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The foundation of Christian Ethics & the store of old and new is in our hearts

At the feet of the statue of liberty are the broken chains of slavery
At the feet of the statue of liberty are the broken chains of slavery
Photo by Kena Betancur/Getty Images

Every scribe/grammarian/rhetorician who has been instructed in the kingdom of heaven is like the head of a household who brings from his storeroom both the new and the old.”

וַיִּקְרָא מֹשֶׁה אֶל-כָּל-יִשְׂרָאֵלוַיֹּאמֶרוַיֹּאמֶר אֲלֵהֶם שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל אֶת-הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת-הַמִּשְׁפָּטִיםאֲשֶׁר אָנֹכִי דֹּבֵר בְּאָזְנֵיכֶם הַיּוֹם.

This literally translates from Deuteronomy 5:1, “Called Moses the all of those who struggle with God, the customs and what comes from the Lips of God, I speak into your ears today.” The English words used include statutes, and ordinances. English statutes found in chronological collections starting with the Magna Carta from 1215. They did not exist before 1215, and therefore did not exist at Moses’ time. relates of “Ordinance” that our understanding of it dates from 1275-1325. Again, this is long after Moses came on scene. Both Statute and Ordinance are constructs of the Magna Carta, and come far too late to be accurate translations of the Hebrew “-הַחֻקִּים וְאֶת-הַמִּשְׁפָּטִי.” Jastrow relates how they come from “Customs,” and “Lips,” or the Lips of God. A good translation from Jewish tradition is that the latter, or what comes from the “Lips of God,” relates to the judicial precedents that come from the leaders who speak in persona Christi, or as the Presence of Christ, and God.

Customs and Precedents, by definition, are not something Moses could have given at Sinai/Horeb. They develop over time. Customs come from the Masses, the common people, and represent customs as the unconsciously evolve over time. Precedents come from the leadership, who deliberate on things and make conscious decisions. Deuteronomy 5 states clearly that we need both “Customs” and Judicial Precedents. They each bring to the reader from the storeroom of both the new and the old.

Customs and traditions read the past, what happened at Sinai/Horeb and in this sense, they bring from the storehouse of what is old. On the other hand, we must see how these remembrances are interpreted in light of present situations. In this sense, they bring from the storehouse of what is new.

Deuteronomy 30 helps us to understand Moses’ thinking:

This command which I am giving you today is not too wondrous or remote for you. It is not in the heavens, that you should say, “Who will go up to the heavens to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” Nor is it across the sea, that you should say, “Who will cross the sea to get it for us and tell us of it, that we may do it?” No, it is something very near to you, in your mouth* and in your heart, to do it.

Deuteronomy 30 goes on to say, “I call heaven and earth today to witness against you: I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. Choose life! ” All life is life in potentiality. How is the ruler/grammarian/rhetorician to interpret Torah? “Choose life! When we see suffering children on our Southern Border, choose life for them. When we see homeless on the streets, choose life for them. When we see global warming/climate change, choose life for the planet we live on. When we see suffering anywhere and for any reason, choose life for the people involved. Bring all potential life to fulfillment. This is the commandment.

Deuteronomy 5:1-7 relates, “I am the NAME your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt/Oppression, out of the house of menial labor.” The Rabbinic gloss relates, “Remember what it was like to be there, and remember your rescue.” This brings from the storehouse of the old. This is the foundation of Judeo-Christian Ethics. Bringing it into the present means reading the words on our Statue of Liberty, thinking on the words of the Battle Hymn of the Republic when we sing it, and listening to the words of the Gettysburg Address. We also must listen to the words of Martin Luther King JR. as he recites his “I have a Dream,” Speech.

We must bring from our treasures of the old and the new. We must remember what it was like to be slaves in Egypt, and to die on the cross with Jesus. That is what St. Paul tells us Baptism and Eucharist are supposed to be all about. When we do this, when we remember our slavery, and our rescue, we will then strive to create a better world, and this is the essence of Christian ethics.

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