Catholic Jews and the Jewish Law

Part III: St. Paul on Jewish Law and Catholic Jews

Is the baptized Jew still a Jew? Is he still obligated to keep the Law? Didn't St. Paul say that he's not? The purpose of this article is to address these questions by examining some of the most relevant passages from the epistles of St. Paul. We will see that a careful reading of his epistles suggests that the very reason St. Paul gives for exempting the Gentile from the observance of the Law deepened the meaning of the Law and value of observance for the Christian Jew.

Saul the Pharisee and Persecutor of the Church

St. Paul (Saul) enters the story of Christianity with the martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Acts 7

[58] Then they cast him [Stephen] out of the city and stoned him; and the witnesses laid down their garments at the feet of a young man named Saul.

Acts 8

[1] And Saul was consenting to his death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem ; and they were all scattered throughout the region of Judea and Sama'ria, except the apostles.
[2] Devout men buried Stephen, and made great lamentation over him.
[3] But Saul was ravaging the church, and entering house after house, he dragged off men and women and committed them to prison.

Acts 9

[1] But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest
[2] and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus , so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

Galatians 1

[13] For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it;
[14] and I advanced in Judaism beyond many of my own age among my people, so extremely zealous was I for the traditions of my fathers.

Paul identifies himself as a Pharisee (Acts 9:5-6) and was proud to have studied under Rabbi Gamliel, the greatest rabbi of his time, a man whose name is mentioned many times in the Talmud, and whose students were to be among its greatest sages. And yet, while Rabbi Gamliel, the greatest of the Pharisees, defended Peter and the Apostles before the Counsel of the High Priest (Acts 5:34-39) and even warned the Counsel to go easy on them because the movement they represented might be from G-d, Paul breathed "threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord."

Paul, the Law and the Gospel

What drove Paul to be, as he calls himself, a zealous "persecutor of the Church"? (Acts 9:6) Why did he want to destroy it? (Gal. 1:13) St. Paul himself suggests the answer:

Philippians 3

[8] Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ
[9] and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;

Before his conversion, Saul the Pharisee believed that a man was not saved by his faith, by his interior relationship to G-d, but by works, by his external obedience. Jesus never said that external obedience was unimportant, but for Jesus, external commandments was the framework and opportunity for what was of primary importance: interior devotion in the exercise of faith, and, without compromising the obligation to keep the external observances, many of the Pharisees agreed with Jesus. But Saul the Pharisee wasn't capable of that interior devotion. He makes that very clear in Romans 7:

Romans 7

[21] So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.
[22] For I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self,
[23] but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin which dwells in my members.
[24] Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?
[25] Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

St. Paul made this confession after Christian faith had changed him and he realized that salvation is not a matter of external obedience to the Law. His faith had revealed a "power for salvation" (his own term) that made it possible for him to give his heart to G-d. But before his conversion he couldn't. Before his conversion, "he was captive to the law of sin." His only hope lay in his belief that external obedience would suffice for his salvation. So he could not tolerate the teaching of Jesus that regarded external obedience of the ritual law as opportunity for the exercise of faith and devotion, the interior submission to G-d that was the essential way of salvation. The teaching of Jesus seemed to condemn him, and he could not endure it. So he hated Christianity and persecuted those who practiced it.

How do we know that St. Paul is referring here to faith and interior devotion? Perhaps he is lamenting that he couldn't fulfill the Law at all, not even in an external way? Speaking of himself before his conversion, he writes "as to righteousness under the law blameless" (Phil. 3:6). St. Paul was capable of what he calls "a righteousness of my own, based on law." But after his conversion, he realized that that "righteousness of my own" was of little value compared to "the righteousness from God that depends on faith" (Phil. 3:9). Here, in Romans 7, St. Paul confesses his inability to achieve the righteousness of interior devotion to G-d without Christian faith.

Saint Paul the apostleThe important point for our discussion is that, although St. Paul reversed his attitude toward Christianity, his concept of the Law didn't change. Before his conversion, he believed that the Law was fulfilled through external obedience, and that the Law was a way to salvation through works which was, in practice, impossible to achieve. After his conversion, his understanding of the Law remained the same, and he never tires of contrasting the inadequacy of the Law as he interpreted it with the power for salvation which Christian faith confers. St. Paul 's concept of the Law placed him in the camp of the Pharisees who harassed Jesus and even sought his death. But there was another camp of Pharisees, the Pharisees whose teachings Jesus calls us to obey (Matt. 23). They had an entirely different concept of the Law, a concept of the Law that was substantially the same as Jesus', for they, too, emphasized the interior component of obedience to the Law. They were not threatened by Jesus, and the greatest of them, Rabbi Gamaliel (St. Paul's teacher!) was even prepared to defend the leaders of the Christian community.

