When faced with Torah most Christians’ immediate response is, “the Law is dead”.
What I don’t understand is how the very document that established Western Civilization’s canon for successful cultures (Israel is still here; Rome is not) can possibly be rendered moot. When you say “the Law is dead” you are effectively declaring anarchy, choosing chaos in everyday living.
Allow me to explain. Western civilization is built on Biblical principles including, but not limited to, honoring one’s parents; treating murder, theft and rape as crimes worthy of prosecution in a court of law; looking down on jealousy and envy as undesirable behaviors. These ideas have become so ingrained in our culture that we accept them as our own without stopping to consider that at one point they were radical notions espoused by a radical people called Israel. If you know murdering your neighbor in order to steal his wife is wrong, it’s because a Biblical-era Israeli learned it, lived it, and taught it to his children first.
When you say “the Law is dead” you ignore the history that made you who you are and the culture that ensures your very survival.
Put in today’s language, the Torah is as much “law” as it is a self-help manual or guidebook for successful living. Yes, laws are included because it was not just a document establishing fidelity between G-d and His people, but a document establishing a physical nation with physical boundaries and a distinct way of life. But behind each law, or mitzvah, is a principle that teaches us how to live our best life as individuals, within families and in communities at large. We know to honor our parents because it is an act of love that brings us joy. Joy leads to contentment, and contentment to living well. It really is that simple.
The Culture of Life professed by so many ardent Christians began with and in the Torah. Thanks to their covenant with G-d the Israelites learned to value children over emperors and families over monuments. The Israelites were the first to understand and teach the concept that human beings created in the image of G-d have inherent worth. In the eyes of Abraham’s G-d Isaac was worth more alive than dead. And because of that truth the Israelites valued children, nuclear families, education and history.
So, I encourage you to think twice before you say, “the Law is dead” when speaking of Torah. As a Christian you may have a very different attitude towards, say, the laws of kashrut. Mazel tov! So do most Jews. Tell me, do you ever have a disagreement with your spouse over what’s for dinner? Now that we’ve solved that issue, let’s get to the heart of the matter: Would you truly want to live in a society in which the Torah was dead?
I didn’t think so.