Nazarene Judaism is True Chasidic Judaism
By James Scott Trimm
One of the ancient terms used for followers of YHWH in the Tanak is the term “Chasidim”:
Sing praises to YHWH, you His Chasidim, and give thanks to His set-apart Name.
Love YHWH, all you Chasidim! YHWH preserves the faithful, but abundantly requites him who acts haughtily.
For YHWH loves justice; He will not forsake His Chasidim. The righteous shall be preserved forever, but the children of the wicked one shall be cut off.
The word Chesed means “mercy” “kindness” “undue favor” “grace”. The Chasidim were under the CHESED of Elohim, and sought to treat others with that same CHESED.
What became of the original Chasidim? According to the Mishna:
Moses received Torah at Sinai and handed it on to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, the elders to the prophets, the prophets handed it on to the men of the Great Assembly.
This was a body of 120 Elders and is said to have introduced a regular order of prayers including the Shemoneh Esreh (eighteen benedictions) which eventually evolved into the Siddur. The Great Assembly collected the sacred writings and determined which books were to be regarded as canonical.
We do not know much more about the Great Assembly. We do know that one of the last members of this counsel was “Simon the Righteous” (219-196 B.C.E.). The Mishna says:
Simeon the Righteous was of the remnants of the Great Assembly. He used to say, “On three things the world stands: On the Torah, On the Ministry, and on Chesidim (kindness, grace).”
Ben Sira calls him “the leader of his brothers and the pride of his people.” (Sira 50:1) and dedicates an entire chapter to his good reputation. Simon was the earliest post-biblical sage cited in the Mishna. Simon was succeeded as High Priest by his son Onias III of whom we read in 2nd Maccabees:
While the holy city was inhabited in unbroken peace and the laws were very well observed because of the piety of the high priest Onias and his hatred of wickedness.
(2nd Maccabees 3:1)
About this time Antiochus Epiphanies rose to power over Israel and at about this same time period the High Priesthood passed from Onias III to his brother Jason by way of corruption:
…Jason the brother of Onias obtained the high priesthood by corruption, promising the king at an interview three hundred and sixty talents of silver and from another source of revenue, eighty talents… he at once shifted his countrymen over to the Greek way of life… and introduced new customs contrary to the Torah.
(2nd Maccabees. 4:7-8, 10, 11)
Jason’s High Priesthood was illegitimate and not regarded as valid as we read in 2Maccabees:
…Jason, who was ungodly and no high priest…
(2nd Maccabees 4:13)
The corruption of the High Priesthood and the banishment of the true High Priest must have forced the disbandment of the Great Assembly.
At this time (175-140 BCE) many who wished to remain true to Torah escaped into the wilderness (1st Maccabees 1:62-64; 2:29) These refugees became know as the Chassidim (1st Maccabees 2:41; 7:12-14; 2nd Maccabees 14:6).
While we know little about these Chasidim, they were probably led by a certain Antigones of Soko. The Mishnah says of him:
Antigones of Soko received [Torah] from Simeon the Righteous. He used to say, “Be not like servants who serve their master for the sake of wages, but be like servants who serve their master with no thought of a wage – and let the fear of Heaven be upon you.”
This might be seen as the root teaching of Chasidism. The Chasidim were called “chasidim”
One of his talmidim was Yose ben Yozer:
Yose ben Yozer… received it from them. Yose ben Yozer used to say: Let your house be a gathering place for sages. And wallow in the dust of their feet. And drink in their words with gusto.
Ben Yozer was the last of the Chasidim:
When Rabbi Yose Qatnuta died, the Chasidim passed away. And why was he called “Qatnuta”? Because he was least of the Chasidim.
Yose ben Yozer was said to be among the sixty Chasidim who, at the instigation of the high priest Alcimus, the son of his sister, were crucified by the Syrian general Bacchides (1st Maccabees 7:16) in 161 BCE.
The Midrash Rabba reports the following dialogue between Alcimus and Yose ben Yoezer while he was on the way to execution:
Alcimus: “See the profit and honors that have fallen to my lot in consequence of what I have done, while you, for your obstinacy, have the misfortune to die as a criminal.”
Yose, quietly: “if such is the lot of those who anger Elohim, what shall be the lot of those who accomplish His will?”
Alcimus: “Is there any one who accomplished His will more than thou?”
Yose: “If this is the end of those who accomplish His will, what awaits those who anger Him?”
On this Alcimus was seized with remorse and committed suicide.
(Genesis Rabba 1:65)
Yose Ben Yozer also served as the first Nasi of the Beit Din which eventually became the Pharisaic Sanhedrin.
