I remember being told in a Hermeneutics class that words mean nothing unless they are attached to something. Through Classic Rabbinic Literature, we find that words spanning more than one portion or area of a text can mean so much more— and must be read together. In addition, the words one chooses to make light of someone’s serious sin or phrases one would not have the humility to speak to God became parables/riddles that are complex often providing a hermeneutic challenge for the hearer. It emphasizes that God’s meaning and messages need to be searched out— through study and the rules that define (Midrash) the seeking of Scripture as literature and teachings.

Rabbi Moshe, a guest lecturer at JUC, clearly encourages Christianity to not sidestep the Torah but to embrace what it says for as he mentioned, “Jesus fits in as Rabbi and teacher because of what He taught,” where he often referred to the authoritative truths found in Rabbinic Classical Literature. A story has a compelling image to transform lives and through Rabbi Moshe’s lecture and field tour of The Good Samaritan House and Sataf, it provided the importance of “place” within the parable teachings of Jesus. The Rabbinic Literature shared opened my eyes to the complementary nature the writers of these texts have provided alternative perspectives on the “riddle.”

My mind has been moved to a future thinking of how these other authoritative texts can have an impact on teaching the scriptures fully with the start of asking questions. “Jesus asked questions all the time,” stated Rabbi Moshi with the awareness of the 70 facets (faces) of Torah. This statement made me think about the brush off I may give to God’s Word because I just don’t want to dig into the meaning or that I may take the meaning too simply or even not want to accept an alternative to what the Scripture may be speaking to us. The text is there to be questioned, to be asked; “What is that like?” Additionally, I wonder if the text questions us? Does it say to us, “How do you fulfill God’s commandment or calling?” With story and impression, one can find the deeper things of God.

Parables happen to be kindness wrapped up in a narrative fashion. Although the majority of parables may speak about a sin, they soften the blow to the hearer. I have often found the parables of Jesus, those which do not have a conclusion, to be difficult to understand, but through the field trip, Rabbi Moshe unearthed the basic forms to start thinking about how they relate to spiritual insight and treatment of humanity. Although the parable of The Good Samaritan is fictitious, there was something that brought the parable to life standing in the heat of the day and reminded by Rabbi Moshe to “drink, drink!” It placed me in context of that battered individual being rescued by his enemy, a dry, thirsty land with the ability to consume life from a person. It would take the love of the “other” to do what God would do.

Sataf was a 180-degree change from the desert feeling of the Samaritan’s parable location. Here lush abounds and I could now embrace the text that talks about this land being one of flowing with the fruitful blessings. Understanding how trees, floral and creation is used within parables can help understand the process of things such as giving the first fruits, mate selection process for the Jewish men, and understanding that the fruits from the land are the cash-crop for its people.

The story is alive and has the ability to extend beyond the literal. The inclusion of outside authoritative literature complements the stories in the divine-written word. My mind has been shifted from not accepting other texts and what they have to say about parables and story. I’ve been presented with many meanings.