Jesus himself appointed St. Paul to be the apostle to the Gentiles (Acts 26:7; Gal. 2:7-9), and though we should not presume to know the mind of G-d, we can discern that he was uniquely suited to the task, for the radical distinction that St. Paul made between "righteousness of my own, based on law" and "the righteousness from God that depends on [Christian] faith" prepared him to be the apostle of a new and catholic way to salvation made possible by the Cross. Because St. Paul experienced the Law as a Gentile might, as something entirely external, as an obedience that made no essential contribution to his salvation, he was uniquely qualified to separate the universal message of Christianity from its Jewish roots.

Citing St. Paul, St. Thomas Aquinas explains that, "the Old Law was set aside when there came the perfection of grace; not as though it were evil, but as being weak and useless for this time; because, as the Apostle goes on to say, "the law brought nothing to perfection": hence he says (Gal. 3:25): "After the faith is come, we are no longer under a pedagogue." (Summa I.II.98 art. 2) At the very moment the commandments were perfected, St. Thomas calls them weak and useless! At the very moment when the Holy Spirit had revealed their divine and human truth (CCC 1968), the observance of the commandments was set aside!

The Holy Spirit Deepened the Meaning of the Law for the Christian Jew While Making Observance of the Law Unnecessary for the Gentile Christian

Because St. Paul 's preaching was directed to the Gentiles, the issue of obedience to the Law should not have been very important to him. Jesus, in accord with Jewish tradition, never called his Gentile disciples, as the called his Jewish disciples (Matt. 23) to keep the Law. Nevertheless, the meaning of the Old Law and its relationship to the New Law is one of the major themes of Paul's epistles.

Many of the Gentiles St. Paul addressed where semi-proselytes, i.e., Gentiles who admired Judaism and associated themselves with the local synagogue, but had not converted. They may have been reluctant to be circumcised, to accept the burden of keeping all the commandments, or to deal with the impact of their conversion on their families and on their place in Roman society. Long before St. Paul arrived on the scene, such semi-proselytes had believed that to participate in Israel's covenant with G-d, they had to keep the commandments, i.e., they had to convert and become Jews. St. Paul explains to them that "now that faith has come," i.e., now that G-d has sent his Son to be crucified, it is possible, through Christian faith, to participate in the covenant of Israel without converting and keeping the commandments. Christian faith relieved the semi-proselyte of the obligation to keep the Law. The grace which perfected the commandments, and would render Jewish observance all the more profound and effective - that same grace made it unnecessary for the semi-proselyte to keep them. That is why St. Paul, apostle to the Gentiles, taught that the New Law that perfected the commandments also set them aside. The grace that would make the commandments of the Old Law even more meaningful for the Jew, allowed the semi-proselyte to forget about them, for he could now participate in the Covenant of Israel without them. Paul used the same argument to combat the influence of the Judaizers and oppose their demands that Gentiles should keep the Law of Moses. When we consider St. Paul 's teachings in the context of his mission to the Gentiles, we get a new perspective on his critique of the Law.

Galatians: The Jew and the Greek in the Church

Galatians 3

[24] So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith.
[25] But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian;
[26] for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.
[27] For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ.
[28] There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The Christian Jew is no longer under the custodian. He does not experience the Law as external, as a burdensome regulation he is required to observe, because the Holy Spirit reveals the divine and human truth of the commandments and provides a "power for salvation" which enables the Jew to fulfill the commandments joyfully, with interior devotion to the truth they reveal (CCC 1968). Of course, the Greek doesn't have to keep the Law, and in that respect, the Jew and the Greek are different, but that difference, like the difference between male and female, is of no account in the Church, because both are saved by faith in Christ, both are sons who have received the Holy Spirit.

Galatians 4

[6] And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, "Abba! Father!"
[7] So through God you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son then an heir.
[8] Formerly, when you did not know God, you were in bondage to beings that by nature are no gods;
[9] but now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and beggarly elemental spirits, whose slaves you want to be once more?

When St. Paul says that "There is neither Jew nor Greek, he is acknowledging the presence of the Jew in the Church. There were many Jews who spoke Greek and in many respects were just like the Greeks. What distinguished the Jew from the Greek? The Christian Jew, like the Christian Jews in Jerusalem (Acts 21) kept the commandments. And yet, he insists, that with respect to Christian faith, there is no difference at all between them and Gentile Christians (Gal 3:28 ). Nevertheless, he tells the Gentile Galatians that "if you receive circumcision, [i.e. become a Jew and bind yourselves to keep the commandments] Christ will be of no advantage to you." (Gal 5:2)" How could Paul affirm that an observant Jew can be a Christian, and yet say, as seen in the following passage, that the Gentile who receives circumcision and becomes an observant Jew is "severed from Christ" and "fallen away from grace,"?

