the extreme of moderation

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-coinsYeshua is a unique case study for moderation. On the one hand, he is fairly extreme. This is the man who taught his disciples to leave behind everything and follow him.

He told a rich man to give away everything to the poor. He gave himself over completely to his Father’s will. At the same time he stops an angry mob from stoning a woman accused (and presumable guilty) of illicit sexual relations. He speaks gently to a Samaritan woman with a not-so-holy lifestyle. While Yeshua is being arrested he tells Shimon Kefa to put away his weapon. He suggests calm conversation between those going to a court over a dispute. He presents God as a loving father who refuses to enact strict justice against his wayward son.


One oughtn’t assume Yeshua’s acts of moderation are condoning immoral and rebellious behavior. Rather, Yeshua did not know God to be indifferent to the complexities of human existence. Shabbat is a time of rest and perfection, but as long as a person is suffering on Shabbat there is no rest and thus healing is not to be stifled out of fear of disobeying God.

Zealous pursuit of God’s will far too often degenerates into human beings giving into their own will to control. This is where moderation comes in. It’s a good thing to obey God and encourage others to do the same. It’s dangerous to exercise one’s knowledge of God’s will to justify hurting others. Correction and education are rarely engendered through tyrannical means. Practically, this could look like inviting Jewish friends over for Erev Shabbat rather than scolding them for going out to the movies. It could look like extending kindness to a person who is normally very unkind to others. In this way, moderation in normal “religious zealousness” ends up being radical hospitality and kindness!

When it comes to God’s will for those who love him moderation takes on forms that require serious effort and communal accountability. In other words, it isn’t always easy. So…be moderate in your religiosity: Be extremely compassionate!

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