Halakah - Walking the Walk

 

Halakah - Walking the Walk

 

 

“He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” Micah 6:8.

This verse reflects what some call the “Jewish Golden Rule” and is termed “Halakah”. Halakah is the quintessential characteristic of Judaism. 1 The word Halakah is derived from the Hebrew word for “walking.” Not only is Halakah the legal part of the Talmud, it is the way a “religious” Jew lives out his faith. By following rules of conduct as described in the Bible, as interpreted by the rabbis (i.e., Ten Commandments, circumcision, keeping Shabbat, keeping kosher, etc.), religious Jews believe the “Holy One” will be pleased and accept them eternally. In essence, the Halakah is the path that the Jew must follow throughout his life. 2 Halakah has been the instrument by which Judaism has expressed its theology and morality. 3

The early church reflected this concept of Halakah. For example, the Apostle John wrote, “He that saith he abideth in Him ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked” (1 John 2:6). Also, Paul wrote to the Ephesians explaining how the Christian ought to walk in chapters 4, 5, 6. He addresses unity, compassion, holiness, truthfulness, obedience and so on. In one chapter he writes, “Be ye therefore followers (or imitators) of God…and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us…” (Ephesians 5:1,2). Eight times in Ephesians Paul uses the word “walk” which means “to walk around” or “to order ones behavior.” This is the idea of Halakah.

Early Church Fathers also understood Halakah. Polycarp, a disciple of the Apostle John wrote, “…we must gird on the armour of integrity, and the first step must be to school our own selves into conformity with the Divine commandments.”4 In the first century, Ignatius of Antioch declared, “…do not have Jesus Christ on your lips, and the world in your heart.” 5 With reference to the Christian’s lifestyle, Francis of Assisi in the early 13 th century stated, “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” We find in Romans 11:11 that, “…salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them (the Jews) to jealousy.” The natural question would be, “What would cause them to be jealous?” First of all, anyone, Jew or Gentile, would be jealous of:

  1. The security that comes from the hope and peace a believer has in Jesus (Romans 5:1-11).
  2. The love that is manifested between those who believe (Galatians 5:22,23).
  3. Life – your life, your Halakah, will speak louder than any words you say.

“Walking the Walk” will provoke both Jew and Gentile to jealousy. As one dear Jewish man stated, “I’ve read the New Testament and I like the Jesus of the Gospels…however, I do not like the Jesus I see in the churches.” My dear Christian reader, what are we showing those around us? Are we “walking the walk” (Halakah) or are we simply talking a good talk? May God help us to imitate the “Jesus of the Gospels” in our lives.

Shalom!

End Notes:

  1. Phillip Sigal, “Judaism, The Evolution of a Faith,” (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1988) p. 1.
  2. Rabbi Dr. Shmuel Himelstein, “The Jewish Primer, Questions and Answers on the Jewish Faith and Culture,” (Facts on File The Jerusalem Publishing House, 1990), p. 12.
  3. Phillip Sigal, “Judaism, The Evolution of a Faith,” (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 1988), p. 3.
  4. Maxwell Staniforth, “Early Christian Writings, The Apostolic Fathers,” (Penquin Books, 1984), p. 145.
  5. Ibid., 106.