Galatians 5

[1] For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
[2] Now I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.
[3] I testify again to every man who receives circumcision that he is bound to keep the whole law.
[4] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.
[5] For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness.

The answer it seems that Paul would give, in keeping with his concept of the Law, is that the Gentile who chooses to be circumcised has, by that very decision, declared that he does not believe that Christian faith alone is sufficient for salvation. So the Gentile who converts to Judaism will find himself in the same frustrating and hopeless situation St. Paul was in before his conversion. Having turned away from Christ, the Gentile convert to Judaism will be bound to submit to the Law as to a custodian. He will have replaced his slavery to "beings that by nature are no gods" (Gal. 4:8) with slavery to the Law as he sought his salvation in external observances. But the Jew who becomes a Christian was already obligated to keep the Law before he was baptized. Knowing that Christian faith is sufficient for salvation, he no longer seeks salvation through external obedience to the Law, but, at the same time, his Christian faith does not abrogate the Law. He continues to keep the Law, but now, by the power of the Holy Spirit, his external obedience is experienced as the ritual counterpart of his devotion to the divine and human truth of the commandments which it reveals. For the Jew, the discipline of the Law exercises and reinforces his Christian faith. But for the Gentile who became Jewish because he rejects Christian faith, practice of the commandments exercises and reinforces his rejection of Christian faith.

Ephesians: The Observance of the Law no Longer Divides the Jew and the Gentile

Ephesians 2

[11] Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called the uncircumcision by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands --
[12] remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
[13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
[14] For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility,
[15] by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
[16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.
[17] And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near;
[18] for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
[19] So then you are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God,
[20] built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone,
[21] in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord;
[22] in whom you also are built into it for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

St. Paul's letter to the Ephesians is one of the source texts for those who would argue that the New Covenant abrogates the Law, and that the baptized Jew cannot claim to remain obligated to keep the Law without compromising his Christian faith. But when it is read as a letter to Gentile Christians - which it was - and we keep the issue of the semi-proselyte in mind, St. Paul's doctrine that Christian faith replaces the Law (Christ abolished "in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross...") carries no implication for the Jewish observance of the baptized Jew. Through the Cross, the Gentile enters the Jewish covenant, but that does not mean that the covenantal obligation of the Jew to keep the Law no longer applies. On the contrary, through the Holy Spirit, his covenantal obligation is extended to the interior counterpart of the external acts it requires, for it confers the grace that empowers the Catholic Jew to practice those external acts with heartfelt devotion. The commandments, like a musical score, provide the melodies and harmonies of a rich and varied spiritual life that only a discipline that comes from G-d could provide.

The Ceremonial Law as a Fitting Worship of G-d and a Shadow of Things to Come

Colossians 2

[16] Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath.
[17] These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ.

One of the most basic arguments against the idea that the baptized Jew remains obligated to observe the Law is that the Law was a figure of Christ that foreshadowed the New Covenant. Now that Christ has come and the things which it foreshadows have been accomplished, the Law no longer applies because it has been replaced by that which it foreshadowed.

This is how St. Thomas Aquinas puts it

"The New Law does not void observance of the Old Law except in the point of ceremonial precepts... Now the latter were figurative of something to come. Wherefore from the very fact that the ceremonial precepts were fulfilled when those things were accomplished which they foreshadowed, it follows that they are no longer to be observed: for it they were to be observed, this would mean that something is still to be accomplished and is not yet fulfilled. Thus the promise of a future gift holds no longer when it has been fulfilled by the presentation of the gift. In this way the legal ceremonies are abolished by being fulfilled." (Summa Theologica I.II.107.2, Reply to Objection 1.)

But is the Law nothing more than the promise of a future gift? St. Thomas himself writes (I.II.102.6):

"The Jewish people... were specially chosen for the worship of God, and among them the priests themselves were specially set apart for that purpose. And just as other things that are applied to the divine worship, need to be marked in some particular way so that they be worthy of the worship of God; so too in that people's, and especially the priests', mode of life, there needed to be certain special things befitting the divine worship, whether spiritual or corporal. Now the worship prescribed by the Law foreshadowed the mystery of Christ: so that whatever they did was a figure of things pertaining to Christ, according to 1 Cor. 10:11: "All these things happened to them in figures." Consequently the reasons for these observances may be taken in two ways, first according to their fittingness to the worship of God; secondly, according as they foreshadow something touching the Christian mode of life."(My emphasis)

Does St. Thomas contradict himself? How can he say that the legal ceremonies, as he terms the ritual observances of the Torah, are abolished and fulfilled like the promise of a gift once the gift has been given, when that promise - the foreshadowing of the mystery of Christ - is only one of two reasons he gives for the observances? Since they still remain fit to the worship of G-d, they should still be observed!

