal comfort and a good hope, 17 comfort your hearts and strengthen you in every good word and deed.
So as we keep some Traditions in our homes and as a congregation let us keep 2 things in mind at least. 1st Even if a tradition is not a commandment it may still be a good thing. 2. Let us be patient with one another as traditions and their understandings may differ.
So I have some homework for everyone. Remember the Lama, Hebrew for why. Every tradition every prayer everything we are doing I want us to ask Lama, why. This is not the why of why do I have to do this but the why of understanding of why are we doing this? I want us all to ask this of all our traditions for the purpose of understanding what we are doing. Kids do not use this as an excuse to argue or to try and get out of something but ask why to become more involved in the traditions.
So I have some homework for everyone. Remember the Lama, Hebrew for why. Every tradition every prayer everything we are doing I want us to ask Lama, why. This is not the why of why do I have to do this but the why of understanding of why are we doing this? I want us all to ask this of all our traditions for the purpose of understanding what we are doing. Do not use this as an excuse to argue or to try and get out of something but ask why to become more involved in the traditions.
David H. Stern, Complete Jewish Bible: An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B’rit Hadashah (New Testament), 1st ed. (Clarksville, MD: Jewish New Testament Publications, 1998), .
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