The Ashrei of Messiah 5

 The last of five meditations on the Beatitudes based on my book DIVINE REVERSAL, given at the Hashivenu Forum, 2/1/10.

 

Happy you are when people insult you and persecute you and speak all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Here’s a ninth Ashrei, after the completeness of the eight. Nine keeps us a bit off balance, so that we’re not tempted to enshrine the eight and their new creation symbolism against the ten commandments given on another mount. Nine is an in-between number, insisting that Messiah’s new torah does not replace the Torah summed up in the ten words spoken from Sinai. Indeed, nine is ten minus one, to suggest that the Ashrei of Messiah is not a finished product carved in stone, but a work in process. Accordingly, the ninth Ashrei switches from the third person—happy are they—to language about you and me. It keeps us from reading all of the Ashrei as statements of mere piety. With the ninth we hit the streets—happy are you when people insult you.

Rabbi Israel Salanter, father of the Mussar movement, said: “As long as one lives a life of calmness and tranquility in the service of God, it is clear that he is remote from true service.”[1] Likewise, here Yeshua recommends insult and abuse in place of calmness and tranquility.

But what does it mean if we’re not getting insulted for Messiah? Yeshua would like to compare us to the prophets, but what if our lives won’t let him? Have we given in to a form of Yeshua-faith that is strictly personal and domesticated? Have we dulled the prophetic edge to produce a safe, consumer-friendly spirituality? And how do we regain that edge?

As always, it is the risen Messiah who goes before us. We receive the prophetic call and the power to obey it as we draw close to him. But, even as I say that, I don’t want to picture drawing close to him as entirely inward, as an act that might shake up some of my attitudes and preconceptions, but won’t bring down the opposition that Yeshua promises. Genuine nearness to Yeshua creates disturbance both within and without. It gets us bucking the current of the surrounding age so it no longer carries us along, but breaks against us in persecution. Then we get to rejoice because we know that we genuinely share in Messiah. 

As we prepare to depart from the Lord’s table,[2] let’s remember the words of Rav Shaul that in partaking here we declare the Lord’s death until he comes. Therefore we need to examine ourselves, before we partake, of course, but also as we conclude our partaking.[3] Yeshua’s death leads to resurrection, but first it embodies complete and costly obedience. With this obedience as the standard of our self-examination, how do we begin, or begin again, to obey? How do we take the dying of Messiah into our lives? “He died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them.”[4] So may it be with us.

© 2010, Russell Resnik


[1] Cited in “Tranquility” from the Mussar Program by Alan Morinis. © 2007 www.JewishPathways.com.

[2] These meditations were originally shared in the context of Zichron Mashiach, or Messiah’s remembrance meal.

[3] Cf. 1 Cor. 11:26–28.

[4] 2 Cor. 5:15.

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