Interpret that word right


If there is anything more important than how we pronounce a word, it is what that word means. “Shalom,” in Hebrew is different from “Shalom,” in Arabic. This caused great problems when Egypt and Israel wrote their peace treaty. “Shalom,” comes from a root, “complete.” Hebrew Shalom means the feeling of being “complete,” “tranquil.” The Arabic means “a cessation of hostilities.” Israel worried about this important difference and opposed translation of the treaty into Arabic.

Hebrew has two words for justice. The word “שְׁפָּטִ,” also means “Lip.” Justice comes from the lip of God, his representative, the earthly judge, “שְׁפָּטִ.” Its meaning is judicial. Tzaddic/justice, “צדק,” means more and is not judicial. Tzaddic comes from folk background, custom. The Ten Commandments begin, “Moses called all Israel and told them, ‘Hear Israel the customs and the correct judicial precedents, “שְׁפָּטִ,” which I speak into your ear, this day.” Customs and correct judicial precedents develop over time, more time than Exodus’ 3 months. Decisions from the judges are as if they came from Sinai. The Jewish nation did have its tri-partite division of government. The kings were the executive branch, the priests the judicial.

The legislative branch was missing. Torah came from Sinai and was law. Society only needed judges to interpret Torah, establishing customs and correct judicial precedent. The Muslim nations base Sharia law upon the same principle. The head-of-state runs the executive branch. The Mullah with his priests runs the judicial. They have Quran and do not need a legislature.

Saul was the first king, and he did not rule until 1079 BCE. Moses lived before 1391 BCE. That time gap is longer than the United States has been a nation. Before 1079, there were only itinerant judges.

In “Folkways, William Graham Sumner discussed how words change meaning.” First, the custom comes. Customs become mores. The legislatures and judicial people later pass these mores into laws. Article 2 Section 4 of our Constitution explains how Congress can impeach the President for misdemeanors. Congress cannot impeach the president for a traffic ticket. Originally, misdemeanors were, “assault and battery, perjury, bribery, forgery and conspiracy.”

The meaning of the word changed. Law and the judges struggle to keep up. In the roaring twenties, everybody wanted to be gay and the rainbow reminded everyone to be friends with one another. A young man, desiring to be gay, would go to the local speakeasy and pick up a young girl, also wanting to be gay. They would dance, have a good time, in the process be gay, and go home. Prohibition was in effect. This was the violation of societal mores. In the sixties gay people thought of themselves gay in their lifestyle and joined the gay lifestyle. The meaning of “Gay,” has been different ever since.

“Torah,” comes from a root word meaning a teaching.” Torah, to “Elohist,” a writer of Torah, was the customs and traditions of the northern tribes, Israel. The judicial concept of Torah did not yet exist; the judicial system in Jerusalem was not present. Over time, the customs of Israel became mores, and these mores produced the need to enforce these mores. This gave rise to the judicial system. The priests in Jerusalem gave rise to the priestly writers of Torah who also put their ideas into writing, Torah. The judicial system and the idea of justice as judicial were born.

The academics in Jerusalem joined their ideas into Torah, calling God by his Personal Name, which in English begins with a “J.” Scholars refer to their writings as the “J,” writings. For them, “Justice,” begins with the Jewish escape from Egypt being their national identity. Remembering how oppression hurts when we see others oppressed, we take action to stop the hurting of others. For the “J” writers, charity and justice are the same. This was the Jewish contribution to Torah.

As we read Torah, we must keep in mind, at least three groups, plus the writer of Deuteronomy had different concepts of justice. If this important concept had different definitions, how much more did the less important concepts change? As we read Torah and Gospel, we must realize the different writers of Torah and Gospel had different understandings of their words. They are all rooted in the common Jewish experience, so have a common thread of meaning. Israel and Judah are one nation, a dynamic nation, a living nation. This does not allow us to pick one definition for any word and disregard the other concepts of the original writers.

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