middot enthusiasm besorah turn up the heat

turn up the heat

Written by  rabbi benjamin ehrenfeld

art-oventempAround the time I entered high school I discovered that it was not “cool” to be enthusiastic. As a matter of fact, phrases like “be cool” and “that’s chill” reflected the tendency towards austere distance from the world. Looking back I realize the whole attitude was pretentious and fear driven. The idea was that the more distant you are from things, the less likely they will be able to hurt you; then you can become practically invincible. Of course, it never really worked. This is why the ways of God will never really smack of the kind of “cool” that characterized my adolescence (as well as others). God does not really give us the permission to be distant from him or his world. Yeshua’s example drives this point home.

Yeshua’s work was almost always undergirded by a deep enthusiasm for what he was doing and encouraging others in. This is a man who gathers children warmly in his arms, cries at funerals, rebukes authority figures, overturns tables in the Temple, and parties with riff-raff. Beyond that, Yeshua is adamant that his followers maintain their enthusiasm. This is what Yochanan received concerning the lukewarm community in Revelation:

I know your works, that you are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth. Because you say, “I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing”—and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked—I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten. Therefore be zealous and repent. Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me. To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. --Revelation 3:15–21

The language itself is emphatic. Lukewarm communities do not represent the God who seeks justice for the oppressed, food for the hungry, and life for the dead. Without enthusiasm we will be “vomited out,” so to speak. We will be unfit.

As always, there must be balance. Extreme emotionalism isn’t the path of God either. Nevertheless, I see a leaning towards more enthusiasm rather than less. Enthusiasm is how we demonstrate not only our care for things but also our willingness to be vulnerable enough to be disappointed in less than ideal. From that vulnerability I think we can find more fervency in our prayer, more sincerity in our care for others, and greater expectation for the coming Kingdom.

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