Why Am I Against Tradition?

I need to make some critical points regarding my usage of the Word TRADITION. In my two previous blogs, it appears that I absolutely hate tradition. This is not the case. What I do hate, however, is man-made traditions that contradict the Word of YHVH.

Some man-made traditions are fine. (e.g., washing your hands before you eat, saying God bless you after someone sneezes, etc., etc., etc.)  It is only the man-made traditions that add to or take away from the instructions (Torah) of YHVH. For example, The Fourth Commandment says, “Observe the Sabbath day by keeping it holy as YAHWEH your God has commanded you.” It goes on to tell us that we shall do no work, and even our donkeys, oxen, servants, animals, and so on shall do no work. The rabbis of Yavneh, and even prior to that, enacted and established new laws, which are called, “Takanot,” “Ma’asim,” and “Gezeirah.”

TAKANOT: (Plural for enactments and reforms that change or add to the written law.)

MA’ASIM: (Plural for “precedents” or acts or deeds that serve as precedents.)

Without going into too much theological depth let me explain the difference between the two. A ma’aseh (singular) is a ruling governed by a previous Rebbe or Rabbi. (e.g., the Talmud rules that it is permissible to use a ramp on the Sabbath built by a Gentile if it was not specifically built for the Jew.)

A ma’aseh in which Rabban Gamaliel and the elders were traveling in a ship, when a gentle made a ramp on which to descend, and Rabban Gamaliel and the elders descended by it. (Babylonian Talmud, Sabbath 122a)

Thus, since the rabbis believed that Gamaliel and the elders could not sin, it must be permissible for all Jews to do it. Furthermore, since the Rebbe has complete authority, no need for biblical proof is warranted because the Rebbe is always right. Hence, we have what is called a “religious law.” And, because the Rebbe is always right we are not to argue with his ruling. Because, modern Orthodox rabbis are descendants from the Pharisees (Babylonian Talmud, Kidushin 66a, Nidah 33b) the authority of the rabbis are not to be questioned. Therefore, if a Rabbi states that his left hand is actually his right, even though you know better, you are not allowed to correct him. This is why the Mishnah (Oral Law) takes precedence over the Torah in many matters.

Therefore, when Yeshua rebuked the Pharisees for many of these “traditions” he was confronted with jealousy and they were bent on destroying him. He questioned their authority and he even rebuked them for burdening the people with these outrageous laws. He said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my ‘yoke’ upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my ‘yoke’ is easy and my ‘burden’ is light” (Matthew 11:28-30, NIV).

Yeshua knew the Pharisees were out of control. There were so many Ma’asim that the people of Israel couldn’t keep up. And, because they were found guilty of breaking not just the Torah but the oral law as well, there was great need for Rabbinical (Pharisaical) mandates.

If your thinking that these Pharisees were just crazy, then think again. If Yeshua were physically amongst us today instead of 2000 years ago, He would still have to become the Sacrificial Lamb for our sins. Modern Judaism and Christianity have made so many “oral traditions” that many people don’t want to attend services. Over 80% of all Jews, and many born-again believers don’t attend because they say it is too hard, and there are too many “Do’s and Don’ts (rules).”

A Takanot is a ruling that becomes as binding as the commandment itself. For example, we saw the biblical mandate for observing the Sabbath above. Now add to that only being able to walk a certain distance on Shabbat. Where did that come from? The rabbis have ruled that you are only allowed to walk 2000 cubits on Shabbat. If eighteen inches were a cubit, then we are allowed to walk 0.57 of a mile on Shabbat. This is a typical Takanah (singular) found throughout the Talmud. What the rabbis did was to enact a ruling for Shabbat, and in the process they reformed the word, “work.”

