Sunday, July 18, 2010

I Say Takanot, You Say Takanot

Let's call the whole thing off. No, seriously. Let's call it off. Creation of and adherence to takanots. Let's do away with it.


A takanot (pronounced TAH-kae-no) is a rabbinical commandment. These were the additions to the Mosiac law that rabbis, who have absolute authority (or did in old testament Jewish society), saw fit to tack on and hold people to the letter of. These takanots are found nowhere in the Torah. They didn't come from God. They came from religious leaders. Ironically, the root meaning of the word is "to correct", which implies that these Jewish leaders didn't believe God's way was enough, feeling He needed their help to get His own laws right. Sound like any group/movement you know of? Sounds a lot like Christian Islam to me, with all of it's seedy patriarchal/courtship/family integrated elements.


The most obvious and noted biblical example of the takanot is found in Matthew 15...






“Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”



This was a takanot that, for all intent and purpose, the Pharisees were ready to condemn the disciples over. It isn't to be found in the Torah. It was a human idea and tradition, enforced and esteemed equally - by the religious leaders - with the laws of God. Jesus, who was quite clearly at war with the cold heart of the religious community, was an unhappy camper with this brush with legalists. 


He responded, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?” , before going on to hit them with the haymaker...



“Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying: These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.”



Over in Matthew 23, Jesus gets downright "ungentlemanly" by Christian Islamic standards, calling them a bunch of slithery snakes, fiercely angry that they load His people down with heavy, man-made burdens - takanots - weight which God never intended his people to carry. Christ Himself taught us that His yoke is easy and His burden is light. That doesn't mean that relationship with Him will turn life into puppy dogs, flower seeds, Rice Krispy Treats, and fluffy, marshmellowy "trials". What it means is that His expectation of the relationship isn't one of burden, but one of liberation, one of heart-peace. Friendship. Love. Faith and hope amidst trial.


I've noticed how often the proponents of the patriarchal/CI movement use the word "biblical". Biblical patriarchy. Biblical courtship. Biblical family. I've searched my poor little bible every which way but upside down and barefoot, and I just can't find any "biblical" examples or instruction that match the message of this movement concerning the role of a father, finding a mate or socially interacting, or regarding family. I've also noticed how often the word "godly" is used. Once again, I find nothing in the bible that provides substance for this adjective, or that would lead me to connect any of the nouns it's usually attached to to God. I smell takanots, and I don't mean a Japanese steakhouse.


Adultery is in the bible. Many times. Both spiritual and sexual. It isn't taught, but it's in there. Does that qualify as "biblical"? Biblical adultery? Same for murder. Same for slavery. Same for prostitution. Same for lying. This could take some time. There ARE examples of patriarchy in the Old Testament. Most of those were pretty messy. There ARE families in the bible. Most of them put the "fun" in dysfunction. There ARE examples of finding a spouse in the bible, by means including slavery, bargain, capture, adultery, murder, and all sorts of unfortunate scenarios.


It seems to me that the leaders of this movement have taken issues that the bible speaks very, very, very, very, very, very, VERY little, if at all, about, conformed the minimal amount of scripture to their own personal agendas, apparently thinking that God needed help on these issues, and made these takanot-aided principles (which aren't genuinely "biblical") the absolute foundational aspect of their spiritual lives. In doing so, they're planting seedlings that our Heavenly Father didn't cultivate, binding up heavy loads on His people, usurping Him and claiming God-given authority, whether by word or by action, to write new laws in addition to those which, through Christ and through the Holy Spirit, are written on our hearts. Christ told us clearly what He thinks of takanots in Matthew 15 and 23. God desires obedience over sacrifice (to HIS ways, not man's), He desires substance over ceremony, He desires relationship rather than ritual and rule, He desires mercy over judgment.


These men desire to eat oranges, and given God's relative silence about oranges and orange trees, they're coming up with their own methods and speaking on his behalf. The problem is, in their prideful ignorance they're planting lemon seeds. A little orange paint to create the illusion that the lemons are oranges, talk about things like "biblical" oranges and "godly" orange juice loudly enough and with feigned authority, and you can fool some of the spectators. All while the people forced to drink this "orange" juice, err, "godly orange juice", have puckered lips, because what they taste is sour. Their hearts and minds are distressed because orange juice is supposed to be sweet, and they MUST accept that what they're drinking is "godly" orange juice from "biblical" oranges or be labeled rebellious and face emotional retribution, but their taste buds are screaming "No mas!!!"


One thing God isn't silent about is to live a life bounded and officiated by human ideas and takanots...






Isaiah 30:“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin”
Hosea 5: “Ephraim is oppressed and broken in judgment, Because he willingly walked by human precept.”





Woe to those who load His people down with takanots.