The answer is that, for that reason alone, the Gentile could not be obligated to keep them, for he is only obligated to do what is necessary for his salvation, and for that, they are not necessary, just as the "special things befitting the divine worship" of the priest are not practiced by the laity because they are not necessary for their salvation. Since faith in Christ was all the Gentile needed to be saved, however befitting to the worship of G-d the commandments might be, they could not regarded as obligatory because he could be saved without them. He could not be obligated to keep commandments that foreshadowed the coming of Christ after he had already come.

But the universalization of the Torah, the salvation that offered to the Gentiles, did not abrogate the Law for the Jews, who had been commanded by G-d to keep it. In the words of Cardinal Ratzinger, "Pulling down the wall of the letter resulted in giving the nations access to the Spirit of revelation and hence to God the Father, the God of Jesus Christ. This universalization of the tradition is its ultimate ratification, not its abrogation or replacement" (Behold the Pierced One, Ignatius Pr. 1986 p. 29). So even if the Catholic Jew no longer needed to practice because it "foreshadowed the mystery of Christ," and his salvation was assured by faith in the Christ who had already come, he remained obligated to keep the law because it was "worthy of the worship of G-d."

Elsewhere, St. Thomas goes so far as to say that it would be a mortal sin to keep the commandments, because it would be tantamount to a declaration that Christ had not yet come:

"...the ceremonies of the Old Law betokened Christ as having yet to be born and to suffer: whereas our sacraments signify Him as already born and having suffered. Consequently, just as it would be a mortal sin now for anyone, in making a profession of faith, to say that Christ is yet to be born, which the fathers of old said devoutly and truthfully; so too it would be a mortal sin now to observe those ceremonies which the fathers of old fulfilled with devotion and fidelity. Such is the teaching Augustine (Contra Faust. xix, 16), who says: "It is no longer promised that He shall be born, shall suffer and rise again, truths of which their sacraments were a kind of image: but it is declared that He is already born, has suffered and risen again; of which our sacraments, in which Christians share, are the actual representation." (S.T. I.II.103.4)

This argument is predicated, it seems, in the assumption that the idea that the Christ was yet to come - the reference to time--is inherent in the practice of the commandments. I don't understand how. After all, as a figure of Christ, the ceremonial law is similar to Christ, either because, like the Christ, it directs the heart to G-d, or because there is some similarity between the content of the commandments and the events of the Gospel, the similarities that are explained in typological interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures. But neither of these two ways that the commandments anticipate Christ involves any reference to time. So it is hard to understand why keeping the commandments imply that Christ has not yet come.

Perhaps what St. Thomas has in mind is something like this: if a person had a picture of his mother, it is reasonable that he would look at it to remember her when she was away. But when his mother was home, sitting right next to him, wouldn't it be strange for him to be reminding himself of her by looking at her picture? It would be as though he didn't realize she was right there. To concern ourselves with figures of Christ when he is right here among us would is just as strange, and tantamount to a denial that he has come.

Is that what St. Thomas means? Then why has the Church promoted the use of figures: of icons, statues, crucifixes and religious art? Why hasn't she taught that it is forbidden to contemplate a statue in Church when the blessed sacrament is exposed? The reason is that human beings are weak and sinful. Without such holy reminders, they do, indeed, forget that Christ is among us, and may even come to deny that he has come. Because we are sinful and weak, he really can seem to be far away.

The fact that the commandments are figures of Christ is, indeed, a good reason to keep them. So long as witness to the coming of Christ is needed, holy reminders are needed, and so long as the human heart is not completely disposed to Christ, the practice of the commandments retains the importance it always had as a way of life that turns the heart to G-d and prepares it to receive the graces bestowed by His crucified Son. That, of course, is not to say that the observance of the commandments is necessary for salvation. It's not, but it helps, because, as holy reminders, the practice of the commandments directs our hearts to G-d.

The Epistle to the Hebrews

Hebrews 8

[6] But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises.
[7] For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second.
[8] For he finds fault with them when he says: "The days will come, says the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah ;
[9] not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of the land of Egypt ;
for they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord.
[10] This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, says the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
[11] And they shall not teach every one his fellow
or every one his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,'
for all shall know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
[12] For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more."
[13] In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.