CONCLUSION: I don’t have a problem with traditions as long as they are not adding or taking away from Scripture. Being a Messianic Jew this is why I choose not to celebrate Easter nor Christmas. These are merely traditions passed down to us through Church tradition and labeled “Christian.” On the other hand, Passover (Pesach), Shavuot (Pentecost), and Sukkot (Tabernacles) are biblical traditions and are fine to celebrate. Even Yeshua celebrated Chanukah (Feast of Dedication). Although Chanukah is not mentioned as one of YHVH’s mo’edim (feasts and appointed times) the celebration is a foreshadow of the celebration over the Anti-Messiah (Anti-Christ), which all believers of all nations, along with Yeshua leading the way, will usher in the New Jerusalem and Yeshua will reign as KING OF KINGS.

A good example of tradition is this: Just recently we celebrated Sukkot. During the celebration we sang Christmas Carols, which we label “Messiah Carols for fun–not for theological reasons.” Why? Because most, if not all, scholars believe that Yeshua was born during Sukkot. This is a logical assumption because Sukkot means, Tabernacles. He is God with us–Emanuel, and Dwelt (Tabernacled) amongst us. Therefore, it is appropriate and right to sing “Messiah Carols” during Sukkot. Although many would think you’re crazy, this would be a good tradition. On the other hand, decorating a tree and putting gifts at the bottom of it on December 25th is a tradition that dates back prior to Christianity that is of pagan worship. It was said that Tammuz was born on December 25th. Tammuz was the son of Nimrod and Semeramis of Babel. After the death of Nimrod, Semeramis gave birth through a sunbeam (the spirit of Nimrod, which is a pseudo virgin birth). So, when Constantine redirected the worship of the Sun God–Apollos (merely a different name for Nimrod) to the worship of Christ, it was then that the “Christian Church” celebrated Christmas in Constantine’s honor as the religion of the state. Prior to this time, the “Church” never celebrated Christmas. Furthermore, most Christians today don’t realize that the Puritans refused to celebrate Christmas because they deemed it as a pagan ritual.

However, is it bad or sinful to celebrate Easter and Christmas for Christians today? By no means! Today’s celebrations reflect and preach on the Messiahs death and resurrection and celebrating the birth of the Savior is not an evil or wrong this; unless, of course, the focus is anything other than the Messiah.

Therefore, it seems obvious to me that celebrating the birth of the Messiah at the appropriate time–Sukkot–makes more sense. What’s even more crazy is that many pastors, Christian theologians, and many denominations world-wide know these facts about Easter and Christmas but refuse to stop celebrating it because of tradition. When instead, the Church should be celebrating Sukkot, which is God’s foreshadow of the birth of the Messiah. This makes more sense, although, because of anti-Semitism in the 4th Century, Sukkot was not celebrated because it was deemed to be a Jewish holiday only. And the Church wonders why Jews won’t convert. By the way, just when does a Jew stop being a Jew when he believes that Yeshua (a Jew) is the Messiah? Is not the Good News of the Kingdom (Gospel) to the Jew first?

As Tevia would sing, “. . . TRADITION!”

Adrian A. Bernal

“Changing the way people think, one blog at a time.”

© 2007, All Rights Reserved

2 responses to “Why Am I Against Tradition?”

  1. Shalom,
    I read your post just as I have been trying to explain to some of our fellowship this very point. I think you did an excellent job of laying out this topic. Hope that it truly brings about change in the Messianics of today. Enjoyed the post. Be Bless in the Most High.
    ps. I\’ve not heard of a Messianic Karaite before. Only seperately either Messianic or Karaite. Could you give me more info on this?

    • Shalom Bayith!

      Thank you! Sorry for such a late response. I use Messianic Karaite in this context: Being a Jewish believer in Yeshua who accepts the plain and simple text of the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah as it should be in its original understanding. Obviously, tradition and particular viewpoints will always influence how Scripture is read and interpreted. Even those who call themselves Karaites as a sect add man-made traditions to their beliefs; don’t let them tell you otherwise. Since the writing of this post I present myself as a Messianic Jew; however, I do still hold to a Karaite understanding, that being a textual context, not a rabbinical or even a pastoral context. That being said, it is still difficult to remove oneself from any tradition. Albeit, not all tradition is bad. That which contradicts the Scripture, do not follow; that which follows Scripture, follow. It’s really that simple.

      Shalom, shalom!

      Dr. Bernal

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