“Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you”. (Matthew 7:1-2)
Not everything that Jesus taught was new and unique, much of it was simply his take on a rabbinical saying of the time. This is a good example. The Talmud says, “Rabbi Hillel said, ‘Judge not your neighbor until you have come into his place.’” It also says, “Whatever measure a man meets, it shall be measured to him again.” To follow this theme into familiar territory, how about this one – “Rabbi Yochanan bar Kokba said, ‘Do they say, “Take the splinter out of your own eye?” We are taught to remove the beam from your own eye.‘” In another Rabbinic statement, Rabbi Tarfon said, “I wonder if there is anyone in this generation that accepts reproof? For when one says, ‘Remove the mote from your eye,’ he would answer, ‘Remove the beam that is in between your eyes.’“
“So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets”. (Matthew 7:12)
There’s a fairly well known story that illustrates this principle. It is recorded in The Talmud and speaks of Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus. “Once a pagan approached Shammai and said to him, “I will become a convert, but only if you can teach me the entire Torah while I am standing on one foot.” Shammai drove him away with a yardstick which he was holding. Then the pagan put the same request to Hillel, and Hillel answered him, “Do not do to anyone else what is hateful to you. This is the entire Torah. All the rest is only a commentary about it. Now go and learn.”
“On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink.” (John 7:37)
This was the Feast of Tabernacles, or Succot. According to the Talmud18, a golden jar would be filled with water from the Pool of Siloam and the water would be poured out with great rejoicings and entertainment over several days. It was said that anyone who had never watched the festival at this time, the time of Water-Drawing, had never seen joy in their life.
“When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
These words were spoken at the end of Succot, when it was the custom, according to the Talmud, to light four great menorahs (lampstands) in the outer court of the Temple. It was said that there was no house in Jerusalem that did not reflect the light of these menorahs. It was said that the light was so great that women at home could sort out grains of wheat. Against this backdrop, picture the scene. Jesus standing in the Temple area, surrounded by this majestic shimmering glow, speaking those life-affirming words. Incredible.
“In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side”. (Luke 10:30-32)
The actions of the priest and Levite were consistent with their training, as contact with a dead body would make him ritually unclean. He wasn’t even allowed to visit cemetries, just in case he stepped on a grave. The Talmud states that a body found lying in a road should be moved out of the way, to protect the purity of any passing priest. Of course the actions of the priest and Levite may have been correct in terms of the “letter of the Law”, but the Spirit of the Law would surely have included compassion for the stricken man.
So where did that saying come from?
Written by: Miriam Emenike
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