Takanots are spiritual death while living, heavy spiritual backpacks with nothing of substance in them, lemons painted orange, squeezed into juice by dutiful, submissive "godly" wives, forced to be consumed by rigidly obedient, "godly" children while the "biblical family" sits at the breakfast table.


Human ideas...treated as biblical commandments, taught as doctrine. Indoctrination...with emotional force.

12 comments:

  1. Love that you offer a Biblical illustration of God-defined rebellion: Isaiah 30:“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin” THIS is rebellion.... Not someone seeking the Lord and being led by Him in a direction not endorsed by parents.

    You painted a perfect picture of cognitive dissonance, which at its heart, is confusion (i.e., not authored by God): These men desire to eat oranges, and given God's relative silence about oranges and orange trees, they're coming up with their own methods and speaking on his behalf. The problem is, in their prideful ignorance they're planting lemon seeds. A little orange paint to create the illusion that the lemons are oranges, talk about things like "biblical" oranges and "godly" orange juice loudly enough and with feigned authority, and you can fool some of the spectators. All while the people forced to drink this "orange" juice, err, "godly orange juice", have puckered lips, because what they taste is sour. Their hearts and minds are distressed because orange juice is supposed to be sweet, and they MUST accept that what they're drinking is "godly" orange juice from "biblical" oranges or be labeled rebellious and face emotional retribution, but their taste buds are screaming "No mas!!!" Really great stuff.

    Using the term 'biblical', especially by those who are respected, acts a thought-stopper. (I have another theory too, but won't go into it publicly.) It smooths over and prepares the listener to accept whatever follows. Much like using the term 'feminist' to discredit someone who does not present a welcomed message.

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  2. Lewis,
    Awesome! Your illistrations are right-on. I'm linking to this one on FB. :)

    I think, though, that the motive behind such additions to God's Word isn't always as sinister as the picture you paint. I believe that most of it comes from fear...fear of freedom. Fear of grace. There is comfort and security in fences and walls. And less personal responsibility in following set rules. To excersize our liberty in Christ takes restraint, confidence, and responsibility. And the possiblity of being and doing wrong. Which, for a lot of people, is really scary. This is what I see in the book of Galations. They were a people that had been liberated, lavished with grace and freedom, and they didn't know what to do with it. So they fell back into following rules because I really believe that their hearts wanted to do God's will and they were afraid that without those rules they were so used to, they couldn't possibly follow God correctly. I see this today with so many of the leaders of this movement. Not a sinister attempt to control (though that is there among some, certainly) but an honest desire to please God and do what's right and a fear and misunderstanding of the very freedom and grace that God has given us.

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  3. I really, really like the oranges/lemons thing. A very simple way to put it and so true!

    Darcy, I agree with you that many people are doing this stuff out of fear. I know that my own family's legalism is all related to fear. My parents and my siblings and various others all seem to very genuinely want to follow God. They wanted it so much that they were truly afraid of doing something damaging. Now that my "godly" family is learning so much more lately, the fear is disappearing and so is the legalism. Yay! (still a long way to go, of course, but still... the progress is different and better than I have EVER seen happen with us, especially my dad and brother. Every time I see them things are changing).

    L

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  4. "Love that you offer a Biblical illustration of God-defined rebellion: Isaiah 30:“Woe to the rebellious children,” says the LORD, “Who take counsel, but not of Me, And who devise plans, but not of My Spirit, That they may add sin to sin” THIS is rebellion.... Not someone seeking the Lord and being led by Him in a direction not endorsed by parents."

    Hillary, I wanted so desperately for my ex to grasp that. It would've saved her a lot of needless guilt. I'm sorry that she ultimately couldn't.


    Darcy...I think you're right. An example to me would be the Florida 5 behind the Shepherding movement. I think these men, even if misguided, where trying, through a certain amount of fear, to introduce something that they saw as beneficial, and judging by most of them eventually renouncing Shepherding and asking forgiveness of those it had hurt, I think they acknowledged, genuinely, their mistakes. The premise was extra-biblical and flawed despite their intent, and it soon became a monster that consumed God's people before it could be contained, yet I genuinely believe their intentions were good but misguided and deceived.

    The patriarchy crowd, though, I can't tell. Gothard, Phillips, Harris, and the rest are well aware of the damage that's resulted from their teachings. They have to be. Either that or they're incredibly deceived. They act oblivious and nonplussed by it, and it makes me question their heart. I think the sinister aspect came in for them when it became a monster of it's own and the cart was driving the horse. A money train started down the tracks. These men are getting wealthy off these teachings, and doing so with little accountability that reaches them. Regardless of where it started, it seems to have become corrupt with the money and power it provides them. Barring a major move of God in their lives, I see them continuing with it until the make-up no longer hides the face of a drag queen posing as the Homecoming queen.