THE HOUSE OF HILLEL AND CHESED
House of Hillel Pharisaic Judaism was the succession of the Chassedim and the main line of Judaism. From this point forward the only Pharisee Sanhedrin we know of was led, not by “pairs” but by Hillel’s descendants.
Pharisees polarized into two schools of thought: The School of Shammai and the School of Hillel. The two schools held differing view on many halachic issues and argued throughout the first century. Eventually the School of Hillel prevailed in these arguments and serves as the foundation of modern Rabbinic Judaism. There are also many important connections between the School of Hillel and the ancient sect of the Nazarenes.
Within Rabbinic literature we have record of over 350 disputes between the School of Hillel and the School of Shammai. Generally Shammai gave the stricter interpretation, while Hillels understandings were more relaxed. According to the Zohar (Ra’aya Meheimna 3:245a) The School of Shammai was based on GEVURAH (“severity”) while the School of Hillel was based on CHESED (“grace”/”mercy”).
A classic example of the conflict can be seen in one of the first passages of the Mishna, which records a conflict between the two houses over how to recite the Shema:
The House of Shammai says:
In the evening one should recline in order to recite the shema, and in the morning they should stand. As it is written “when you lie down and when you rise up.” (Deuteronomy 6:7)
But the House of Hillel says:
Everyone may recite the Shema in his own way, as it is written:
“And you shall go by the way” (Deuteronomy 7:7)
Note that the House of Shammai were concerned primarily with the outward expression, with whether one was standing or reclining, while the House of Hillel were less concerned with such outward expression and much more concerned with the way in which one recited the Shema, that they made it their own way, that they meant it and walked in it. Note the difference in emphasis of the two houses.
Hillel was more concerned with the inner man, while Shammai was more concerned with the outer man. Hillel was concerned with the Spirit of the Law, while Shammai was more concerned with the Letter of the Law.
This overriding concept of sincerity is also found in the Mishna in tractate Menachot:
“…all are the same, the one who offers much and the one who offers little, on condition that a man will direct his intention to Heaven”
YESHUA AND CHESED
In Mark’s account of Yeshua’s summary of the Torah (Mark 12:28-33) A “scribe” comes to question Yeshua. In Matthew’s account this “scribe” is identified as a Pharisee (Matthew 22:34-36). According to Mark’s account this Pharisee not only agreed with Yeshua’s summary of Torah and repeated it adding:
…and to love his neighbor as himself, is more than all whole burnt offerings and sacrifices.
It is not unlikely from this context that the Pharisee was quoting a now-lost saying of Hillel here. In making this statement the Pharisee, who apparently was from the School of Hillel, was pointing to Hosea 6:6:
For I [YHWH] desire mercy (CHESED), and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of ELOHIM more than burnt offerings.
This Pharisee seemes to have identified “love your neighbor” of Leviticus 19:18 with the CHESED of Hosea 6:6. Remember the relaxed halachic positions of the School of Hillel were based on CHESED, it is indeed likely that Hosea 6:6 served as a proof text for many of their halachic rulings, since this passage assigns a halachic weight to CHESED. We also find Yeshau using Hosea 6:6 in support of his relaxed halachic rulings regarding the Shabbat (Matthew 12:7 = Hosea 6:6) here Yeshua argues from Hosea 6:6 that CHESED is of greater weight than the sacrifices. Since CHESED out weighs sacrifice, and sacrifice out weighs Shabbat, then CHESED out weighs Shabbat.
One of the most significant parallels between Yeshua and Hillel is Their profound teaching of Love. Yeshua’s teaching of love was a radical departure from the teachings at Qumran. Now Philo tells us that the Essenes had great “desire to promote brotherly love” (Philo; The Hypothetica 11:2) this brotherly love seems to have been only to fellow members of the Yachad (unity). This is reflected in the Damascus Document’s use of Leviticus 19:18. In the Torah Leviticus 19:18 reads:
You shall not avenge, nor bear any grudge against the children of my people, But you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am YHWH.
Now the Damascus Document interprets this passage as follows:
As for the passage that says, “Take no vengeance and bear no grudge against your kinfolk” (Leviticus 19:18) any covenant member who brings against his fellow an accusation not sworn to before witnesses or who makes an accusation in the heat of anger or who tells it to his elders to bring his fellow into repute, the same is a vengence-taker and a grudge-bearer…
(Damascus Document 9, 2)
Note that this Qumran interpretation of Leviticus 19:19 would limit “neighbor” in Leviticus 19:18 to “any covenant member” i.e. a member of the Yachad. In fact the Qumran sect taught:
…bear unremitting hatred towards all men of ill repute… to leave it to them to pursue wealth and mercenary gain… truckling to a depot.
