The Law is Love

September 2, 2018

The Torah, or Pentateuch, is the Law of God as revealed to Moses.  It is the first five books of the Bible and is recognized as God’s revelation to Israel.  In today’s first reading, Moses presents the Law and instructs the people that in keeping the Law, the Israelites will inherit God’s Promised Land.  The Law of God will make the Israelites a light for all nations and will consequently make God known to all peoples. 

Moses stresses the importance of the Law to the Israelites, yet they repeatedly abandoned the Law and pursued idol worship.  To make the Law more “achievable”, during the Babylon Exile the scribes added to the Law of Moses.  The Written Law of Moses now had a “protective layer”, known as the Oral Law.  By the time of Jesus, this Oral Law was known as the “Traditions of the Elders.” 

So, although Moses firmly warns the people not to add anything to the Law, “you shall not add to what I command you nor subtract from it,” the scribes add the Oral Law.  They felt it would act as “a fence around the Law,” so that by following these actions faithfully, no one could come near to breaking the Sacred Law, the Torah.  The original purpose of the Law of God as revealed to Moses would be fulfilled!

That is a noble intention. However, by Jesus’ day, the Scribes and Pharisees don’t remember the original intent of the Oral Law and regard both Oral and Written Laws as Sacred.  Therefore, Jesus says, “…teaching as doctrines human precepts. You disregard God's commandment but cling to human tradition."

The inevitable mistake in making sacred both the Law and the Traditions of the Elders is that many would regard “human traditions,” such as the ritual of washing hands, essential to their religious practice and disregard the true commandments from God.  The Pharisees testing Jesus with “Which commandment is the greatest?” reflects this mentality.  

Another destructive mistake which draws the wrath of Jesus is that they use these human traditions to condemn and exclude others.  As a result, religion becomes a set of laws, rules, and traditions.  God is nowhere to be found.  There is only fear, condemnation, no mercy for neighbors, and no love for God.   The original intent, to be a light for all nations and make God known to all peoples, will not be fulfilled. 

The center of the Law is Love. The center of our faith is Jesus, through whom God has manifested His Divine Love to the world. In focusing on the center, this Divine Love, we enable the divine purpose of the Law to be fulfilled. 

Kathryn Richards