    It think the fear issue is the major player with the parents who take on these teachings. Fear of society that these movements have convinced them is out to get their children for the devil's quiver. It's sad that they turned to what is, in essence, a sociopolitical solution to apply to a spiritual situation. But, fear makes us do irrational things.

    My family was never involved in any of this, so I'm speaking as only an observer of a handful of patrio families. You guys can speak to it's direct impact on families far better than I can, and I appreciate your insights.

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  5. L...That's great news about your family. Praise God for it!

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  6. Hey Lewis! We decided to "bookmark" your blog. It has become a great educational tool for those who are still trying to figure Christianity out.

    I'm almost 40 and I didn't know families like the Duggars or Botkins even existed, until about 4 years ago. I knew there were different types of Christians...but I just had not encountered too many Fundamentalist. In fact my crazy uncle had us convinced that the Amish were an international cult. Of course I know better than that now. When your're 8, you will believe anything.

    While blog jumping, we have come across some "extreme" beliefs. There are some Christians who are also Torah observant. They only celebrate holidays in scripture. All other holidays are considered, "pagan". What is your opinion about this?? Sorry but I'm NOT getting rid of my Christmas tree! There are some who even stick to a "holy" diet. Well, my birthday is coming up and I hope God will forgive me for ordering shrimp and snow crab!

    Just how strict do you think God will judge?? It's almost like having a Christian report card. Right now I'm a "B-" student. I'm not anywhere near A+ status right now. Got a tattoo, love shrimp, wears denim shorts, gets road rage regularly, AND I love celebrating ALL holidays. Those are just a few things that will keep me from getting an "A".

    Anyways...great post. Sorry for the rambling.

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  7. Angie...You're always welcome here. I'm glad you're finding something useful and beneficial while here. I heartily recommend the sites I have linked over on the right hand side of the page, too. Some really good stuff.

    If you'll permit me the time, I'll address some of the questions you've raised (and do so discreetly) in a post in the coming days. These are questions that a lot of us are still asking - even years after coming to know Christ - and I think it's worth the time to take a good look at them.

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  8. QUOTE: "An example to me would be the Florida 5 behind the Shepherding movement. I think these men, even if misguided, where trying, through a certain amount of fear, to introduce something that they saw as beneficial, and judging by most of them eventually renouncing Shepherding and asking forgiveness of those it had hurt, I think they acknowledged, genuinely, their mistakes."

    Lewis, thanks for saying this. I was involved in the shepherding movement in its heyday. I saw the good and the bad, up close. I still believe the "Florida Five" had the best of intentions. The church I'm in today had its roots in shepherding, but it has become one of the most Christ-centered and grace-filled churches I've ever known. That can happen when leadership is willing to admit mistakes and turn the bus around.

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  9. Interesting; you take shots at Hebrew Takanot and fringe christian groups, indicating that the bulk of denominational christianity is just OK. How about the Easter and Christmas takanot and much else that the church has 'added', the christian are no worse than the Hebrews, Who can throw a stone.....Careful 'railing' against the apple of His own eye......careful......

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  10. Are you should you actually read this post?...Or did you just read into this post?

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  11. Hey Lewis,

    I'm a future rabbi, and I'm kind of frustrated by the comparison between the Oral Law and fundamentalist Christianity that you're laying out here.

    The main difference between Judaism and Christianity is that Judaism is fundamentally a religion of works and not faith. We as Jews believe strongly that it is upright moral action that makes a person a delight in God's eyes, and not necessarily faith in any particular creed (traditional Jewish theology says that righteous non-Jews have a place in Heaven along with righteous Jews). We arrive at our conceptions of "moral action" through ongoing interpretation and debate of scripture. And we do indeed place a heave emphasis on the inherited tradition and wisdom of previous sages, in books such as the Mishnah and Talmud (by the way, it is "a takanah" is one legal decision within a larger body of work "takanot" is the plural).

    This does lead, in some sects, to rigid legalistic moralism such as what you're describing here. However, it also leads to thousand year conversations about morality and how to behave in a righteous way in society. If you ever read the Talmud, you will see that there are often many different arguments by different schools of thought presented. And much of what is in Jewish law is girded by the concepts of protecting life and behaving justly (We can, and do, read Isaiah just as much as the Christians). In recent years, liberal branches of Judaism have been involved in the Civil Rights movement, in women's liberation, and in equal rights for LGBT people. I think that rigid, legalistic thinking that you're describing is more likely the result of people who are scared to think for themselves than of any one religious system, and it really irks me that you are comparing the fundies to all Jews everywhere.

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    Replies
    1. I'm only comparing the fundies to the Pharisees and religious leaders that Jesus directed his most cutting language toward.

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