(Manual of Discipline IX, 21-26)
By contrast Hillel is quoted as saying:
Be disciples of Aaron, loving peace and pursuing peace, loving people and drawing them near to the Torah.
The Qumran attitude was one of hatred to the sinner. There was no concept of “drawing them near to the Torah” but rather to “leave it to them to [sin]… truckling to a depot.” Yet Hillel took the opposite approach. Hillel’s attitude was to “Love” the men of ill repute and draw them near to the Torah. This was also Yeshua’s approach.
You have heard that it was said “You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.” But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you persecute you that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?
Yeshua here begins by quoting the Tanak “Love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) but then gives the Qumran corollary “hate your enemy.” Yeshua differs with this “hate your enemy” teaching in agreement with the love philosophy of Hillel. Apparently the Qumran community inferred from “Love your neighbor” (Leviticus 19:18) that they should therefore bear unremitting hatred toward their enemies. To Yeshua (and presumably Hillel) the issue is the interpretation of “neighbor.” In his Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:29-36) Yeshua argues that we cannot be sure who our “neighbor” is, so in order to make sure we do not violate Leviticus 19:18 we should love everyone.
Another strong parallel between Hillel and Yeshua is that of the so called “Golden Rule.” There is a story in the Talmud in which Hillel gives a summary of the Torah. The Talmud says:
…it happened that a certain heathen came before Shammai and said to him, “Make me a proselyte, on condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot.” Thereupon he repulsed him with the builders cubit which was in his hand. When he went before Hillel, he said to him “Do not to others what you would not have them do to you: that is the whole Torah, while the rest is the commentary thereof; go and learn it.”
A similar incident occurs in the Gospels:
But when the Pharisees heard that He had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. Then one of them, a lawyer, asked Him a question, testing Him, and saying, “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?”
Yeshua said to him, ” ‘You shall love YHWH your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.”
(Matthew 22:34-40 = Mark 12:28-31 = Luke 10:25-37)
Here Yeshua is pressed to summarize the Torah and answers with the Sh’ma (Deuteronomy 6:4-9) and the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18). This is remarkably similar to Hillel’s answer to the same question. It is important to note that the Pharisees agreed that Yeshua’s answer was correct. Yeshua elsewhere gives a summary of the Torah which parallels Hillel’s answer even closer:
Whatever you would that men should do to you, do you even to them, for this is the Torah and the Prophets.
(Matthew 7:12 = Luke 6:31)
PAUL AND CHESED
Paul was also teaching a restoration of Chasidism when he writes:
Because all have sinned, and are found lacking of the glory of Eloah. And they are justified by favor (CHESED) freely, and by the salvation that is in Yeshua the Messiah…
And sin will not rule over you, for you are not, “Under the Law”, but under favor [CHESED]. What then, should we sin because we are not “Under the Law”, but under favor [CHESED]? Absolutely not!
When we were dead in our sins, He gave us Life with the Messiah: and by His favor [CHESED], He saved us…
Paul was professing the doctrine of Chasidism, that we do not observe the Torah as one trying to earn something (the “Under the Law” teaching) because we are under CHESED (grace, favor).
So if we do not observe Torah as one wishing to earn something, what is our motive? The Torah answers this question:
…you shall diligently keep all of these commandments which I command you, to do them, to love YHWH your Elohim, to walk in all his ways, and to cleave [DEVEKUT] unto him.
You shall walk after YHWH your Elohim, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and you shall serve him, and cleave [DEVEKUT] unto him.
(Deuteronomy 13:5 (13:4))
DEVEKUT means “communion” or “cleaving”. We must observe Torah as one cleaving to YHWH. The Hebrew word for “cleaving” is DEVEKUT. When we observe Torah it should not be an empty act, but an act of DEVEKUT, of cleaving or communion to YHWH.
When we observe Torah, it must not be an empty act of observance, or one simply aimed at earning something (even “Salvation”) but it must be an act of cleaving to YHWH. Torah observance with the right intent brings us more into attachment with YHWH.
In the Eighteenth Century Rabbi Yisroel (Israel) ben Eliezer (known as the Baal Shem Tov “Master of the Good Name”) began an effort to restore Chasidic Judaism within Rabbinic Judaism. He taught that Judaism must be centered not simply around doing the Torah, but around feeling the Torah.
In restoring the ancient Sect of the Nazarenes we are ourselves restoring true Chasidic Judaism. We can proudly proclaim Nazarene Judaism to be the true form of Chasidic Judaism!
This information is provided free. It is paid for by those who support the WNAE with their tithes and offerings. Donations can be made via the Pay Pal box in the upper right hand corner, or mailed to Nazarene Judaism; PO Box 471; Hurst, TX 76053; USA.