The author of the epistle to the Hebrews argues for the abrogation of the Old Law on the basis of a passage in the prophet Jeremiah in which he declares G-d's intention to establish a new covenant with the Jewish People that will supersede the Covenant of Sinai. The difference between the old and the new covenants is not in the law that it teaches, but in the way that law is known. The covenant of Sinai, required the Jew to learn G-d's law, while the new covenant will inscribe G-d's law into his mind and heart. Since, the author of Hebrews argues, the New Covenant of Jesus does just that, it is the New Covenant of which Jeremiah speaks, so the Jew who participates in that New Covenant through Christian faith is no longer obligated by the Law of the Old Covenant.

The Holy Father has written that Jesus universalized the Law of the Torah. He could have (I don't recall if he did) cited this passage as a proof text. For the prophet clearly identifies the law as it was taught with the law that will be inscribed in the mind and heart, the Law that was commanded at Sinai with the Law of the New Covenant, and the author of Hebrews clearly identifies that New Covenant with the Covenant of the Gospels, the Divine Law inscribed in the heart with the Law of Jesus.

Well, has the time come to give up the Law as the Jews have taught it and learned it for thousands of years? Is it no longer necessary to teach G-d's Law because, without being taught, men know and keep the Law inscribed in their hearts? They clearly don't. And the Catechism confirms it (see below), teaching us that although Christ is present, his reign is yet to be fulfilled and the evil powers, though defeated, are still strong enough to maintain their attack on virtue and holiness. Christ has come, and yet, Christians pray, "Maranatha! "Our Lord, come!" For it is only in that second coming that G-d will establish the New covenant, and the prophet is clearly speaking of that second coming, for he refers to the Jews as receiving that Covenant, and it is only then, with the end of days, that Jews will be included in the Messiah's salvation.

671 Though already present in his Church, Christ's reign is nevertheless yet to be fulfilled "with power and great glory" by the King's return to earth. This reign is still under attack by the evil powers, even though they have been defeated definitively by Christ's Passover. Until everything is subject to him, "until there be realized new heavens and a new earth in which justice dwells, the pilgrim Church, in her sacraments and institutions, which belong to this present age, carries the mark of this world which will pass, and she herself takes her place among the creatures which groan and travail yet and await the revelation of the sons of God." That is why Christians pray, above all in the Eucharist, to hasten Christ's return by saying to him: Maranatha! "Our Lord, come!"
674 The glorious Messiah's coming is suspended at every moment of history until his recognition by "all Israel"...The "full inclusion" of the Jews in the Messiah's salvation, in the wake of "the full number of the Gentiles", will enable the People of God to achieve "the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ", in which "God may be all in all".

There is no basis for citing this passage in the epistle to the Hebrews to prove that when a Jew is baptized, he is no longer obligated to keep the commandments. The passage in the prophet which is cited (Jer 31:33-34) makes no distinction between the content of the Law as it was learned and the Law as it will be inscribed in the heart. It remains entirely possible the law that will be written on their hearts will be law of Moses.

[10] ... I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
[11] And they shall not teach every one his fellow
or every one his brother, saying, `Know the Lord,'
for all shall know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.

And that new covenant will mark the end of days, for it is only then that evil will be banished from the heart of man. Moreover, since the author of Hebrews identifies that new covenant with the Covenant of the Gospels, the passage in the prophet foretells the inclusion of the Jews in the Church, but that will also only happen in the end of days. So this passage cannot be used to prove that the baptized Jew is now no longer obligated to keep the commandments.

In closing, I would like to address a question which some of you may be asking yourselves: How could I even begin to take upon myself the observance of Jewish Law? I know nothing about it, and ...what a burden it would be!

Paul sometimes gives the impression that the observance of the Law is an all or nothing affair; and he who attempts to keep it must keep it in its entirety. Jewish tradition, however, does not teach that. The Jew who has no knowledge or experience of Jewish observance is not expected to keep the Law like an Orthodox Jew who was educated in Jewish observance with his mother's milk. The important thing is to make a start with something that is easy and meaningful. You might, for example, resolve not to write on the Sabbath, or not to eat ham sandwiches, or to wear a yarmulke in the house - and to do it, not as though the external act were the main thing, but knowing that the external act is observed as the ritual counterpart of the rich spiritual life which it generates, when it is practiced in a spirit which explores its meaning, and is open to receiving the message it carries. When a Jew can say, "I wish I were capable of keeping all the commandments in that way," he has become, in a most meaningful sense, observant. From there, it's a matter of learning, contemplation, exploration and discovery that reveals the many ways that the interior life of Christian Jew can be enriched by keeping the commandments.

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