But We’re Spiritual Now3 min read

“But we’re spiritual now”

Isn’t this the reply of every Christian when justifying their disobedience? We don’t need to keep the physical law, we’re spiritual. 

Rabbi Abraham Heschel has an interesting remark to this.

“By inwardness alone we do not come close to God. The purest intentions, the finest sense of devotion, the noblest spiritual aspirations are fatuous when not realized in action. Spiritualism is a way for angels, not for man. […] Action is the verification of the spirit. Does friendship consist of mere emotion? Of indulgence in feeling? Is it not always in need of tangible, material means of expression? The life of the spirit too needs concrete actions for its actualization. The body must not be left alone; the spirit must be fulfilled in the flesh. The spirit is decisive; but it is life, all of life, where the spirit is at stake.” (Abraham Heschel, God in Search of Man, p.340)

Heschel continues to ponder…

“There are situations when the relationship between law and inwardness, discipline and delight, becomes gravely unbalanced. In their illustrious fear of desecrating the spirit of the divine command, the Rabbis established a level of observance which, in modern society, is within the reach of exalted souls but not infrequently beyond the grasp of ordinary men. Must halacha continue to ignore the voice of agada?” (Ibid p.342)

Heschel speaks to the Jew. He writes about the tension between halacha (the adherence to the law; one’s action) and the agada (the intention behind our obedience, one’s heart). “Halacha without agada is dead. Agada without halacha is wild.” (Ibid p.337) He addresses the concept that Judaism is all about law — that one must commit to strict application of God’s commands. But he cites often about the heart. The two must go hand in hand and only then are we truly spiritual.

I speak to the Christian. We can learn much from Heschel’s points. Faith and works are intertwined as it writes in James 2:17. We must commit ourselves to physical action in this world. To live a spiritual life is to bring about God’s will through action. God knew this, and gave us His will in the form of commandments, statutes, and judgements.

“It is right that the good actions should become a habit, that the preference of justice should become our second nature; even though it is not native to the self. A good person is not he who does the right thing, but he who is in the habit of doing the right thing.” (Ibid p.345)

Faith is a way of living. The deeds that we do, not only follow intention, but can engender love. Law holds the world together; love is what brings the world forward. The law is the means, not the end; the way, not the goal. Yeshua states that He is the way (John 14:6), why? Because He is Torah, the word of God, in the flesh. Take a second to think about that without spiritualizing it away. He is the way because He is the Word. The Word of God, Torah, is still the way.

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