Isaiah 66:1 is often allegorically interpreted to describe the union of the heavenly with the earthly, the spiritual with the material, the infinite and the finite, in the Torah. The Torah is the "descending of the divine wisdom from the highest heights and embodying itself in earthly commandments." In these commandments God reveals His will and wisdom which are really one with Him.
-Paul Philip Levertoff
Love and the Messianic Age
You might think of this blog post as "part 2" of this morning's article We Are Living Torahs. In fact, it was the small essay I am creating now that I intended to write this morning, but as my fingers were moving over the keyboard, I discovered the need to appeal to people to extend their (our) spirits and to consider so many others in pain.
I previously described you and me as people who are "living Torahs", yet there is another living Torah, the living Torah, that we must also ponder. I am continuing to meditate on the issue of the nature and character of the Jewish Messiah Yeshua (Jesus) and whether we can include in that nature, the deity of Jesus. Is the Christ literally God as has been described by traditional, and particularly by evangelical Christianity, or is there another way to understand the Master and how he is illustrated in the Bible? I believe there is a way to understand Jesus as both human and as containing the divine:
According to this concept, God's unknowable and divine will and wisdom (which are inseparable from His being) descended to be clothed in the corporal substance of commandments of Torah and ink in a book. This is not to say that a Torah scroll is God, but that the Torah scroll is an earthly container for His will and wisdom. It is similar to the concept of the Shechinah, the "Dwelling Presence of God." Just as the Shechinah took residence and filled the Tabernacle, the Spirit of God fills the words of the Torah. -from the Love and the Messianic Age CommentaryLooking at the quote from the commentary on Levertoff's book, we can see that God and the Torah are one in the same and at the same time, the Torah is not literally (or even figuratively) God. God has extended some portion of Himself out of His heavenly realm and "humbled" himself, if you will, to send a portion of His essence into His creation so that we can perceive and act upon His will and wisdom. Yet the words we find in the first chapter of John's Gospel also describes Jesus as both Word and, in a sense, God.
The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh'khinah, the Sh'khinah of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. -John 1:14 (CJB)
The Jewish doctrine of the "real Presence", to quote Levertoff and the book's commentary, is "that the Torah is the divine expression of God's will and wisdom, placed within the physical limitations of this world and translated into terms comprehensible to human beings. However, God's will and wisdom cannot be separated from HaShem Himself. If the Torah contains HaShem's will and wisdom, then it contains something of HaShem Himself; they are 'one in the same'."
Levertoff projected this Chasidic concept into the eucharist to explain how the bread and the wine could "be" the body and blood of the Christ and yet not literally be human flesh and human blood.
While they were eating, he took a loaf of bread, and after blessing it he broke it, gave it to them, and said, ‘Take; this is my body.’ Then he took a cup, and after giving thanks he gave it to them, and all of them drank from it. He said to them, ‘This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. -Mark 14:22-24 (NRSV)My understanding of Levertoff is that he's saying while the matzoh and wine at the Seder were not literally or symbolically his body and blood, but in a mystical way, they contain something of him and something of God that we must incorporate into our being and in doing so, we become part of the "body of Christ". Again, don't try to imagine the mechanics of this process. If this only works for you on a strictly symbolic level, that's great, but if we compare how "real Presence" is applied to a Torah scroll and to the matzoh and wine, then it brings a whole new meaning to how we will experience our next Passover Seder.
Finally though, as found in the commentary for Levertoff's book, we discover that the "real Presence" is extended into the area that describes the relationship between the Father and the Son:
Regardless of how the "real Presence" is interpreted, Levertoff sees a parallel between the Chasidic idea of Hashem's presence in the Torah and the Christian concept of Christ's incarnation in the Eucharist.In other words, if we can accept that something unique about God can inhabit the Mishkan (Tabernacle in the desert), Solomon's Temple in holy Jerusalem, the Torah as a "personified" object, and the eucharist, can we not accept that the divine God "inhabits" the living, human Messiah in the same manner?
Another way of presenting the parallel is to say that just as the mystics and the Tanya teach that the Torah is God's will and wisdom made into a scroll, the apostles and the Gospel of John teach that Messiah is God's will and wisdom made flesh.
Christianity isn't accustomed to utilizing Jewish mysticism to understand its own conceptualization of Jesus, but it might be wise for them (us) to start. So far, Paul Philip Levertoff, a man born a Jew, educated in the Jewish Chasidic tradition, who came to faith in Jesus as Messiah in the late 19th century, and who spent the majority of his adult life preaching the word of Jesus from a uniquely Jewish viewpoint, offers a different way of looking at the statement "Jesus is God." Did Levertoff believe Jesus was divine in the way Evangelical Christianity declares? Probably not. Did he see the divine residing within the Messiah in a special way that at once made Jesus God and not God in the same fashion as God "inhabits" a Torah scroll? Probably.
Some call Jesus "the living Torah" because he lived a human life in complete consistency with the will of God, never sinning. If we believe God can humble His nature so that he can "inhabit" a tent, a building, and a scroll (and none of these are literally God), can we not think of the Messiah in the same way?
The road is long and often, we travel in the dark.