Figurative Phylacteries

photo credit: chaim zvi

I was recently reading in Deuteronomy chapter six where Moses instructs the people thus:

And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart:

And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.

And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes.

And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates. (Deuteronomy 6:6-9)

As I read that, the thought struck me that there are some laws and instructions that must be followed literally, such as the command that the people mark the upper and side posts of their door with the blood of their Passover lamb (Exodus 12) but that commands such as this, which are literally kept by wearing phylacteries and having a mezuzah on their door, are more important to be kept figuratively if the people are to become covenant people with the Lord than they are to be kept literally.

Of course it is hard to truly keep a command figuratively while ignoring the literal interpretation but ask yourself where the saving power of this command is. Is it in nailing a box to your doorpost and tying boxes onto parts of your body or is it in speaking and thinking and acting upon the law even in casual situations such as sitting in your house and walking by the way?

Even a casual observer could walk down the street of an orthodox Jewish neighborhood and notice the mezuzot on all the doors. If they knew nothing of the Jewish religion they would still recognize that there was something going on in that neighborhood. Should they enter a Jewish synagogue they could notice the phylacteries tied on arms and heads even if they did not understand the meaning of what they saw. It would take more careful observation to notice how dominant religious discussions are among the orthodox people than to notice the boxes on the people and on the buildings.

Just as it is easier to see the boxes than hear the conversations, so it is easier to imitate the boxes than to infiltrate the conversations. Anyone might place a mezuzah on their door and have the home mistaken as a Jewish residence but to constantly speak of the laws and traditions without coming to understand and appreciate their meaning would be virtually impossible.

Christians have no command that they should wear phylacteries but if they wish to become people whom their Lord would side with in a day of reckoning they must talk of the law while sitting in their homes and walking by the way, and not just when they are attending their worship services. How else can we expect to have the law written upon our hearts? (see Romans 2)

I hope I live what I believe in a way that it is as obvious in my life as if I were wearing phylacteries and had a mezuzah on my doorpost.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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